Dr. Judy's Newsletter March 2020

The transition from classroom-based to online learning was unexpected and fast. We are still learning from it and working on it. Here are some concerns you might have and suggestions for interventions.

The transition from classroom-based to online learning was unexpected and fast. We are still learning from it and working on it. Here are some concerns you might have and suggestions for interventions.

First needs: Acknowledging these concerns to parents and students is an important start, along with interventions you can have in place. It is ideal if your school can provide remote tech help, send home laptops or tablets the students use at school for home use (assuming there is internet access or a plan to get it). For students, and parents, provide guidance and school rules, that show your concern for cyberbullying and plans to monitor their communications in your domain. Consider how your school can work with you so you can monitor students use of their technology and strive to maintain your classroom policy of doing all you can to keep them safe in their digital school environment.

Self-directed learning supports
Even successful and computer literate (and advanced) students are unlikely to have the executive function networks and skills, such as organization, sustained attention focus, distraction resistance, judgment, and prioritizing to take charge of their learning.

Let them know how you and the school team will support them and provide links to mini-lessons, websites, and skill building for them to become self-directed learners, as they continue to learn the academic material you scaffold with supports. See my links on Edutopia about building these executive function skillsets that are transferrable to online student work.

Incorporate in assignments, time and guidance about them setting up daily and weekly schedules for planning and completing tasks to reach goals. Provide feedback or online class discussions about their efforts, challenges, and successful strategies regarding their time management.

As you help them build skills of planning, prioritizing, and resisting distractions, you can incorporate communication skills and self-awareness with journaling assignments. Have them keep a journal of their day relevant to time on school tasks, when are they most focused, how long before they need to have a break, what distracts them, what helps them get back on task, and what new strengths they have discovered. When appropriate and with permissions and without names, share student insights and challenges with their classmates via class sites.

Be mindful that some students, without access, skills, guided motivation/buy-in, and other supports may fall further and further behind. Consider how you can support them as a teacher and a school. For example, check out which online learning games would provide a motivating way of memorizing and mastering required facts, foundational material, and other background knowledge needed as groundwork. A website that can provide links to games with descriptions to help you select that which would be best suited for students’ needs is Graphite, a free service from Common Sense Media, available at http://www.graphite.org.

Classroom community activities online
Social isolation from lack of face-to-face interactions with others or loss of the motivating influence of direct interaction with teachers and classmates in a physical learning community, is an important challenge. Phone calls, emails, and Skype, Facetime, etc. sessions with the class or individual students can be powerfully grounding.

In addition to the journals described above, interactive learning with technology can promote community through blogs and collaborative online assignments. First, reconfirm that you will work to keep them safe and that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. When possible, explain how inappropriate comments will not be tolerated and will be removed from the postings. Participation is facilitated with the option of having coded responses instead of names so only you know who wrote each blog but still allow classmates to learn from reading each other’s.

After first showing examples of good and bad blogs and blog responses, post more samples and have students evaluate the quality of these. Their responses will let you assess their understanding and promote greater awareness of characteristics desired.

An interactive classroom blog incorporates their growing understanding of the new material (reading, math, videos, etc.) and can include their own responses to and questions about the information. In blog assignments, learners should be guided to the planned goal e.g. reflection on new learning, demonstrating their thinking.

Blogs can provide opportunities to ask questions, to classmates or you that they’re not comfortable asking in class. In addition to their own posts, if you can provide safe channels for keeping responses on a limited access location, each student could choose one blog for each assignment to which they post a thoughtful, productive on-topic response (again examples would be provided for guidance so anonymity, except to you, would be preserved as described above).

You will gain insights as to what they need next. You'll be able to provide corrective feedback (individually or for whole class reading) about misunderstandings and formative feedback for them about their understanding and progress.

Not everything needs to be written if you can make voice or video recordings the class can access. Additionally, since the blog can continue to be available after the course is over, it can give students a reference to go back to and review course content.

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Be proud of your role as an educator in these unchartered times and the flexible thinking, emotional wisdom, and creativity you are drawing upon. Your students' confidence in your steady support will sustain them as they build their knowledge and take on their unexpected challenges as they expand their lifetime learning skills.

Keep igniting,

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