Tag: Distance education

distance teaching

Distance Teaching & Learning: The 4c’s for Making It Successful

Posted on August 2, 2020 by

Distance teaching and learning is different from face to face teaching and learning. It’s the truth.

I’ve spent the entire summer facilitating courses for educators on Digital Teaching and Learning. I’m seeing many educators start to panic about not knowing how to start thinking and planning about beginning a new school year online.

The COVID chasm I wrote about a few weeks ago is real, and it’s terrifying. Teachers everywhere are trying to rethink, remake, redo all that they’ve ever known about teaching. We know this may go on for a semester at more.

What are the 4 C’s of distance teaching?

In California, most districts are starting the year virtually. This requires us to reimagine our back to school routines. I believe there are 4c’s to define the best practices of distance teaching and learning: community, connection, collaboration, and competency.

Taking a look at each of these will help teachers breathe more easily. It will help parents trust the school system and ensure students have the best possible start to the 2020-21 school year.

Distance Teaching = COMMUNITY

So many teachers are frightened about never having met our students face to face and trying to create a classroom community. But think about it – how many virtual spaces are there where we connect with people we don’t see every day? Do you participate in social media groups? Have you taken online classes or done Zoom yoga groups? Did you ever use a VCR to do a workout, or maybe you’ve even done online dating?

Today’s kids see virtual communities differently. Fanfiction groups thrive and survive on the social connections and dedication of members. Classrooms can be the same! Social-emotional learning is important at the start of the year. It’s also crucial to embed into EVERY SINGLE lesson and student contact.

What does SEL mean?

Check out the CASEL competencies for detailed info, but in summary, pay attention. Ask questions. Listen to your students. Comment and give feedback. Show your personality. Crowdsource feedback and ideas from your students. I’m a huge fan of HyperDocs. I make sure that as I design every learning cycle I’m embedding deliberate entry points for student choice, voice, and feedback.

In synchronous meetings, use icebreakers, polls, discussion questions, photo sharing, read alouds, videos and games EVERY TIME.

It’s a ‘pay it forward’ way of thinking – that first five minutes you spend intentionally connecting with students as they enter your virtual class, while they’re ‘getting ready’ and as you end the session will PAY OFF BIG TIME! The conferencing space IS your classroom space – do what you’d do face to face.

Distance Teaching = CONNECTION

Connection goes hand in hand with SEL, and also should be extended to TEACHER connection and PARENT connection.

Teachers need to feel supported. They need to learn self-care strategies, how to set work/home boundaries, how to develop routines, and where to share their glows and grows. One way to create teacher connection is to curate spaces – my favorites are Google Classroom and Wakelet. Using Google Classroom to set up a safe space for virtual PD allows teachers to enter on their own or during virtual meetups. Housing articles, videos, tech tips, and discussion threads help teachers focus on pertinent topics while having access to resources and reflection time.

What’s Wakelet?

Wakelet helps curate collections of resources and can be shared, and/or curated as a community. I love sharing my collections on Assessment ideas, Google Classroom Tips, HyperDocs, and Diverse Reading Lists.

An added bonus of using Google Classroom and Wakelet is allowing teachers to explore new systems that can then be transferred to student use or creation.

Parents need connection, too – Wakelet would be a powerful tool to share tech training how-to videos, Google Calendar appointment sign ups, websites – really anything that you want parents to use to ‘see’ inside your classroom!

Distance Teaching = COLLABORATION

Distance learning shifts the way we collaborate. Students NEED to connect with others – collaboration on projects allows for shared critical thinking, communication, and a deeper connection with school – as long as WHAT they’re collaborating on is engaging, relevant, and rigorous. consider tech tools to foster collaboration like Padlet and Flipgrid. Check out this fabulous collaboration resource created by Steve Wick!

For teachers, collaboration through Professional Learning Communities, not just in your school but worldwide, offers opportunities to share academic, pedagogical, and personal ideas. Many social media networks like Facebook and Instagram are turning to groups and hashtags to connect educators; my favorite collaboration site is Twitter.

Educators find ideas via hashtags searches, groups, direct messages, and Twitter chats – in fact, I hosted a WeVideo Twitter chat on ‘Podcasting and Student Creativity” in hopes of sharing and collecting new ideas for student podcasting projects!

If you’re interested in podcasting you can see the archive of ideas here.

What else can teachers do?

Taking an online class, webinar, or book study helps teachers connect and collaborate over topics of interest. Also, it puts teachers in the point of view of students – what better way to ‘feel’ what it’s like for our own students to be in a virtual classroom! Consider getting Google Certified (Kasey Bell has great resources here) or taking tech tool certifications. Perhaps join your local CUE affiliate, or attend virtual conferences or edchats – all ways to not feel so all alone in distance teaching while making new friends at the same time (see, I told you community is built online!).

For students, authentic collaboration needs to happen in synchronous and asynchronous time. In web conferences, consider using breakout rooms, if possible. Many face to face strategies, like give one, get one, can be done in with the chat feature. Utilizing UDL lesson design with HyperDocs allows the teacher to build in collaboration within a lesson or unit using a variety of digital tools. Sarah Landis created a compilation of UDL resources in this slide deck!

Distance Teaching = COMPETENCY

Competency means taking a look at how we not only train teachers, administrators, counselors, and support staff in best practices for digital teaching and learning, but also onboarding our students and parents with digital basics. We need to intentionally TEACH structures, tools, and systems to ensure student success. Also, creating a standardized design for students to access assignments in your LMS, writing, and recording directions for each assignment helps create strong organizational systems. Creating a teacher website to share access points also helps students achieve systematic competency.

