I am writing the draft of this post in week seven of distance/remote instruction here in Massachusetts. My hope is that sharing these reflections will help me as a colleague figure out what worked and should be replicated, as well as helping other teachers who might be drowning in digital/distance learning. If we pool and share our experiences, I think we will eventually find our way through it!
Narrowing Down the Focus
After some trial and error, my colleague and I settled in to a general routine, encouraged strongly by a few parents who appreciated the support that the structure brought to their kids:
Monday (20-minute classes, both levels; schedule set by administration): ~ 7 minutes spent reviewing the work for the upcoming week, including (for me), sharing my screen so students could watch me open the weekly schedule the team shared each week, the work due, etc. When I opened key documents, such as the worked problems I was going to use in the lesson that day, I got in the habit of calling out students by name to ensure that they were opening in the correct documents to support them for the lesson–you can see who has opened a document in Google. Students had advance access to an electronic copy of the problems used in the teaching, including the worked answers, and a video recording of the material (also made available in advance).
Wednesday and Thursday (45-minute classes, both levels): a combination group work–break-out groups, writing word problems in shared document, IXL practice, etc.
Wednesday and Thursday (45-minute classes, Extended classes only): ~20 minutes teaching new material (with advance access to problems, worked answers, and video), followed by individual work and/or work in break-out groups; sometimes ending with individual check-ins on missing/incomplete work.
We also started to narrow down the applications we used with students, expecting student fluency with the following:
- Google Classroom
- SchoolBrains (our student information system)
- Google Forms
- Khan Academy
- We may add ASSISTments, which we have used before, and ClassKick for next year.
The goal is make sure that students can maneuver and use these applications fluidly and fluently on their own. If we start the school year in-person, I intend to dedicate time to “COVID drills,” where students are expected to engage in a series of tasks to show me that they can open, manipulate, and work with each of those programs and apps. If we start digitally, it will be harder, but we’ll have to use screen sharing to get it to work. The students have to be able to manage the work, but we, as teachers, will have to commit to a limit, focused, targeted collection that we expect so that we aren’t being unreasonable. (See also “The Return,” page 8, by Chiefs for Change.)
Each of those programs serves a different purpose in digital/remote learning:
- Google Classroom, including managing the stream and the Classwork tab–to communicate with students: assignments, due dates, material, etc.
- SchoolBrains (our student information system)–to communicate progress and work completion with students and parents
- EdPuzzle–to share content with students and to ensure that they are watching the video
- Edulastic–for assessments (summative)
- Desmos–for content and explorations/applications
- Padlet–for reflections and applications
- Google Forms–for surveys; as a quiz for self-reflection/formative assessment
- Khan Academy–for content
- We may add ASSISTments, which we have used before–to provide a digital version of our district-mandated curriculum, including the option of receiving teacher feedback on wrong answers.