DISTANCE LEARNING: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

Part of the Virtual Culture and Climate Series – Spring 2020

Ideas contributed by the Jostens Renaissance educator community and shared in a Facebook Live presentation on April 6, 2020.

“This isn’t homeschooling, it’s emergency remote learning.” – A.J. Juliani

We need to acknowledge there’s stress and emotion for everyone on all sides. Many are juggling three roles simultaneously – work, parenting, and teaching, in the midst of unprecedented economic and health uncertainty.  We’re all doing the best we can.

 State Approaches

Most states are leaving strategy choices up to district discretion and will be releasing official state regulations in the coming weeks.

States are handling requirements in a wide range of ways:

  • New instruction on untaught standards. Grades being taken.
  • Enrichment and review opportunities only. No grades can be taken. Teachers are required to provide daily enrichment activities.
  • Learning opportunities – grades can only go up but not down. Optional student completion.
  • Pass/Fail for this semester and/or issue letter grades only for distance learning work
  • Primary focus is on getting kids to use this time to read.

Remote Learning Methods

  • Equity concerns: Not everyone has access to reliable internet or computers, so many schools need to use a mixture of online and hard copy packets, especially if giving grades. How to get them to students?
    • By mail
    • Deliver to door steps
    • Put out on school/community campuses for pick up and drop off (use newspaper stands or locked shred bins to collect them)
    • Deliver with food/meals.
  • Receive virtual video of morning announcements and assignments, can include a teacher or student leading pledge of allegiance or joke of the day. (What is a penguin’s favorite food? Burrrrrrrito!)
  • Virtual video from each teacher with lesson for the day – flipped classroom strategy
  • Meet with classes at set times throughout the day – some for check-ins, some for class discussion, some for new instruction
  • Teachers setting up “office hours” for questions and contacts
  • Only holding classes M, T, R, F so teachers can meet and prep on W
  • Valerie Vera-Mineer – Formed department gradeband PLC’s right away, created 6 weeks worth of content so they’re now running with those. Need to build in prep time with colleagues.
  • District in Oklahoma –1 assignment and 1 enrichment activity from each class each week. Grades can only go up on enrichment assignments. Otherwise, grades are frozen.
  • District in Oregon – remote learning was optional until today. Today they start mandatory remote learning. Schedule will follow A/B days and every teacher is supposed to be giving assignments and grading them daily.
  • District in New Jersey – school is to meet 9-11 every day with one mandatory assignment per day per class. Counselors are receiving unprecedented numbers of “at risk” forms submitted by teachers, so need to factor in SEL needs.
  • Using this distance learning experience to teach digital etiquette, presentation and technology skills, time management/personal motivation/organizational skills.
  • Connect subject matter to real world – every discipline can be connected to this pandemic and response. Video or write how you would solve this problem for your class. Create authentic real-life education opportunities.
  • TDOE worked with Nashville Public Television to design educational content. 6am-10am is elementary content stream, and 10am-2pm is middle and high school science, math, STEM content. They are also utilizing PBS to stream throughout the week ELA and math content tied to standards for grades 1-5 according to a time slot set up for each grade.

Platforms

Elementary
Class Tag
ABCMouse.com
Epic
Teach a Monster to Read
Zoom (If you use it, take these precautions)
Seesaw
Stream Monkey
Peer Deck
Scholastic
Discovery Education
Class Dojo

Middle and High School
Google classrooms
Google Meet (conferencing tool)
Zoom (If you use it, take these precautions)
Canvas
WebEx
Padlet
Edgenuity

 

