The COVID-19 crisis has taken its toll all over the world. Hundreds of thousands are infected, loved ones dying, and the virus continues to spread with no end in sight. With the closing of schools, districts are working feverishly to ensure children have access to food and learning resources. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to consider some of the obstacles that communities face during this global pandemic to simplify distance learning. Such as:
- Not all students have access to devices
- No Internet access
- Students have not used technology with their teacher
- Some teachers do not know how to use the technology
- Parents may be sick or still at work
- Parents need their devices for work
Simplify Distance Learning
It's no wonder that many educators are feeling the stress. Teachers are worried about their students and how they are going to receive quality instruction during this unprecedented time of trying to navigate distance learning. Couple all of this with the mental stressors of isolation, the economy, and worrying about family members; teachers need support now more than ever.
But teachers are problem-solvers, and while this may seem like a daunting task ahead of us, teachers will rise to the challenge and create learning environments that are best for their students.
To support my teacher friends, I've compiled a few resources I thought would be helpful and my best advice to simplify distance learning:
Keep Distance Learning Simple
As a technology specialist, the focus on technology is a dream come true. (Of course, I hate it took a global pandemic to make it happen.) Social distancing has allowed teachers the time to explore these new technologies, which is what they've needed for some time now. And while I couldn't be more excited that we are having these conversations, I want to caution everyone.
We all know introducing new material can be confusing. Imagine doing so remotely. With all the chaos going on, you don't want to overwhelm parents. We have no idea what is happening to the families around us.
I think kids can adapt but we do want to be thoughtful and make learning consistent with students' prior knowledge. If you and your students have never used technology in the classroom, it's probably not the best idea to bust out all of the cool new tools you've researched online, especially with younger students.
My advice is to choose the ONE thing. Distance learning requires new ways to get information to students. Pick one Learning Management System (LMS) that is easy to use and supports your objectives.
Choose the Best LMS for YOU
There are too many to list, and more than likely, your district has mandated your options. However, if not, I want you to think about what you may already be using. For example,
Do you use Class Dojo as a behavior management tool? Did you know you can create activities in the portfolio section of the app? You can have students type text entries, record videos, take photos, upload files, and draw right within the app. For more information, check out this video.
In my opinion, Seesaw is the best and easiest option for teachers who do not already use an LMS in their classroom. It's also great for those students who may not have access to the Internet or a device at home because Seesaw works on mobile phones and is more simplistic than Google Classroom. I think this would be helpful to parents.
A practical use for Seesaw is to allow students to complete worksheets. While I typically promote the use of technology as a creation tool, I know this tip will be helpful. Take a screenshot or picture of the worksheet and upload it to Seesaw. Students can write or type on it and turn it back into the teacher. Since parents may not have access to printers and there is no way to send new packets home, this option is a great alternative. Here are a few tutorials to help you get started with Seesaw.
If you are looking for other ways to use Seesaw in the classroom, check out some of the ideas I've created.
A lot of schools are using Google Classroom. To use Google Classroom with students, the district must sign-up for a G-Suite for Education account. If this isn't something your district has done than this isn't an option for you. Hopefully, if you have access to Google Classroom, you know how to use it, and so do your students. If not, here are some great tutorials.
ZUNI Learning Tree
If you haven't tried ZUNI Learning Tree, you should check it out. There are a ton of online resources curated by grade level and standards. What makes this resource even better is you can assign the resource right in ZUNI to your students. This tool is an all in one option.
I also love ZUNI because parents ask me all the time to recommend resources they can use at home with their kids. Parents and students can find games and activities they love and save them to their “ZUNI garden” for future access. And best of all, it's FREE for teachers and parents. Check it out!
Use Digital Interactive Notebooks
Do you use journals, interactive notebooks, or worksheets in your classroom? If so, you can still use them for distance learning. All you need to do is choose the best digital notebook. Here's what you need to know:
- Google Slides – (any device) You can make your notebooks as straightforward or as fancy as you'd like. The options are endless. From replicating worksheets you already assign in class to creating slides with drag and drop features, there are a lot of options.
- Book Creator – (any device) Add graphic organizers as image files to Book Creator. Students can add text boxes, images, audio, and video as an overlay in their book. Book Creator is one of my favorite apps, and I am so happy it's available as both an app and an online subscription. Check out the COVID-19 special offer from Book Creator.
Click here to learn more about interactive digital notebooks and grab my Free Getting Started Guide. I also have one for iPads.
Want already made activities? I've got you covered. Click here for the hookup.
Integrate STEM Challenges
Integrating STEM Challenges is a great way to get families involved in learning. Right now is a fantastic time to promote real world learning for your students while spending time with their family. Take advantage of this special time that families have together to share the love of learning at home in a fun and engaging way. Try some of these STEM Challenges using items found around the house.
Implement Morning Meetings
It's a stressful time for students, and I'm sure they need an outlet to cope with everything going on in their life. Try implementing morning meetings using one of these methods:
I implement morning meetings a little bit differently than most. My morning meetings focus on the whole child. Especially, their social-emotional needs. Click here to learn more and download my FREE Getting Started Guide to help.
Don't want to create your own morning meeting lessons? My full product line can be found here.
Take Care of Yourself
During stressful times, don't put your needs on the back burner. That's the last thing to do! You need to take care of yourself! Your health and well-being matters! The more stressed, the lower your immunity. I've written a few articles that might be of interest.
I'd also like to personally invite you to my 14-Day Wellness Challenge, starting April 6. I designed it to help my friends practice self-care, through social distancing, while enjoying social interaction in an online community. You can learn more here.
I hope this article helps simplify distance learning. The best advice I have is take a deep breath and do your best. You've got this! I'm right there with you, ready to teach my 2nd graders. This should be interesting! 😊
As always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask and you may also be interested in joining my Facebook group. There are over 8000 educators in the group that are very skilled and knowledgeable about using technology in the classroom. So ask away with any questions you may have to simplify distance learning. Remember to stay safe and practice social distancing!