Transitioning to Distance Learning Demands Support... So Where Do We Start?
When COVID-19 swept across the globe in early 2020, there was not a single aspect of life left unaffected. Education was no exception. Many teachers and students were suddenly forced into a world that was unfamiliar. COVID-19 brought with it many obstacles that we were not equipped to overcome. However, our teachers and children are resilient. They demonstrated to the world how to adjust, move forward, and find small victories in challenging times.
As we prepare to move toward a new school year that brings with it even more uncertainty, we must ensure that our teachers are equipped to adapt to any changes that may be required. We must make certain that they have the tools and training needed to provide innovative and engaging instruction that will resonate with students in a variety of educational environments.
Teachers must have the confidence to use technology to create intuitive learning experiences that students and parents can navigate with ease. Most importantly, teachers and students must be able to develop a personal connection that often is missing when asked to engage in distance learning.
After speaking with several educators, parents, and students in a variety of different districts across the country, I have found that there are four main areas of training that teachers would benefit from as they prepare for the next school year:
Curriculum mapping from instructor led to blended distance learning
Structuring curriculum for success
Choosing effective learning technology
Connecting with students in a distance learning environment
Transitioning educational content from a traditional instructor-led approach to a more blended learning approach is not an easy task. Content must be pared down and decisions must be made to determine what is nice to know and what is necessary. Teachers need guidance on how much material can be assigned to prevent cognitive overload to students (and often parents).
It is also essential that this work does not go to waste when teachers are asked to transition back to a classroom setting. Curriculum needs to be mapped in a way that provides flexibility for delivery.
Structuring for Success
Research suggests that children thrive in a structured environment. Transitioning from a traditional classroom to distance learning can leave many students feeling a lack of structure and set expectations. It is imperative that teachers have skills that allow them to create a structure in the online environment that provides students with a sense of stability and success. By helping teachers develop specific processes and procedures, it creates a foundation to build a structured learning environment. Determining how and when assignments will be posted, how work will be turned in, and when students are required to report for synchronous learning are just a few steps to begin building this foundation. Providing clear paths of communication for both students and parents is also an important component to distance learning that is structured for success.
Choosing Effective Learning Technology
One of the biggest impacts of moving from a traditional classroom to online learning is the array of technological solutions available to organize information, present new material, facilitate small group instruction, and communicate with one another. When chosen thoughtfully and used correctly, technology can make content more engaging, aid in the transfer of knowledge, and facilitate better retention.
However, technology should never be the driving factor. Learning Objectives should always determine how and when technology is used to present material. It must be meaningful and not present obstacles for students. Teachers need to know what questions to ask when choosing technology for their instruction. Is it intuitive? Does it add to the instruction or take away from it? Is there a better option? Is the technology helping me to meet my objectives of the lesson? By asking teachers to look at the learning objectives, content, and available technology, we can begin to help them choose the best technology for the best learning experience.
Connecting with Students in a Distance Learning Environment
There is a silent struggle that many students face daily. The feeling of depression and loneliness is
real for many of our school-aged children. The isolation resulting from the current epidemic has made this problem even worse. Our teachers are the only lifeline to many of these students. Providing teachers with techniques and strategies to build healthy and lasting relationships with their students will not only encourage students to be more successful, but it can essentially save lives.
There will be many obstacles that administrators, teachers, students, and parents will continue to have to navigate as we move into the next school year. However, if we start proactively providing support and training in essential areas, we can mitigate some of these obstacles and build a community that supports one another through the exchange of ideas and shared experiences.
At Precipice Solutions LLC, we believe that proper training and direction is essential to providing a path forward. Our training and consulting services are based on the idea that many minds make light work. By bringing ideas together, we ensure that teachers feel a part of the solutions and not a part of the problem. Through engaging and interactive training, we give teachers a platform to share their experience and ideas, discuss what did and didn’t work, and listen to others who have had similar struggles. Precipice provides both face-to-face and online workshops that provide flexibility for all participants.