As educators and students around the world are trying to figure out how to teach and learn remotely during school closures due to COVID-19, routines that were built for in-person learning are a distant memory. We are all trying to work out new ways to do things as simple as getting kids to turn their work in. One thing educators are quickly figuring out is that teaching and learning remotely during a public health crisis does not look the same as it did in the classroom. That means many have adapted or been forced to in order to meet even more diverse needs as children learn from home. If students aren’t turning in their work, it probably means you need to adjust your strategy.
We must Maslow before we Bloom!
As educators, we need to ensure that our students have a sense of safety and that their other basic needs are met before we can make a significant impact on their learning. We must Maslow before we Bloom applies to learners of all ages.
Are you being flexible with student evidence?
The first question to ask yourself in this situation is, are you being flexible when it comes to student evidence? The reality that we are currently working in demands it. When students are working from home they are faced with an entirely new set of challenges–often more complicated than what they deal with at school. It is paramount that you build relationships (if you haven’t already) with students and their families, and create accessible lines of communication that work for all parties involved. Simply talking with kids and their caretakers is vital to student success at this point. This is important because if you know your students and their circumstances you can be much more accommodating when it comes to how they show you evidence of their learning.
Student evidence flexibility
Flexibility is the name of the game for everything when students are learning remotely during a crisis. Here are a few ways to do that.
Put the needs of the learner first
If we could design one assignment that worked for every single student we could all call it a day and go home. Teaching would be easy, and everybody would do it if that were the case. It’s not the case in the classroom, and nope, it’s still not the case in remote learning. It’s going to take some time, but be patient and work with students to determine what their needs are and how they will learn best during this situation. Sending out a mass email to every student on your roster with a list of assignments to do isn’t going to get the job done. Some students might need you to record instructions, others might need to have daily check-ins with you one-on-one.
Choice, choice and choice
Your biggest ally right now is choice. Students can spot busy work a mile away, and if the work isn’t meaningful they won’t do it. Give students choice in how they show evidence of their learning and this could actually be a time that they really spread their wings and fly into new areas and deeper levels of learning. Provide learners with a variety of options for demonstrating their learning, or let them design and propose a project that helps them explore new ideas and gain knowledge. Hyperdocs, blogs and eportfolios are a few great ways to provide options.
Everything is optional
Before you hyperventilate, yes, students still have to keep learning and showing what they’ve learned. The thinking here is that you can set up all of the bells and whistles that are possible with remote learning–Zoom meetings, Google Hangouts, student blogs–but you have to realize that not every student will be able to participate. Students may not have the tech necessary, or they may not want to broadcast their home environment to their peers by turning on a webcam. Give them lots of options, but understand they may not take advantage of all of them.
No hard due dates
Work with students on due dates. At this point, the world will not come crashing down if they don’t turn everything in on a fixed schedule. When it comes to student assignments and assessments, think more about formative feedback and the process of learning rather than the final perfected product. It’s the journey that brings about learning, not the destination.
Remote teaching and learning will take some figuring out at first, and a whole lot of patience, but in the end if you and your students can get through a public health crisis and come out of it having learned something you can count this time period as successful.