Used to Be Unfathomable
Just a few years ago it was unfathomable to think that teaching and learning could be done remotely, let alone effectively. Even though face to face is, and always will be, the best mode of teaching, the advent of the internet and technology for academic uses has not only made it possible but a viable form of educating.
It is no longer, “Should we use technology in and out of the classroom?” It is now, “How can we use technology better to prepare students for future jobs and careers that don’t even exist yet?” There are several tips for remote learning and teaching from home that will cultivate efficacious results.
Mandy Wade, another ReadTheory student and ESL teacher wrote a similar article for ESL teachers about remote teaching.
Tips for remote learning
Staying Connected with Students
The top priority in teaching is making and maintaining a connection and relationship with your students. This is true for remote learning and can be established with some persistence and creativity. .
At the beginning of every school year I mail handwritten postcards to my scholars introducing myself to them and their families. (Learned this idea from my fourth grade teacher! Thank you Ms. Herold!) It is simple and brief, but it is a tangible and meaningful way to make that first positive connection with the students.
A friendly postcard or letter could even be sent during the school year that lets the student and family know that you are a real and connected educator. With remote learning, this simple gesture is meaningful to your student and their family.
Use of Video
The use of video is powerful and has multiple uses in staying connected to students for remote learning. The obvious use is through video chats. Apps such as Zoom, Google Hangouts , and other video conferencing sources make it easy to have those individual or group conversations. A simple check in with the students so that they can see and hear you goes a long way.
Beyond that, consider using a live video to teach a lesson with the class, small group, or individual. Apps such as Zoom allow for the students to see your screen and it has the function of annotating the screen. Anytime that the students can have that experience of seeing a live lesson with their teacher will keep them engaged and encourage better processing of the material.
Another option is to create and publish video lessons. If you don’t already have a YouTube channel, you can easily make one and it is free. Videos of challenging concepts or skills with your voice (and/or face) is another way for the students to stay connected to you as their teacher.
They have the option of replaying it and pausing it if they miss a point. The program that I have used for years and is easy to use and upload to Youtube (and other video sites) is Doceri. Here is an example of a math video I created with this program.
Even making a video of you reading a book to your students is a meaningful way for your students to see and hear their teacher whenever they want to. A series of videos for chapter books would be ideal and you could even use this as a Listening Comprehension activity. After they listen to your book or chapter, they could write a summary or a reflection and send it to you.
Keep It Fun
Kahoot is widely used in the classroom, but it could be used remotely because the students could use it with any device and from any place. Using the “Challenge” mode, just set a time and send the link through Google Classroom, Class Dojo, Blooms or even student emails and it can all be done remotely.
Flipgrid is a wonderful video creating site that is engaging. Many students aspire to be a “Youtuber” or an “Influencer” and Flipgrid gives them that opportunity in a controlled and academic setting. Flipgrid is easy to set up and has endless possibilities. The key here is for you to post videos of yourself either explaining the assignment, modeling expectations, and/or providing video feedback for the students. The students need to see and hear you as much as possible and it can even be in a humorous way
Lino is a digital “sticky note” site. Many educators have used sticky notes in the classroom for lessons and placing on posters and Lino does it digitally. It is another example of remote learning that has academic applications but it is also a great way to stay connected to your students as if you are sharing notes or thoughts with each other. This could even be a simple way to do some Social Emotional Learning (SEL) where the notes are anonymous but the class can connect with other students better and provide you insight of your scholars.
Years ago I had a parent look me in the eye and say, “Teaching my kid is your job, not mine.” This angered and broke my heart. Educating is truly a collaborative venture and has the most success when the teacher, parent, and student work, struggle, connect, and celebrate together.
Most parents subscribe to this partnership, but there are tools and tips to engage those who do not automatically do this and to make it even better with those that are already on board.
Communication, communication, communication! If parents know the “whats”, “whys” and “hows” of your lessons, routines, assignments, and anything else you are doing, it will lead to more buy-in and support. Remote teaching would need even more visuals and explanations for the parents than an in-classroom setting.
Consider the concept of television or radio commercials. They play them over and over until we are quoting or singing along with them. The same is with remote communication. Say it and show it (and if possible sing it) over and over!
Using platforms such as Class Dojo, Blooms, Remind and others are all practical and handy means of connecting with your students’ parents. All of these can be accessed from a phone or any device, which works well for today’s society.
Consider using it as your opportunity to create “commercials” for your parents with simple, straight forward messages that are accessible for the parents to read and reread. Posting pictures and videos is even better. You want the parents to support what you are doing and this will give them useful talking points with their child and foster better parent engagement.
