Online Learning: Start with connection, then think learning

Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

These are strange times… how many times have you heard that in the past week? I live in upstate New York, and as many in the country and world, we are starting an unprecedented month closing of our schools. Although learning is important, now more than ever we need to make sure we take care of our childrens’ mental wellness. We know connection and a sense of belonging is critical for all of us. We also know that our students come from and live in a variety of situations, no two alike. Many of our older students are watching their younger siblings, some are alone at home, some have access to devices, some are just struggling to stay positive. Schools and classroom communities fulfill more in our students’ lives than just academics. They offer them social interaction and additional caring adults in their lives.

I am very happy to see many of the edtech companies coming out to support this time, offering free access to their platforms. Resources, both digital and analog, we have. Maybe too much at this point. It is all so overwhelming for educators and parents to work through. So here are my key points to think about right now:

  • Start with what you already have set up. What do you already have in place? Email list of parents and/or students? Student Management System ability to email parents and guardians? Schoology (or other LMS), Google Classroom? Notification, or other communication platform like Remind? Whatever you have already used during the school year start there!
  • Connection first! Use the platform you already have in place and send out a quick note to check-in. Connect with parents to let them know what the plan is and what the best way to contact you is. Connect with your students and let them know you are there for them and what it will look like. Some simple ideas for this include:
    • Sending out an announcement (I have some teachers recording a quick ‘hope you are well, I care about you’ video using Screencastify and attaching it to the announcement)
    • Ask them how they are doing. It is best to do this one on a private channel so students can share their concerns and fears, as well as other questions and ideas.
      • Using an LMS send a message out to students where you are able to converse back and forth.
      • In Google Classroom one way to do this is to create an assignment with a document for them to share their feelings. You can then send private messages back and forth to respond to them.
  • Keep it simple! Now is not the time to go full-blown online learning. One way to keep it simple is to create a weekly hyperdoc/choice board of activities to share. On this document give 6 activities to choose from and ask them to complete 4 (number is totally up to you). You can attach this document as a material in Google Classroom and then create different assignments for each depending on the type of activity. Have variety such as:
    • Link to quizizz for review of information (in settings keep memes and ‘power ups’ on as this makes these more engaging). If you already use another ‘gamelike’ platform such as GimKit, Quizlet, Kahoot use those- most offer the ability to get a link to use for homework that can be posted. Again, use what you know. If you haven’t used any until now my platform of choice is Quizizz because it is super easy to bring in already created quizizz and tweak then get the link. Super easy to start with.
    • Link to a video you want them to watch and answer a question such as: what 3 things did you learn that you didn’t know already, What did you find most surprising, what questions did this make you think of… or other content related questions. If you set this up as a question in Google Classroom you can have students respond to each other or just read each other’s responses.
    • Add a story or article and have them read it, annotate and add questions, ahas, connections via an app such as Kami. I like Kami because it integrates beautifully with Google Classroom, as well as Schoology and Canvas. I also like the fact that with the paid version you can have students record their screen, showing their work and thinking.
      • This can also work for a math practice sheet of word problems (previously taught content). Students can record themselves answering the questions so you can hear their thought process.
  • Don’t forget to include mindful activities! (Check out my next post, Mindfulness: now more than ever)
  • Include ways students can engage with each other virtually! I mentioned posting a question for students to answer and read other peer posts, or respond to others. Another easy way to do this would be through flipgrid. This platform is easy to use and allows you to create a grid, video introduction of the question or task and then students can respond via video. Once you create the grid you simply post the link for students to access. Note: These type of activities require you to be more actively involved with monitoring. Use this opportunity to have teachable moments about how to be kind to each other. Also, check the settings as you can adjust them to fit your students.

I will be adding more information in future posts in the next coming weeks. This was meant to get you started in your process. Remember less is more right now. Keep your connections, and make sure you stay healthy as well!

Need assistance setting up any of the above-mentioned applications? Let me know and I’ll set up a virtual meeting where we can get you set up!
Have other ‘getting started’ advice? Add it below. ‘The smartest person in the room is the room’ Let’s share with each other what is working as we work through this strange time…


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