Remote learning, online learning or flipped learning – all fantastic but far from mainstream ways of delivering education… until now.
With the possibility of wide-scale school shutdowns on the horizon, remote learning is getting a lot more real for educators around the world. So what challenges are likely to be faced and more importantly, how can you fix them using only online communication?
🍎 #Covid19 school shutdowns call for inventive remote education strategies. Check out Kami’s free domain-wide licenses for all schools preparing for school shutdown: https://t.co/D2xHhcZDTU#onlinelearning #remotelearning #edtech #Coronavirus pic.twitter.com/9WjBJhddOs
— Kami (@usekamiapp) March 4, 2020
What challenges should you be prepared for and how can you fix them?
Problem: Tech issues
‘Miss my laptop’s frozen’, ‘mine’s not loading’, ‘I’ve run out of charge’ or the truly terrifying declaration ‘it didn’t save!’
Tech issues are part and parcel of the modern classroom… but in a remote learning environment, far away from the calm wizardry of the IT team or emergency device supply, they suddenly take on a lot more gravity. So how can you deal with remote tech problems when the tech itself is your main point of contact?
Fix: This is one challenge that is most easily dealt with ahead of time:
- Get devices checked before school shutdown: If there is the time and manpower, have your IT department give all devices a once over to make sure their software is up to date and everything is in working order. Take any faulty devices out of commission so they can’t cause issues when remote learning has started.
- Prepare your students: Common tech issues can often be avoided or fixed with a good knowledge of the key processes and tools. Try to brief your students thoroughly on the tools you intend to use. Show them how to load up tasks, turn them in and regularly save them. If you don’t have lesson time for this, send them clear step-by-step instructions on how to complete tasks (honestly advisable even if you have gone through the processes in lessons – everyone needs a reminder!). Also, impress on them that it’s their responsibility to keep their devices in working order. If you have any easy tech tips up your sleeve share them with your students, or show them how to google simple issues and fix them themselves.
- Use asynchronous tech: Access to wifi sadly isn’t universal, so having tasks and tech which don’t rely on it is important. Apps like Kami can be used online for real-time collaboration, but also function perfectly without wifi access. Kids with limited internet can complete all their work using asynchronous tools and then find a hotspot once a day to submit their work.
- Have a backup plan: Sometimes catastrophic tech failures do happen, so having even a rough plan of action for students rendered totally offline is essential. Are there spare devices that can be given to students in need, or could you email students’ work to parents instead and have them complete it on a personal device? Discuss these options with your students so they know what to do if the worst happens.
👩💻With strange times come extreme measures. To protect our public health we need to get a bit more creative about education access.
— Kami (@usekamiapp) March 5, 2020
Problem: Isolation or cabin fever
Anyone who’s ever worked from home can tell you that the first few days of elation and freedom can quickly downslide into loneliness, lethargy and boredom. So it will be for students. Used to spending their school days surrounded by friends, the noise and joviality of classmates and a general social environment, they will suddenly be alone at a desk. The effects of this abrupt change may make it difficult for students to concentrate or complete work to their usual high standards.
So how can you keep your students’ spirits up despite them being cut off from friends and teacher support?
Fix: Utilize your online tools:
- Regularly check-in: Use as many varied communication channels to check in with your students, both individually and as a class. Video calls can be a great way to speak to your class as a whole and provide some social time. If the internet connection allows, try to get everyone’s camera on so you can communicate face to face and relay news, issues or thoughts about learning for that day. Remember to make time to talk about everyone’s emotional and mental health, as well as just learning progress.
- Be virtually present: Show that you are online and available to field questions and provide encouragement and support where it is needed. Instant messaging can be a good way to answer questions as they come in and check in on how individuals are doing. Some apps such as Kami also give you the ability to check in on students’ progress in real-time as they are completing work. You can add comments and have them reply within the file to prompt for more information or simply share some positivity.
- Include interactive and collaborative work: Collaboration is a great way to build socialization into online learning. Try splitting students into small groups and have them work together on collaborative files in either Kami or Google Docs. Encourage them to video call each other to discuss ideas and shape their project.
- Don’t forget to look after yourself: It’s not just students who may feel isolated at home. Remember to look after yourself as well!
Home is for relaxation (with the occasional bit of homework), school is for working and learning – it’s a traditional and physically enforced mindset split, reinforced by years of experience. So it’s no surprise really that once at home students may find the Xbox, their Lego set or even a good squabble with a sibling far more engaging than the work you have just sent them.
So how can you keep them on task from afar?
Fix: Mix up lesson material and give real-time feedback:
- Make learning relevant and exciting: Reading endless ebooks, completing worksheets or watching lesson videos may sometimes be necessary but all day every day, it’s going to get dull. Where possible give students more immersive tasks that require deep thought and creativity. Take advantage of remote learning’s capacity for personalization and let students pick projects or topics which really interest them.
- Deliver real-time feedback: You may not be there in the flesh, but you can still be an important part of a student’s progress. Choose online apps where you can interact with students as they work, providing support or positivity.
- Encourage peer support: Making students accountable to each other is a good way to ward off distraction. Encourage group work or peer marking to create a sense of collaborative responsibility and class achievement. This is also a great way to help ward off any feelings of loneliness.
- Get parents involved: A potential last resort for individuals that are proving particularly hard to pin down is to get parents involved. This may be particularly effective if parents are also working from home. Provide them with the daily schedule of work that students should be completing, and update them if deadlines are regularly missed.
Over 95% of US teenagers had access to a smartphone in 2018 and 45% said they were online “almost constantly.” 📱
— Kami (@usekamiapp) February 19, 2020
Problem: Screen time
Screen time may not in itself be harmful, but certainly hours and hours of staring at online content with few breaks is wearing for anyone. Without the regulation of moving between lessons and break times it’s important to make sure students aren’t glued to the screen all day and potentially missing out on other things like physical exercise and any social activities.
Fix: Organize screen breaks:
- Organize students’ time: Creating day planners and timetables for students can help them to understand when to take breaks. Including guidelines for how long to spend on each activity will help to structure the day.
- Provide non-screen work: If possible try and get your students off their devices for part or whole activities. For example, include some home craft projects to demonstrate a concept they have learned about, encourage artwork or make some time for experiments that can be done at home.
- Give clear directives for screen limits: Sometimes the simplest way to try and avoid screen time excess is to set clear guidelines from the outset. Make it clear in your daily check-ins or guideline material that students should give their eyes a rest every 30 mins and should take a more extended break from the screen every hour.
Are you affected by coronavirus school shutdowns? At Kami, we are offering our complete digital classroom solution, free of charge for all schools affected by COVID-19 closures.
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