Learning at Home

Supporting home learning is not new to me! When I first started in teaching, a friend and I had the vision of supporting homeschool families with curriculum and resources, support through progress consultations, end-of-the-year program evaluation, and a standardized testing option in conjunction with our school’s administration of standardized testing. We enjoyed meeting new families and working with them to implement successful learning at home. This program lasted several years and successfully supported a group of families that had chosen to educate their children at home.

Much has changed in the years since that time, while technology in education was in it’s (what I would call) in its infancy, we all recognized that over the horizon there would be a variety of options for learning and some would include technology.

Skip forward 20 or so years and here we are. Educational technology has yet to grow up, in my opinion. It’s not only the educational technology but how we use it to teach. As we experienced in the spring, there were many hiccups in delivering instruction through technology. But there were also many successes. Using that knowledge and experience, my goal is to work with students to learn and succeed.

Lessons Learned

For learning anywhere–

Lesson #1: A learning environment is a collaboration between the teacher and the learner. A conversation with each student about what they wanted to learn and accomplish, how they want to learn, what time of day do they think their learning effort would be most successful, and what are their strengths and how could we use that to help them succeed.

Lesson #2: Materials such as a textbook or workbook can provide significant support for each learner. Over the years I’ve implemented my instruction with many different curricula, and while they aren’t all the same, I’ve learned that the best learning comes from the one that is accessible to the student. It’s important for learners to comfortably read and understand the lesson enough to take the risk to apply it to their initial practice. When a learner struggles to read a text, then they will also struggle to learn the concepts and skills. One of the best things to hear is, “I’ve got this!” then I know the student can rely on themselves rather than just me. We will have a much richer conversation about the mathematics they are trying to acquire. An accessible text allows me to provide context and connection, as well as, clarifying and correcting mistaken thinking, and assessing the learner’s level of understanding.

Lesson #3: Technology cannot be a hurdle. Learning is a struggle if you want students to learn deeply. That struggle cannot be with the technology, it needs to be with learning those concepts and skills needed to help learners better understand the world. So deciding on a “lean” infrastructure to communicate is the best.

Learning with Linda: A Sample Scenario

Step 1: A family contacts me and lets me know what their requirements are and we set up a time and a “place” to meet.

Step 2: We meet up and exchange questions and answers. We might talk about materials and times during this meeting. The student might also attend this meeting so they can ask questions also. We will also talk about what technology is available to use. Desktop, laptop, or tablet? Printer?

Step 3: The family would then schedule and pay for the first installment of instruction or tutoring. You will be able to schedule up to a month ahead. If you are scheduling for a unit or a course I will reserve the times you select into the future.

Step 4: The purpose of the first class will be asking questions to help me understand how the student learns, their general attitude toward math, their facility with the technology, etc. We will start with a lesson where we would discuss the routines and responsibilities.

I hesitated to put a sample plan down here, but felt it important for you to see how we were going to create a learning environment for your family. If you have any questions please let me know, I am excited to meet you and get started.

Lessons Learned: Remote Learning (Spring 2020)

As my colleagues and I scrambled to pivot the teaching and learning at our school to online we also had an opportunity to gather some insight about what makes a learner successful.

What we learned was that the most successful students had a strong connection to the teacher and were willing to overcome a measure of frustration with technology in order to make progress. We had students that did not have the support at home, were school resistant, and their connection to staff at school while positive, was not strong enough to overcome the barriers. For those students, we continued to work at making a daily connection to them through check-in phone calls and mailing learning materials home, sometimes with the support of the parents.

We had some students that were able to overcome the technology issues, but were challenged with learning remotely. Staff had a steep learning curve to implement more sophisticated tools like hyperdocs, videos, Google slides, and the use of the app Explain Everything. Again, strong relationships with staff allowed students to persist. In addition, we were quite honest with our students and invited them along for the ride. We did not take ourselves too seriously and worked to enjoy the process of integration which certainly had its ups and downs.

We realized that students would not have the stamina to be online for the six periods of the on-site school day. To that end, we made two 2-hour blocks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon with screen breaks and encouragement to exercise and go outside. We collaborated with our students to identify those courses that they would be most motivated to work on remotely.

The classes were taught asynchronously with the staff available when the students were ready. For the most part students worked on making progress in three to four courses per day and set a routine for themselves. What we did realize was that having a more flexible schedule allowed students to continue more than an hour when the work held their interest. On the other hand, those classes where interest was not as high, spending less time by negotiating a reachable goal helped students continue to make progress.

As I begin teaching independently and online with new students, my checklist is as follows: establish good communication with learners through conversation about how they learn best and families about their expectations; work with the families to estabish routines and baseline access to technology; be conscious about the effects of additional technology on the learning environment; be conscious of technology lag times; and encourage independent learning habits.