Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 1

Many people around the world, myself included, have found themselves in an unusual situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down our schools with little to no warning. We are now tasked with teaching virtually which, for the majority of us, is a completely foreign and intimidating task. We have probably been asked to do this with no training or time to prepare.

For those of you who are in this situation, I am sure you feel lost or unsure if you’re doing the right thing. This is a normal feeling. If you are focusing on what’s best for kids, you’re doing it right. You’ll find your groove, learn what works for you and your students, and find successes. It just might not feel like that right now. Be easy on yourself. I know you have high standards and expectations, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take it one step at a time. Reach out to colleagues, both at your school and abroad. We are all in this together!

I’m new at this, having completed Day 8 of virtual school on Friday, and I’m still learning and improving each day, but here is some advice that might help you as you navigate this new way of teaching.

Student Wellbeing

First and foremost, we have to think of the impact this change is going to have on students. There are many aspects of student wellbeing to consider.

Student Limitations

Our students are not used to learning at home, and we need to be mindful of the limitations that some of them may have. Some may not have access to a device or a consistent internet connection. Some may not have an adult to help them with their assignments at home. Some may not have books or basic supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, and art materials. Some may have learning differences, such as a special need or limited English, that will prevent them from accessing the lessons and assignments. We must prepare ourselves for the fact that some of our students will fall behind. Think about ways to support your students through this. Is there a way to loan a school device to them during the school closure? What about sending home extra library books or student packs of materials? Can you set up 1-on-1 video chat sessions with them to re-teach a concept or check in on them to see how they’re doing? How will you differentiate learning for your students? A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

Movement Every Day

Students typically have opportunities to exercise each day at school, whether this is through PE lessons or recess. When quarantined at home, they will likely not get as much exercise. Assigning daily PE lessons (minimum of 30 minutes/day) in the form of good quality exercise videos is a good way to ensure they burn off some of their pent-up energy. Providing a variety of exercise options each day of the week will ensure they aren’t bored. They could dance on Monday, do yoga on Tuesday, cardio and strength training on Wednesday, etc.

Screen Time

Screen time is also a consideration. We all know the research that says it’s important to limit screen time for kids. Teaching virtually puts students in front of a screen for an extended amount of time each day. We need to be mindful of the time we are expecting students to be in front of a screen each day and how long each stretch of time online will be. Consider the students’ ages when deciding on how much screen time to expect. One way to reduce the amount of screen time is to break up the learning throughout the day, scheduling in brain breaks, time for movement, etc. Another way is to assign offline activities, such as ongoing projects, science experiments that can be done with household items, hands-on math activities, art activities, free reading and free writing.

Workload/Expectations

Another consideration is the workload for students. What might take 30 minutes to do in the classroom can take some students an hour to do at home. What I’ve learned is that less really is more. I started out assigning way too much, only to realize it wasn’t working. Since pulling back, I’ve seen improvements in students’ motivation and ability to complete the daily tasks. We can’t forget that our students are learning in a new environment, with many distractions they aren’t used to, and to expect them to do the same amount of work at home that they do at school is unrealistic. Asking for reflections from students and parents has helped me gauge whether my expectations for students were appropriate. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as surveys, 1-on-1 conversations on video conference calls, or having them create video reflections with given questions.

Connection/Sense of Community

Making the move to online teaching allows students and teachers to connect digitally, but we must not forget the need for real connection. Students will watch your video lessons and then complete work independently at home. Most likely they’ll submit their work via an online learning management system, such as Seesaw, and you will comment on it. These connections are sterile and do not replace the daily interactions we have with our students at school. They miss their friends. They miss you. How can you connect with your students? Using an online tool, such as ZOOM, that allows you to connect your entire class is a good way to keep the sense of community alive. You could read a story aloud, have a morning meeting, or teach a mini-lesson. Alternatively, you can chat 1-on-1 using video conference tools, such as Skype, ZOOM, or Microsoft Teams, to form those connections with individual students.

There’s so much more advice to give about staff wellbeing, virtual learning tools, organization and structure of your day, etc., but given the length of this post, I’ll wait until tomorrow to continue my advice. Please comment below if you have any questions or want me to include anything in my next advice post. Best of luck!

Click here for Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 2

Click here for Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 3

30 thoughts on “Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 1

  1. Erika Victor (Ms Victor Reads)

    We found out today that we begin next week. We are going to ease in by starting light on Tuesday or Wednesday. I take advice from experts like you to heart- you are right, it is all new! Stay healthy.

    Reply
  2. Terje

    I agree with you that putting well-being in the centre is a must in order for distance learning to be successful. It goes both for students and teachers. I also worry about parents. Some moms will have three young kids, each needing help and attention with learning, and also meals three times a day. We will have our school councillor and psychologist also ready to help out via google meet, chat or email.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Terje- It definitely goes for teachers and parents, too. I’m going to slice more about that today. That’s great to use your support people that way. Sadly, we don’t have a school counselor. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Reply
  3. Amanda Regan

    Thank you for sharing what you have learned. There is so much to think about, and it helps to hear from those like you who are a bit ahead of the game.

    Reply
  4. Elisabeth Ellington

    Such an informative and helpful post! I will definitely be taking these tips to heart. I’d love to hear more about how you’re managing structuring your day and your own well-being too. I am an introvert, but this is going to be a lot of time at home!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks Elisabeth! I’ll add those ideas to my advice part 2 slice. But if I’m being honest, I’ve not yet mastered the taking care of my own wellbeing yet.

      Reply
  5. Joan MS Durrin

    I’m doing the same thing as Susan. Thank you. I’ve added this to my list. I appreciate how this community is supporting us through our slices! Some great advice and tips. We are all learners and we need to give ourselves permission to adjust to this new learning curve. Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
  6. livinglife816287820

    Thank you for all your advice and links, I’ve made a note of most things, which is helpful for me anyway in an out of the way location working with poor kids who just don’t normally learn this way. Thanks for being a pioneer in school closure matters!

    Reply
  7. carlambrown

    Thank you for your encouragement in this global crux of uncertainty. Your post glows with a warmth that reminds us we’re human, and that even across digital paths, we can still experience a natural connection. How timely, right when we need it most.

    #grateful

    ~Carla Michelle

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 2 | my heart is happiest when i travel. read. write. connect.

  9. Pingback: Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 3 | my heart is happiest when i travel. read. write. connect.

  10. Pingback: And Just Like That, It’s Over | my heart is happiest when i travel. read. write. connect.

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