Taking Annotation Digital: A Strategy for Online Teaching & Learning

By Kristen Hawley Turner and Lauren Zucker

On the last day of school before the COVID-19 shutdown, Kristen asked her seventh-grade twins whether their teacher had given them copies of the class novel they were going to be reading.

 “No, there weren’t enough for the entire grade, so we are going to have to read it online,” her daughter said. 

“Yeah, how is that going to work?” replied her son.

The rapid shift from face-to-face to emergency remote teaching has upended educational systems everywhere. How is it going to work to read a full-class text?  How will teachers assess individual students’ thinking? How will students engage critically with their reading? How will redesigned instruction be equitable when synchronous access isn’t ubiquitous?

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Digital Classroom Routines: or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Teaching Online

Over the last several weeks, many K-12 educators have pivoted, with little warning and minimal training, to teaching in a fully online setting. The challenge of transforming an established face-to-face learning situation into an online one in the midst of a global crisis is new, even for teachers who have planned and delivered digital curricula in the past.

On Friday, March 13th, I told my eighth- and ninth-grade students that school would likely be suspended for a couple of weeks. On Wednesday, March 18th, I convened online classes which, though I didn’t know it then, would stretch at least until the end of April. Between then and now, I have developed a rapidly-evolving repertoire of practices, guided by Jay Wiggins’ and Grant McTighe’s classic dictum of curriculum planning: begin with the end in mind, only with a twist.

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Tech Tips for a Smoother Telecommuting School Day

To be honest, I was apprehensive about transitioning from classroom teaching to delivering instruction entirely online. How would I connect with my kids? How would I accurately assess their learning? How would I deliver the content and still make meaningful connections with them? These questions and others plagued me as COVID-19 threatened to take more and more time away from the classroom.

So, where to begin? Fortunately, I’ve had some experience with teaching digitally, so when COVID-19 forced the closure of my district, I was already familiar with some technology that could deliver instruction to my students remotely. The following are some practical tips I have used in my transition.

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Teaching Online During a Crisis: Danger and Opportunity Ahead

When John F. Kennedy was on the campaign trail, he was fond of pointing out that the Chinese symbol for crisis is a combination of the words for danger and opportunity. In reflecting on the coronavirus crisis and its impact of American public education, let’s first honor the flood of complicated feelings that educators themselves are experiencing and perhaps feeling overwhelmed by: fear, sadness, anger, helplessness, distractibility, and most of all, uncertainty.

In juggling family needs and work expectations, everyone is feeling the anxiety that comes from a most unusual emergency. Nothing is the same as it was. Our relationships with family, friends, co-workers and students have all been disrupted by the self-isolation that is occurring around the country and around the world. The climbing infection and death rates can’t help but make everyone more than a little edgy, depressed, and fearful. As many states move public education online, there’s never been a greater learning curve for educators and school leaders who now must embrace a full-fledged focus on online learning.

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