Teachers in Victoria are preparing for their first week of remote learning this week. Here are 6 last minute tips for launching into remote learning:
Tip#1: Be OK with working in draft form
Just like we tell our students when they’re writing, there’s no such thing as ‘one and done!’ It is highly unlikely that the way you start out in the world of remote learning, will be how you finish your journey. Like a good piece of writing, you’re going to have to be ok about revising your approach multiple times, not because you got it ‘wrong’ the first time, but because you can always improve.
Giving yourself (and others) permission to work in draft form will reduce the anxiety around getting things ‘perfect’ the first time and knowing everything up front. When we write, we sometimes don’t know what it is we are trying to say until we really get into the piece. This will be the same. What you know and believe about how best to educate your students in a remote environment will change as you start writing your first draft. Be ok with that. (It would also be worth being public about this; share this idea with your parents).
Tip#2: Learn from week 1, term 1
It’s unlikely that you dived straight into the heavy learning with your class in week 1 of term 1 this year. You may have even run a startup program that lasted days or weeks. Think back to this time and use it to guide your first weeks of remote learning.
Offline, you may have spent the first week(s) getting to know each other, developing rules and expectations, learning about each student’s abilities and generally creating a warm and inviting learning environment. Online, you’ll need to do the same.
Spend the first week getting to know who your students are as remote learners, develop rules and expectations with them and work out ways to learn about their remote learning abilities:
- What internet and device access do they have?
- What capacity do they have for independent learning in the home environment?
- What supports do they have available to them?
- How might anxiety or stress be affecting them or their family members?
Encourage students to set up their own learning space in the home during week 1. Preferably a space with a table or desk (if possible). This might be challenging for some students, especially if they are competing with other family members for space. (Side note: It’s really important that you take the time to set up your own teaching space as well).
Spend the first week introducing your students to the new technology they will be using and keep the focus on the use and functionality, rather than launching into deep learning in this time. Give students time to learn about these new platforms and shake out all of their ‘sillies.’ (In the same way my dear niece Paige did last night when she finally got signed up to email; I received six 3-word emails in the space of 20 minutes).
Tip#3 Establish classroom rules and expectations
“Technology amplifies practice, good AND bad.”
When moving into a remote learning space you might be feeling like you’ve lost everything you know about teaching and you’re now a first-year graduate again. You’re not. You have YEARS of experience with good practice and you just need to transfer this to the online space.
Good practice involves setting high expectations and having clear rules and boundaries. You know this! If you spent week 1 of term 1 creating a SWPBS matrix for your classroom, then you should spend week 1 of term 2 doing the same. What are your behavioural expectations for remote learning? Emailing? Submitting work? Video conferencing?
Check out these two sample expectations guides for video conferencing
- This primary version was created by the teachers in the Oz Lit Teacher Community.
- This much fancier, secondary version was created by my friend and fellow Literacy Consultant, Nicole Marie from the Literacy Village.
In your rush to go digital, don’t forget about your school and class values. In a recent communication with parents about remote learning, the principal of Warburton Primary School, Damien Marley, started with a reminder of the school values:
Bringing staff, parents and students back to these values brings a sense of calm and focus to this otherwise rushed endeavor of going online. It helps people move from the known to the unknown in a smoother fashion.
Tip #4 Develop whole school expectations
How many hours a day do you expect your students to be learning? Is the answer to this consistent across the school?
One consistent message that came from the many international teachers I interviewed about remote learning was that 2-3 hours of learning a day was more than enough for students. Some of the reasons cited for this included:
- Some students had to share devices
- Many parents were working all day so couldn’t support the schoolwork
- Online work often takes twice the amount of time as offline work
- Working online all day is tiring!
Remember tip #1 here: work in draft form! Seek feedback after the first couple of weeks to see if you need to revise your expectations. (This sample parent feedback survey could be useful for checking in with parents and seeking feedback on your program).
Tip #5 Underwhelm is better than overwhelm
It’s quite possible that anxiety will be high at this time (that’s why I recently interviewed a counsellor on all things stress, anxiety and remote learning). The advice from international teachers is to go for underwhelm rather than overwhelm. We don’t want families to switch off from remote learning altogether. This means you don’t have to have 6 hours of perfectly formed lessons ready to go on day 1! Slow and steady is the best approach here.
Take a look at this plan that was sent to parents from Harvest Home Primary School. Principal Anthony Simone and his leadership team developed a three-phase approach to remote learning in their school:
This plan was followed by an approximate timeline of when each phase will be rolled out:
A couple of notes about this:
Of course, I expect the rollout of these phases to be guided by check-ins and feedback, but this draft plan allows everyone to take a deep breath and slowly work their way into this remote space.
Allocating Phase 1 as time for set up and routine establishment gives students time to become familiar with the space and cleverly buys time for staff to receive further training in the online platforms that will be introduced in later phases. (Going for underwhelm rather than overwhelm).
The timeline of the phases gives students and teachers time to get familiar with remote learning and adjust to the new world without having to worry about the pressures of assessment and feedback in the early stages.
This plan really takes the three key questions into consideration: Is it reasonable? Is it purposeful? Is it sustainable? Yes, yes and yes.
(As an aside, the other thing I really loved about this school’s parent communication was the inclusion of contact numbers for further wellbeing supports.)
Tip #6 Stay connected with colleagues
One of the things many teachers in remote learning situations say they’ve missed is connection with colleagues; the informal conversations, chat and banter with colleagues.
We can’t all congregate in the staffroom at recess and lunch anymore so we’ll need to get creative about how we can keep these conversations going. Now is the time to keep the social club running and keep connected!
So, let’s hear your remote learning tips, tricks and ideas!
- How are you planning on approaching the early weeks?
- How are you planning on staying connected with colleagues?
Let us know in the comments below or over in the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook Group.
Also, if you haven’t signed up to the Oz Lit teacher emailing list now would be a good time, I will be sending out a resource for parents later this week.