Distance Teaching Begins.
Coronavirus. Not since Bieber fever has a global pandemic had such an impact on schools. In much (if not most) of the world, schools are either temporarily closed, or about to be.
But, what with children being our future and all that, governments around the globe aren’t looking to shut down education altogether. Sure, school doors might be locked, but in the year 2020, a full five years after Marty McFly hoverboarded down Main Street in self-lacing Nikes, we have the technology to sidestep classrooms and quadrangles entirely.
Distance schooling will soon be the reality for many students and teachers. It’s uncharted territory for the bulk of educators, many of whom will enter this new world on nothing more than blind faith and a one hour MS Teams tutorial.
To assist the uninitiated majority who are unfamiliar with the acronym WFH, let alone actually doing their job five days a week out of their lounge rooms, let’s take a look at five strategies that will help teachers adapt to schooling at a distance.
1. Monitor student welfare
Tracking student welfare is relatively simple when all of the little tackers are sitting right in front of you, as most issues quickly become apparent in a classroom. However, swapping a room full of (mostly) smiling faces for 20 or 30 pixelated boxes makes student management a far more difficult task.
You can only deliver quality distance schooling if you have solid case management software and processes in place that are intuitive, simple, and, most importantly, continue to support positive student outcomes. You need to be able to track student welfare and issues, as well as any support needed to address those issues. You also need to be able to easily create, edit and share student management plans, so that all teachers are singing from the same hymn book.
Tracking student welfare becomes even more critical when children are locked down in potentially harmful family situations. As we’ve seen in space travel, being cut off from the world isn’t great for the mind. Many at risk children particularly in the US or UK also rely on the education system to provide them with a couple of square meals a day, so it’s vital that distance schooling doesn’t result in these kids being left behind.
2. Group students for easy learning and fun
Distance schooling makes teaching more complicated, leading to many educators focusing on the basics at the exclusion of all else. In an ideal world students would still be able to have fun at school, and by efficiently organising your students into groups, smart tech helps do just that.
Grouping your students allows them to work closely together, offering them the sort of peer-to-peer interaction that is invaluable when they’re locked indoors. Perhaps you group your students for a Friday Lunch ‘n Learn, where one group builds a volcano and another learns a song. Perhaps you create a book club, where each student takes a turn to read a page or two, and gets a bit of screen time while they’re at it. Perhaps, like this accidental hero of a boss, you run a group competition to find the funniest filter. The opportunities are endless.
A good tool will allow you to seamlessly manage multiple groups, directing them and coaching them, adding notes all the while.
3. Create firm yet flexible learning plans
As anyone who has ever worked from home will tell you, it can be difficult to lock into work mode and hit targets when the TV, the dog or your naked gardener of a neighbour is staring right at you, driving you to distraction.
Set firm goals for your students, and do all that you can to ensure that they hit them. This is all the more important if student-teacher time is severely cut back, and the kids are responsible for self-schooling most of the day. At the same time, you want to be flexible with these plans; we’re in uncharted territory, as you’ll be patently aware, so your expectations need to be adaptable. Tailor plans to the individual students where possible, and if you need to lighten their load, lighten their load.
4. Ensure your system is remotely accessible
The staff room is no more. You can’t pop by a colleague’s office. Say goodbye to the filing cabinet full of records.
Working from home is great until you realise your home hasn’t been designed to be worked from. But while you won’t be able to access the school and its equipment, it’s vital that you can at the very least access the information you need to continue to provide basic education.
A remotely accessible system grants access to that information. It represents what the IT crowd calls a ‘single source of truth’, ensuring every single teacher has the same info regarding classes and individual students. A good record will offer full visibility over each student's unique learning needs, making it as simple as possible to manage each case.
It’s important to remember that remote accessibility is just as important on the student side (in terms of the classroom at least), but with the governments loaning laptops to those in need, and focus turning to solving connectivity issues, it’s hoped that all students will gain access to the tools they need.
5. Keep up the chat with fellow teachers
Successful distance schooling isn’t just about supporting students; it’s also about supporting your fellow teachers. Your colleagues are in the exact same situation as you are—uncertain and overwhelmed—so it’s vital that you stick together during this time, albeit in a responsible physical distancing sort of way.
Use a collaboration tool to chat to the rest of the team. Make it a proxy staff room—check in on your colleagues, consult the hive mind for distance schooling tips and tricks, and share a few giggles. Just as isolation can be tough on kids, so too can it be tough on teachers, so it’s vital that your workplace remains the social outlet it always was. Perhaps organise a group call every Friday afternoon, where the team can grab a drink and and enjoy a much needed laugh.
A good tool will allow you to instant message, make voice and video calls, share files and links, and post questions on message boards.
Are you ready for distance schooling?
I can almost hear your ‘NO!’ from here. Unfortunately your levels of preparedness don’t matter. You’ll just have to do your best in challenging circumstances.
ecoSIStem is one tool that can help ease the strain. Designed for the exact challenge that COVID-19 presents, it allows educators to transition from the classroom to distance schooling in as seamless a way as possible, and offers every single feature mentioned in the list above.
The best bit? You can start your distance schooling management now with free rapid implementation!