Then, ensuring consistent lesson design that features frequent, familiar strategies like those found in EduProtocols can help students move from feeling overwhelmed with new strategies and content every time. Students know when a teacher says “Iron Chef” how to approach content. One of my favorite sites is using Google’s Applied Digital Skills. I can either use or modify their lessons, embedding digital tools into the curriculum, and building up my student’s digital toolbox.

How many tools do teachers need?

Teachers don’t need to have a new tool for every lesson. Just like cooking meals for the family, you don’t have to try a new recipe 365 days a year. Take the one you like, use content in a new way, and continue to modify. And always have a solid fall back – I call that lesson the ‘macaroni and cheese’ for when I need something solid and tasty to fall back on, that doesn’t require a lot of creativity on my end.

I hope sometime we can stop calling this experience ‘distance teaching and learning’ and just remember it’s TEACHING and LEARNING. Yes, our methodology may look different, but we need to remember that we have good strategies we already know – the trick is to switch them into a digital space. Trust your instincts. You can do this. You WILL build community in your virtual space. Your students are looking for you to show up and SEE them…whether it’s through a camera, on a screen, or face to face.

We’re teachers – it’s our super power!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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can parents go back to school

Can Parents Go Back To School?

Posted on February 12, 2018 by

I write frequently about education and college – mostly from the point of view of teenagers. But can parents go back to school successfully as well? Going back to school for adults certainly has unique challenges,  and yet plenty of people do it and manage to juggle studying, their family and sometimes even working too. If you’re thinking about doing it, don’t rush into it. There are a few things you might want to think about first to help make it a success!

can parents go back to school

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #1: Find a Flexible Way to Study

One way you could choose to do postgraduate studies when you have a family is to find a flexible way to do it. This could include finding an online course, which often allows you work at your own pace or at least makes your learning and study times more flexible.

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #2: Take on the Challenge as a Family

If you’re going to go back to school, you need to get the whole family on board. They don’t all have to love the idea, but it can require everyone to pitch in. Maybe the kids are going to have to take a bit more responsibility for themselves or your partner is going to have to be there to support you.

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #3: Find Out How Your College Can Help

A lot of colleges can offer support and resources that help to make things easier. See if your local college has a family resource center or something similar that could help you out. Many colleges offer blended distance learning and occasional face to face contact that are perfect for parents.

Can Parents Go Back To School Challenge #4: Focus on Your Future

If you’re ever unsure or ready to give up, think about what your studies will be doing for your future. The right choice of degree could have a huge impact on your life. At this point in my career, going back to school may not be monetarily sensible, but I’ve been able to channel my love of learning in different ways!

I love this little infographic – hope it inspires you parents to go back to school!

Infographic On SBU Online’s Graduate Degrees

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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online learning

How To Maximize Online Learning As An Adult

Posted on February 4, 2018 by

Have you taken an online class yet? The first time I did (in 2011) it was a struggle. Many of my traditional study methods didn’t transfer easily to learning and reading online, and I had to really step out of my comfort zone. It was good, though – it gave me a huge insight into how I teach my teenage students and also adult learners, and once some of the basic studying structures are re-examined, online learning is a powerful method for furthering your education.

Online learning has become one of the most popular options for studying at home, but it’s also surprisingly difficult if you’re not used to studying on your own and it’s not as effective as most people think especially if it’s the first time they’ve tried it. If you’ve never tried to learn on your own and you jump right into an online university degree, then you might be disappointed at your lack of results. To help you get the most from your online courses, we’ve put together some handy tips that will change the way you approach online learning.

online learning

Creating a distraction-free workspace is key for online learning!

Coping with realities vs expectations

Contrary to what many people believe, studying online is no easier or more difficult than studying the course at a college or university. For instance, getting a Masters in engineering management online is virtually the same as trying to get it from a prestigious college. Sure, the resources you have available to you are different, but you’ll still be able to speak with lecturers and other students and the course itself isn’t any easier because you’re studying the same things.

The reality is that if you’re not committed to your online course, then you’re not going to get anywhere. Just because you study over the internet, it doesn’t mean you can forgo a schedule. Make sure you wake up on time so that you have plenty of time to get ready for your online lessons (much like you would if you’re going to university) or at least set some time aside in the day so that you can sit down and study in peace. If you’re not invested, then you’re not going to get anything out of it and you’ll be wasting your money.

Having a dedicated place to study

When studying at home, it’s important to put together a study area where you can relax and focus. For example, you might want to use your home office as a study area, or you might want to take over your bedroom as a dedicated home classroom where you can put all of your equipment, stationery, and books.

Another good reason to use a dedicated study place is so that other members of your family or your roommates understand that, when you’re in said room or location, you’re in learning mode and others should respect that so they don’t disturb you too much. People that work from home have the same issue that they’re easily distracted by their family members or roommates, which is why setting up a dedicated learning space is ideal.

As long as you stay positive and take your online studying seriously, it’s actually fairly simple to get the most out of your course so that it’s a successful endeavor and not a waste of money that you’ll regret later in the future. Just keep your expectations in check and remember that online studying is just as difficult as studying in a university. It’s just a little more convenient, but it does mean you’ll need to invest more time and effort into making it work for you.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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