Since remote learning and teaching is still new to many parents, consider doing a Parents Only video chat from time to time. This can be done for one family or a group chat. Yes, I know this can be intimidating for many educators and even many parents, but the parents need opportunities to see and hear you as well.
For example, I had a parent that read all my messages on Class Dojo, messaged me with questions and was still struggling with my expectations and assignments. We set up a video chat with the parent and student. Even though I said many of the same things in my written messages, having them see and hear me calmed their concerns and I was able to answer everything in less than fifteen minutes.
Scheduled and frequent parent video chats are needed and important to remote learning and parent engagement. It is even better if you can record and post the video chats so that the parents that could not join in can still feel connected.
Encourage your students’ parents to also join parent or support groups on social media. There are countless parent groups on Facebook that are more than just a place to complain, but a way to really find other parents who are engaged with their child’s education. Twitter is another platform with endless ideas and people who provide resources for remote learning for parents and educators. Creating your own Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account just for your class is also another way to keep your parents connected and engaged.
If this was a game show and the category was “Motivating Students,” how well would we all do? Keeping scholars continually engaged in the right rigor in the classroom is challenging enough! Remote learning has a whole new layer of distractions and hurdles. In many ways, in-class and remote learning, have similar factors for successful motivating.
According to the article, Top 5 Strategies for Motivating Students, there are key elements to effective motivating:
- Promote growth mindset over fixed mindset.
- Develop meaningful and respectful relationships with your students.
- Grow a community of learners in your classroom.
- Establish high expectations and establish clear goals.
- Be inspirational.
Motivating Remote Learners
Without regurgitating the entire article which was primarily focused on in-classroom strategies, these can also be applied to remote learning environments.
Promoting a growth mindset is vital to remote learning. This also requires patience and grace. As the students are building their Digital Literacy and Citizenship, you have to expect mistakes. Again, expect mistakes. Provide a path for corrections and often, redemption.
Students (and parents) could struggle with simple things as logging into a website or it could be as serious as online bullying and inappropriate postings. If you, the student, and the families know that part of the learning process is making mistakes and growing from that, then remote learning is a positive and effective experience in learning and growth mindset.
As stated previously, developing meaningful relationships with your students, even remotely, is our top priority. It could literally make or break the entire process. Send the learner an encouraging message or email.
Take some time with either non-graded assignments or video chats to ask the child to tell about themselves. Kyle Schwartz, the author of “I Wish My Teacher Knew,” created a whole movement that asked the simple question, “What do you wish your teacher knew about you?” It is so simple and yet insightful. This could be easily done even in a remote learning environment.
Community of Learners
As you are focused on growing a community of learners, always celebrate any successful event or outcome with your students. It is one thing to be celebrated in the classroom setting, but to see it posted online where others, including the families, can congratulate and encourage the learner makes it seem even more real and important.
We love seeing our names connected to success. Even easy things as silent clapping during a video chat for something someone said in the conversation is affirming. Highlight growth and not just high scores. Promote and reward collaboration and not just individual productivity. It is about the whole of the community of learners and not just about the individual.
High Expectations and Clear Goals
Be very clear. Then say it again. Establishing high expectations and clear goals is a repetitive activity. Whether it is for a video chat or a major project, remote learners need visuals, modeling, examples and plenty of resources. Rubrics that are kid friendly, instructional videos, simple directions, and samples all need to state the expectation and goal of every assignment or project.
As Mr. Fred Rogers stated, “In a way, you’ve already won in this world because you’re the only one who can be you.” His life was a living breathing example of being inspirational and it continues even beyond his time on this Earth.
Remote learners need constant reminders of their success, growth, and the uniqueness of being themselves. Remote learners often feel isolated and miss the physical element of togetherness. Remember to encourage and inspire as often as possible. This can be with feedback, messages, images, and even assignments.
Remote Does Not Have to Be Remote
Students are more capable than we often give them credit for. Remote learning and teaching is just another approach or tool in education and today’s learners are ready. Whether you consider yourself to be “techy” or not, your students still look to you to guide them. You do not need to be the expert on technology. You are their teacher and it is acceptable to acknowledge that you are learning new skills as well. Remote education is a matter of separate locations but together in the process and success.
We’re here if you need us
As always, but even more so now, our team is here for any questions or concerns that you might have.
We will keep posting new content on a weekly basis on how to simplify the transition to remote teaching and ease the lives of both teachers and students, so stay tuned. And stay healthy!
Dean Deaver has been teaching at the elementary school level for the past twenty-two years in grades 2nd through 6th.
He has also been an adjunct professor at California Baptist University for their School of Education.