Educators have suddenly been thrust into the world of online education. Some of us are thriving, while others are struggling. If you are an educator (like me), here are some tips to remember during this time.
1. Remember the context.
You have surely discovered this, but your current work environment is neither your day-to-day classroom nor a vacation. This really can’t be considered home schooling in the true sense of the word. We are in a crisis, so please give yourself and your students grace. I saw a wise post on social media that read, “Whatever you have planned, cut it in half, then probably cut it in half again.”
Also, know the context for your own students. Who has internet, and who does not? Who is caring for siblings or has a part time job? Plan your lessons with equity.
2. Consider mental and emotional health.
Your well-being and the well-being of your students is important to consider. This is a time where many of us feel stressed, anxious and afraid. You have the unique opportunity to speak life and encouragement to your students because of the relationship you’ve built with them. They will probably feel comforted by your familiar face and voice, and some sense of routine that their lessons can bring.
3. Check in on your students and their families.
Most teachers and students have a close bond. A phone call to check in on them and their family will go a long way to maintaining the relationship and bringing comfort. Search on social media for ideas for how schools are still staying in contact with their kiddos. To be mindful of the students’ and parents’ time, coordinate with other teachers in your school to rotate students so they do not have the phone ringing off the hook, which could be overwhelming.
4. Keep it simple.
A recent webinar from North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) offered some great advice: work on one lesson to begin uploading, choose one digital tool to implement the lesson, and choose one way to assess what the students have learned. In other words, start small. This is a time when less is more. The webinars are helpful resources from folks who have been teaching online for a decade.
5. Know the law.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) are pieces of legislation that are becoming increasingly important right now. I am no expert, but be sure to reach out to folks in your district to be sure that your tools are compliant. Also, be aware that personal email and phone records could be subject to subpoena if you use them to communicate school information.
6. Take advantage of staying at home.
For some of us, this season has been a welcome time to slow down. Others of us feel overwhelmed working from home while caring for our own children or aging parents. Take advantage of the “teachable moments” with your own kids whenever you can. This time, just like their childhood, will be short.
Also, encourage your students to take advantage of being at home. Can you recommend at-home science experiments to do as a family? Could you engage your history students by asking them to interview family members? Maybe recipes can become math lessons. Since families are together, see how they can learn together.
7. Get an online platform.
When your entire classroom online, it is easy to become disorganized and overwhelmed. A learning management system keeps everything organized. Most of these tools allow you to upload content, create quizzes, have students submit assignments, and grade and give feedback. Some popular tools for primary grades are Seesaw and Class Dojo. Middle and secondary teachers often use Moodle, Canvas or Google Classroom. Whatever you use, make sure it is approved by your school and that your content is organized consistently within the platform.
8. Mix synchronous with self-paced.
Your students will enjoy being able to see and hear you as well as interact with their peers on a conference call or video conference, but with limited access to technology, these cannot be the only way for students to engage with your content. Find ways for students to complete their lessons on their own time, and at their own pace, but still build in formative assessment and the opportunity for them to ask questions.
9. Take advantage of freebies (but with caution).
My inbox is bursting with offers of free extended trials of educational tools and countless free webinars. I found these to be utterly overwhelming. As some time has gone on, I have begun to experiment and enjoy using these tools. Take your time to evaluate each tool. What would be the purpose of using this? What would I cut out if I add this in? Be mindful that you may lose access to these tools when schools re-open, so have your content saved elsewhere.
What other tips would you recommend?