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.