Online Opportunities: The Continuing Benefits of Remote Instruction

By Stephanie L. Moore

This week, K-12Talk presents an excerpt from Stephanie L. Moore’s new book, SEL at Distance: Supporting Students Online.

A note from the author:

In SEL at a Distance, one idea I share for how we can frame thinking about how to use learning technologies to support SEL is “affordances.” When making decisions about technologies and designing online learning environments, it is important to think about what learning opportunities different technologies afford (or do not afford). The following excerpt provides several examples around common questions I hear, reframing the question of which technologies are “better” into instructional considerations in online learning. One of the paramount considerations at this uncertain time, as most teachers and students have returned to school buildings even as new variants of COVID emerge, is how to leverage the tools teachers have at hand to center their pedagogy around students’ needs.

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Shifting from Instructor-Centered to Student-Centered Pedagogies:

Online (and blended) learning afford you the ability to shift your pedagogical practices so that you spend less of your live or in-person time with your learners as the content delivery vehicle and more time focused on feedback, support, and interaction. We often rely on ourselves to be the primary information delivery channel, by way of lectures. Unfortunately, in the rush to move online during the spring of 2020, many schools tried to replicate live lectures, not realizing this took the least advantage of the online learning environment. Lectures are something you can readily record and let learners watch on their own time. This could be a lecture you provide or an available video you find online and want your students to watch. Rather than taking up precious together-time with learners for this, have them watch it on their own then show up ready to engage in active learning with you. This makes much better use of anytime, anywhere content delivery that the internet is good for and reserves live time (whether in a class or online) with your students for meaningful interactions.

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How to Sustain Hybrid Learning Models

By Kyleen Gray

Over the past year and a half, nearly every school on the planet has upended its format of delivering education. Some have stayed in classrooms with significant physical distancing restrictions, while others have completely left the physical classroom in favor of full distance learning. Many more have found a (somewhat) happy medium in hybrid learning, with some students learning in the classroom environment while others learn from home, either due to illness or a desire to stay safe in a physically distanced environment.

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Three Resources for Bringing the Joy Factor to Your Online Classroom

By Rachel Fuhrman

This post originally appeared on Tales from the Classroom.

As I gear up for the second half of the most unique school year I may ever encounter, I am focused on what I can do to provide an engaging, enriching, and exciting experience for my students. When I think about my classroom in previous years, I have always prioritized the joy factor through the use of humor and games. Now, I have shifted my focus to what bringing joy looks like online. While I hope to continue to bring my sense of humor to my students virtually, I know that it can be challenging to communicate as fluidly as we once did. Because of this, I am primarily focusing on the use of games and competitions to bring joy. Doing so not only allows students to be engaged with their content, but also provides students the opportunity to engage with one another. Below, I have outlined three of my favorite resources for bringing joy through games and competitions online.

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Going or “Going” to School: One Student’s Decision to Remain Remote

By an anonymous sophomore

The age-old high school social dilemma of where to sit at lunch has finally been solved—it only took a global pandemic.

I am a sophomore who attends a private school in Manhattan. My school has recently announced that they will be switching to an optional hybrid model after previously stating that they would remain remote until mid-January. I was extremely happy and proud of my school when they initially announced they would be remote for at least five months, and I was shocked and upset when they declared their decision to switch. Upon receiving the news, my parents informed me that the decision to attend school in-person or remain in my pajamas was mine.

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The Importance of Taking Breaks While Teaching from Home

By Catherine Conley

I don’t know about you, but I find I’m working longer hours at home than I did at school. I didn’t gain the commuting time for myself; rather, it was poured right into the work day—and then some. Now I no longer seem to have the time to read for pleasure, something I used to do every day on the train. I no longer walk around my classroom all day, logging in some 7,000 steps before I even head out for my evening constitutional. Instead I sit down at my computer early in the morning and work till well after the time I would normally arrive home. My back is tired; my eyes are tired; my brain is tired. And there are still dishes in the sink, dinner to make, laundry to fold, and let’s not forget all the sanitizing we feel it necessary to complete. Those clearly defined hours are long and have become less productive as our work from home time has gone on.

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Schools have survived crises before, and even come out stronger

By David Nurenberg

As we face the possibility that COVID-19 could force schools to remain remote-operating well into the fall, many are wondering if the shape of schooling is going to permanently change. Will some degree of distance learning remain the new normal? Will some cash-strapped school districts operate entirely online to save on the costs of maintaining physical school infrastructure, including custodial, cafeteria, and transportation workers? Will in-person schooling become a luxury good? Will homeschooling become an expected function of all parents’ and guardians’ lives? Will schools leverage Internet-based relationships across city, state and national borders to become a global learning community?

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In the Age of COVID-19, Don’t Overlook the Gifted Student

By Todd Stanley

Even before this massive school shutdown, some schools and teachers were finding difficulties in coming up with ways to challenge their gifted students. We cannot overlook these students in the virtual classroom either. Here are five things teachers can do to meet the needs of gifted children in a virtual classroom:

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A Wakeup Call for Differentiation

By David Nurenberg

Even if a course is designated “honors” or “remedial,” anyone who has taught real children knows that there is no such thing as a homogenous class—unless it has just one student. Forty years of research tells us that just because two dozen students share a classroom, it doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all approach will serve them.

Thanks to the pandemic, those students don’t even share a physical classroom anymore. Students are in so many different situations vis a vis their ability to engage with class, and the amount of support they have available at home, that we can no longer harbor any illusions that “teaching to the middle” will suffice.

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A Tactical Plan for Learning Gaps: What to Expect Post COVID-19

By Suzy Pepper Rollins

School hallways have been still for weeks. Normally bustling cafeterias, sports fields, and playgrounds prolongingly silent.  But most importantly, classrooms have been empty.  No science labs, no sharing of writing, no dissecting of poetry with an elbow partner, and no exploratory math stations.  No nods of approval by teachers or laughter at humorous sections of a novel.  No leaning over to a classmate’s desk for assurance on a tough math problem.   

What will the learning toll be on millions of students whose educational experiences were abruptly switched to remote, often online, learning?  Some learners may have barely skipped an academic beat and will return to school ready to move on. Others may have experienced daily frustrations.  And many will fall somewhere in between. 

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Sharing the Task of Learning: Using Think-Pair-Shares in a Digital World

By David Nurenberg

Even more so than in a physical classroom, teachers in an online environment can’t expect to only lecture—whether in real time or in a downloadable video—and have their students learn. Fortunately, some go-to strategies of more student-centered learning translate well to an online environment.

The “Think Pair Share” (TPS) is a useful tool for engaging every single student in doing something, and for holding them accountable for their learning. Students begin by thinking through a problem or question and writing down their thoughts. This writing can make for good formative assessment, but only if it’s graded on a “did it/didn’t do it” basis, or else students may be too scared to experiment with their ideas. Next, they compare thoughts with a partner, and both students refine their understanding. They share out further with a small group of four or five before the teacher brings the entire class back together to engage with the lesson.

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