My son's school shifted to "online learning" during the first phase of the pandemic. To be honest, we home-schooled our son with my mother's assistance. Our school was only directing the students; there was almost no teaching going on.
At no time did the school reach out for any form of assistance. I am a developer but came from the education side (MS Office Master). It should be OK for them to ask for help, even from the parents.
- Weekly communication for an hour is not enough. Students need classroom time for questions and answers
- Plan for a time where the parents can ask questions.
- Check that documents are printable. There's nothing worse than getting a lesson and knowing you have to reformat it each morning.
- Be consistent in communication channels. We got messages to our email, on the school's website, and via Google Classroom from different teachers. This inconsistent communication lasted the entire time.
- Please provide the actual lesson plans. There were several lessons that had a one-sentence description. Tell us, as parents, what you want the student to accomplish as well as how to accomplish that.
- Please learn what tools are available. We had a teacher using PowerPoint as a drag-and-drop lesson. Stick to one format, preferably something that does not incur costs (Microsoft Office versus GSuite). I have a Microsoft license but would be willing to bet not all parents do.
- In the subject line, make sure to include the teacher name and student grade when sending information to parents. It's too easy to miss something when there is a lot going on. We know this information is important and want to get to it as soon as possible.
Please document (and update regularly):
- Work to be done.
- What needs to be turned in (and how to turn it in).
- Links for information and meetings.
Teachers should remember that they may have more tools than just what the school provides. Parents can be a tremendous resource on what technology is available, as well as how to include it in the classroom effectively.
Virtual learning is not just about technology. It involves mental health, as well. It is about:
- Establishing new routines
- Staying motivated
- Keeping mentally and physically fit.
So how do we make the best of it? Any time we deal with change of any kind – whether in the midst of a global pandemic or not – it can be hard and take time to adjust.
- Designate a learning space. Whether it is a bedroom, the kitchen table, or an office, make sure you have a good internet connection and all the supplies needed for your child to be a successful student. Also, make sure the space is free from distractions like TV during school hours.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. Routines allow us to stay organized, help us know what to expect, and make us feel more in control. This can boost a child’s self-confidence and improve their mental health. Don’t forget to build in breaks ... for snacks and meals or taking a walk or bike ride.
- Take it seriously. Don’t assume that online learning is easier than in-person. In fact, for many, it is much harder. Explain to your kids that they have to hold themselves accountable by managing their time and that some find it harder to focus during online learning vs. in-person teaching.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Online learning may be an opportunity for your child to grow personally as well as academically. Maybe they’re shy and don’t feel comfortable “raising their hand” during a video call or reaching out to their teacher for help. Have them challenge themselves to take these steps so they don’t fall behind. Plus, they could be helping their classmates by asking a question they may need the answer to also.
- Start with the most difficult assignments. We are usually more focused when we first begin a project at the start of our day, so have them save easier assignments for later in the day when they may be more distracted or mentally tired.
- Embrace technology. We may joke that our children’s generation was born knowing how to use technology, but online learning may require that your kids learn new applications. Plus, glitches happen, and devices crash. Tell them to save their work often and do their best to learn the ins and outs of the programs they’re being asked to use.
- Use Google Calendar sharing to document (work and meetings).
- Use Google Forms for Quiz Style and data collection.