Who knew we'd be talking about "social-distancing" in 2020 and closing schools to slow a virus? It has made for an interesting week that I didn't expect in my career. That being said, I've been amazed at the way everyone has stepped up to make the best decisions we can for kids and families. In the last few days, we have done a lot of work to prepare our students to move from face-to-face learning to an eLearning environment.
As a 1:1 school, we are fortunate to have many things in place that will support our students during this time. Additionally, teachers will still be able to tailor instruction to their students in ways that wouldn't have been possible years ago. I've been so fascinated by the way companies have stepped up and opened websites, the way authors and illustrators are sharing their talents, and the way teachers and educational consultants are sharing content. That being said, I have been thinking a lot about how we create an environment for learning vs. a checklist of to-dos for our students.
How do we leverage learning over tasks? It's true that there are so many ways this situation will be made better by all that is available, but there are also many cautions. Do we introduce new learning or reinforce old? Is it possible to introduce new content? How might we differentiate for our students? How do we balance student workload? How do we keep our communities connected? How do we support parents who will already be juggling a lot with their own work situations and kids at home? Oh, the questions that can take us down the rabbit hole quickly.
I've been telling myself that all we can do is make the best decisions we can in the space we find ourselves. As we plan for our learning communities, here are a few things I am keeping in mind:
Consider Technology Kids Know: There are many new environments opening for students, but our learners will be most successful in the spaces they have already worked. If your district has an LMS, learners will be able to use the platform. If kids are used to blogging on Kidblog, they'll be ready to stay connected during this time. If they're used to saving work to Google folders, this will be a great way for them to share work with you. If learners have used Flip Grid, leverage it for lessons. (etc.)
Remember Routines & Structures: As classroom teachers, our workshops have a flow that learners know and understand. We start with mini lesson, students have opportunities for independent practice, and then we share. Our days follow predictable routines and, as teachers, we work to balance the heaviness of our content across the day. The closer we are able to align to those structures and routines we've set up, the easier it will be for students and families. Additionally, I've been seeing a lot of parents and teachers talking about creating schedules for the day. This is such a smart way to think about managing our time --- especially as we all hunker into our homes for a few weeks.
Think About Learning vs. Doing: It would be easy to put together lists of to-dos for kids, but I'm fascinated to think about all of the ways we can support actual learning. We can create videos to explain new ideas, make charts that support key understandings for reference, and in some learning systems find ways to build discussions that connect our learners.
Be Selective: Thankfully there are so many great resources being shared right now and so many companies are opening platforms for this timeframe. I have been collecting these resources in a Padlet so I know where they are, but I will only be using those that make sense for where we are in learning. There are some very well-known experts sharing content, but only we know our kids.
Maintain Connection: We've had a lot of conversation around feedback and connection. It's a little different to not be gathered for a mini-lesson. It's a little different to not be side by side with learners. It's a little different to not be sitting in a circle to share our work. The more feedback and connection we can maintain the more likely our learners are to feel supported and stay engaged. Parents will also need a bit more connection in this current situation as well. This will look different for each of us, but play a big part in the success of this time.
This isn't a situation any of us planned for in our careers. Additionally, it comes with some heavy weight beyond just the learning time. We each need to give ourselves, and our students, the grace to know we may have to work a bit to find our way. All we can do is stand where we are and gently step.
I'd love to hear the ways you are working through next steps for your learning communities.