Special Guest

Dr. Darrin Peppard, Superintendent, West Grand School District in Colorado

  • Be sure to connect with staffulty. Has a virtual water cooler using Google Hangouts
  • Sharing morning announcements each day – one principal does from his house with his daughters
  • Tells a bad dad joke of the day (kids now send them to him)
  • K-5 doing go bags – a grocer donated bags, teacher load with 2 weeks of material to go home, teachers are coming in to pick them up. Doing a lot of things – crayons, things needed for activities
  • A number of teachers have set up own web sites to post videos or share links
  • Kindergarten teacher created FB page, invited parents to join, now music teacher posts what the music for the week is, kids practice and video and send it back.
  • K-8 morning meeting using Google Hangouts
  • Lots of great things going on.
  • Virtual bedtime stories for K-5, video ourselves reading stories. Great links I can share.
  • Lots of publishers who’ve granted permissions for reading online.
  • Elementary using Cahoot to get kids engaged with each other.
  • 3rd grade – videoing lessons, splitting up reading and math, get together once a week just to visit.
  • Middle school 101 – Harbor videos free resource
  • Specials – art, music, PE – PE teachers set up document where kids log activity. Parent shared that her son’s PE minutes have been raking, cleaning up yard.
  • HS – business as usual in Google Classroom platform. 20% of kids still struggling to connect.
  • State science fair online.
  • Equity – had to distribute Chromebooks and hot spots. Issued 176 Chromebooks (450 in district, 1600 in community). Total need of 32 hotspots, got through partnership with T-Mobile. 2 families were not able to get connectivity – service not good enough. Working through that. Helped to level the playing field.
  • Grading – Following normal protocols. Stressed that we don’t want to punish a kid because they’re required to watch siblings or don’t have access. Not at P/F yet but having conversations this week. Teaching limiting the number of grades they’re taking. Not going to be socially promoting, but do want teachers to be flexible and understanding. Great thing about small district is that teachers know the families, can work through challenges with them.

Challenges

  • Equity a big challenge – Student access to technology and wifi
  • Audio and visual issues for some of the instruction (dry erase marker on shower stall wall)
  • Some students have never logged in before – younger, or haven’t been in that position. Need to educate students on how to access, and listening to problems.
  • Be aware of video streaming restrictions and student privacy concerns in your district.
  • IEP and learning accommodations for students qualifying for special ed – not waiving federal IEP requirements but many schools are opening up IEPs for amendments and/or moving evaluations to the fall.
  • Infrastructure not in place as well as educator unfamiliarity with online learning platforms and techniques. (Educators are learning and struggling too.)
  • Parents unable to understand distance learning requirements or technology platforms, or math problems. Tina Dietrich hosted a “Parent University” session for parents and adult supporters so they would understand the learning platform, so they could help students.

Solutions

  • Lead with grace and understanding. None of us have done this before.
    • Educators: parents are working and doing all this too.
    • Parents: educators didn’t have advance warning and are doing the best they can, there are going to be hiccups.
  • Keep it simple, relevant, and important
  • Leadership to focus on how this school year affects next school year and course credits – the importance of PLC’s for planning
  • Teachers to focus on connecting with students and tying current reality to subject matter (teachable moments)
  • Push for every student to have 1:1 technology available to them
  • Communication is key, between students, teachers, and parents, especially if there’s a large population of non-English speaking parents
  • Be mindful that we are not widening the achievement gap between the haves and the have-nots – need to accommodate every student or the gaps will be even broader next year
  • Having previously established climate and culture of respect makes all the difference (some schools are having trouble with students creating memes of teachers)
  • Digital etiquette rules may help – use mistakes as teachable moments and set up protocols.

Resources

Restorative Practice principles as applied to distance learning – Sara Cowey

Whole child education resources, wellness checklists for students and families, and tips on distance learning best practices – Dr. Chase McCullum with Pascagoula-Gautier School District in MS: https://sites.google.com/pgsd.ms/distancelearning

Harbor Library by Jostens Renaissance – Available to the public through the end of the school year. Log into JostensRenaissance.com with username and password JOSTENS.

Virtual Read Alouds – Record videos of teachers reading books. The Teaching Texan blog post lists publishers that have given permission to have works used this way.

Dolly Parton Imagination Library – Free program to get a new book every month for child. Good Night with Dolly started last week.

Daily Check-In and Trifecta Challenges – Check-in, mental, physical, and social prompts designed by Jostens Renaissance.

  • Click here for a Dropbox folder with JPEG images to download
  • Click here for a Google Drive folder with JPEG images to download

How is your school handling distance learning? Email your story to [email protected].

 

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