Over the past 3 months, I have connected with over 1,000 educators from around the US (and some internationally) to learn about their experiences with emergency remote learning. As we have discussed what has worked and what has been challenging, similar themes continue to emerge and highlight how we can leverage what we have learned to not just do school online better, but to create meaningful, authentic learning experiences for learners any time, anywhere. I have compiled an overview of what successful practices have emerged and examples that educators have shared that included building relationships, flexibility, choice, feedback and creativity.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise that time and time again educators highlighted that the relationships that they had built and continued to strengthen were by far the most impactful in remote learning. Many also acknowledge the importance of prioritizing the social and emotional health of students in order to get to the academics. Connections were strengthened in many ways but often through regular class meetings to build community. Many teachers and students highlighted regular 1:1 check-ins with students as a huge benefit that allowed them to check in as a person, provide feedback, and help with any specific issues or problems. One teacher told me that she did home visits and learned so much about her students that she vowed to do it every year from now on.
One of the pillars of school is the structure that helps keep the trains on the track but the lack of flexibility is often one of the major criticisms of our pre-COVID education system. While the structure is important, there was an awareness that when there was clarity on the goals, learners benefitted from the ability to do assignments when and where it worked for them with the flexibility based on their needs, mood, or resources. Too often the class has to move at the pace of the average or the bell schedule and when learners are working from home (or in a flexible learning environment) they were able to go at the pace that worked for them.
We all appreciate the opportunity to make choices rather than being expected to comply. When educators had success in remote learning, often it was because they presented learners with choices in a variety of ways. Sometimes it was choice in how they shared their learning, sometimes it was choice in the content they were learning, or it was choice in how they learned- maybe it was a podcast, a video, a book, a discussion or maybe there was a choice. Jefferson county put together these choice boards that are a great place example of clear goals but various paths to get there.
With standardized testing canceled, grades not counting, learning was still happening, often in more powerful ways. Teachers highlighted how the remote learning environment forced them to be more clear about expectations and students had to make their thinking and learning visible, which provided opportunities for meaningful feedback to learners instead of relying on grades to communicate how students were doing. This was a powerful revelation for educators and students alike. Providing effective feedback allows us to focus on learners and learning, not sorting and ranking.
The creativity and innovation that educators and learners across the world have displayed is nothing short of amazing. Given many constraints, few resources and tremendous compassion, we have seen educators reimagine their classrooms, learn how to connect virtually, and find ways to connect with learners and support them from afar. We are all learning new tools and reimagining long-held traditions like graduations and assessments and we have come together in beautiful ways to nurture and display the creativity that can often go overlooked or untapped. Let’s not lose this!
“When we focus on learning and what’s best for learners we look for solutions.”
As we prepare for the fall with much uncertainty, it is critical to reflect on what we experienced, what we tried and what worked so that we can plan and design engaging and effective virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning strategies that meet the diverse needs of all learners. I’d love to hear more examples of what worked for you in remote learning and what you learned to help us all move forward. Please share examples HERE of what worked for you.
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