5 Tips/Ideas for Educators or Homeschooling Parents During the Coronavirus Shelter in Place
With Covid19, we have had a major shift in how teachers and parents teach their students and children. Having worked as a Tech Coach at multiple levels I thought I would put together a few tips and ideas to try and help foster learning at home.
Teaching at a distance is completely different from face to fact learning even with the amazing video conferencing technology we have today. However, we do need to remember that many of our students do not have adequate access to technology when they need it most. This post will focus mostly on helping teachers/parents use technology to create some learning opportunities for their students, but it is important to remember that not all students have the access they need. Some of these ideas can work for student who do not have computers or internet, but do have access to a smartphone.
1. You Don’t have to Reinvent the Wheel. But You Can if You Want!
There are so many amazingly well done, free/low cost tutorials, resources and video walkthroughs available online to help students when they struggle with something or even to introduce a new concept/topic. Other people have put on Darth Vader costumes and explained math equations using Star Wars analogies so you don’t have to. Here are a few:
These are all great places to start looking for great content to help you and your students. Not everyone was cut out to create videos nor do they have the needed equipment or environment to make a quality video for students to learn from. Feel free to add more places people can seek resources in the comments!
If you do have an interest in making videos or creating content, that’s great too. Do it!
- Vet these resources before sending them to students. My nephew received a link from his teacher that didn’t work on his Chromebook without allowing insecure applications to run on it. You not only need to make sure they work for you, but also your students and you are responsible for giving them safe materials!
- Avoid any sites that use or ask to install Adobe Flash. It’s out of date and insecure.
- Test your resources on as many devices as you can. Have friends help you test if needed.
- Do send a video at least a couple of times a week if not everyday with a little message for your students. Let them know you are still there, no matter what. Record it on your phone or webcam. It doesn’t matter as long as they can see and hear you.
2. Give Students Real World Scenarios to Solve Using Inquiry Based Learning
Instead of word problems, give students more complex and interesting problems to try and solve. This is a difficult time to get students to focus on the same types of work you might have done in a traditional class. So use inquiry based learning along with those great video conferencing tools to allow students to meet in small groups to try and solve a big problem. I used this tactic while teaching and I could not believe the results and the learning paths my students took on them.
My students were learning programing, physics, engineering and empathy. What set this apart from anything I had ever done before was students were invested in solving the problem because it was something they cared about.
I had one group that came up with an alternative flexible school schedule that made every Friday a Cyber learning day. That would have been useful looking back! They presented to the District Superintendent with a 200 page report filled with budgeting breakdowns and study findings. Many of these ideas didn’t get implemented, but the course review data said these students were positively impacted by the course. Give it a try! What do you have to lose the rest of this year anyway?
Here are a few resources:
- In some cases you can allow students to explore their own topics, but guidance is very helpful as students are typically not used to freedom while learning.
- The teacher becomes a facilitator of learning. You cannot know everything and that’s just find. Make the students figure it out.
- Try and involve businesses or other people outside of the classroom who might have expertise to help out
- Setup video meetings spaces for the groups that you can pop into to help and check progress on.
- Have students set small goals to reach the larger ones
3. Allow Students to Find and Create Content and Learn to Communicate
Students are super creative if you let them be. Allow them to write blog posts, create How to Tik Tok videos, craft Tweets or create an Instagram Story. Let them use whatever medium they can best express themselves in. This is a great time to experiment!
I have always found it interesting that we focus so much on writing a paper or long form answer to a question to assess what students know. Papers are only written in academic settings and while it is a skill they will need for an academic setting like college, it’s not how the rest of the world communicates.
Instead have students communicate what they know. In today’s world people write blog posts and Tweets, make videos on YouTube and Tik Tok and post images and stories to Snapchat and Instagram to communicate effectively.
In many cases, effective communication is harder to achieve in these shorter forms. Students have to really have a solid foundation to teach, defend, or persuade in these forms. If your goal if for students to write a paper, then do that. If it’s for them to be able to communicate effectively in the real world, let them use real world tools to do so.
- Create a rubric that will cover all mediums and will assess the actual learning objectives. Example: Communicate ideas effectively by using factual data backed evidence. This works for any of the examples above including a paper!
- Allow students to share and comment on each other’s work in a safe place like your Learning Management System
- If possible allow students to make things public. That always makes them turn out their best work.
4. Use Real World Datasets Instead of that 5 Year Old Textbook
There are so many fantastic datasets for students to dig into and explore. This matches perfectly with idea #2 by the way. My point here is that so much of what the world is based on today is data. Understanding, filtering, transforming, visualizing and storytelling with data. Students can do these things with serious data like Covid19 data or something less serious like Pokemon data.
Let students begin to understand what working with real data is like by using spreadsheets or even Jupyter Notebooks in something like Google’s Colabs. Many sites allow users to filter data to see what they need and that is an important skill on it’s own. From there they might copy and paste that data in a spreadsheet or download a csv (comma separated value) file to get their data. It doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that they get to use real data!
When they have chosen a dataset, have them explore it and try to get some insights as well as tell a story with some visuals. Again students can learn about how to do much of this even if you do not know how yourself. Give it a try and you might be surprised.
Here are some places to get data:
- Your county or state websites
- CDC Wonder
- Google Dataset Search
- Forbes 33 Dataset Links
- Explore with your students or find a dataset for everyone to use for a project
- Just check them out!
5. Work With Other Teachers and Parents
This one is all about collaborating with other teachers. Maybe in the same school or neighborhood or across the world. It could be with teachers in different disciplines or grade levels even. Use our vast communication tools to come up with cross-disciplinary projects that incorporate all of the items above by working teachers or parents with different strengths and backgrounds!
Teachers should also hold some parent/teacher sessions to help parents with betting handling learning at home and for parents and students to give feedback to teachers on what is working and what is not.
It might sound strange, but let this social distancing actually bring us together instead!
- Set some regular weekly meetings for drop in sessions for parents to get help, ask questions or give feedback
- Iterate and Fail Quickly
- Ask for feedback from students and parents
- Seek out other educators and see if they’ll pair up on a project
I hope you find at least one of these tips useful! Feel free to comment or reach out if you have questions and stay safe!