For many schools, it has been nearly two months of remote learning. Many schools around the world are facilitating remote learning for the remainder of this academic year and possibly longer, and we can take this as an opportunity to try new ideas.
With the school year winding down, we must take time to think about our transitions back into our physical classroom. There are many opportunities that we can design which will promote flexibility in learning, help our students to develop a growth mindset, and foster better ways to collaborate and communicate.
Read more: What’s edtech got to do with growth mindset?
As I’ve been talking with educators over the past few weeks and also offering a series of webinars, the biggest concern that has been shared is the fear of overwhelming students and their families.
We have so many options available to use when it comes to technology and teaching strategies. Choosing the right tools or deciding upon specific methods to use can be a challenge in our regular classroom space; however, as we well know, we need to be mindful of our students’ needs and access to the right resources.
As educators, we must be willing to adapt, change from what may be our traditional or comfortable teaching practices, and embrace new things, especially now, as we decide how to best provide for our students through the rest of the academic year.
Teaching online can be a challenge, especially when it comes to those vital social interactions between us and our students and between students and their peers. Finding ways that we can still promote the development of vital social-emotional learning skills and also empower students to collaborate regardless of the learning space.
Read more: Classroom collaboration: Learning together
Taking advantage of different digital tools that are available to us can help to better prepare students for personal and future professional growth.
7 Tools for connecting and growing
In my classroom, I have been working on finding ways to engage my students more in learning that promotes student choice. Using concepts such as design thinking, challenge, or project-based learning (PBL), STEM curriculum, or even fostering entrepreneurial explorations, we can offer our students the opportunity to drive their learning.
Technology when used with purpose can help educators and students tremendously, especially during this time. When we leverage the right tools, we can offer learning experiences to our students which promote creativity, make them curious for learning and enhance their global and cultural awareness.
Read more: How distance learning fosters global collaboration
Here are seven options to explore that will keep the learning going, and work regardless of where learning takes place.
Empatico offers global opportunities for students ages 6 through 11. Choose from activities that enable you to connect your students with classrooms from around the world. Students can learn about topics such as culture, folklore, foods, school, and weather. Empatico offers “bite-size lessons” for helping students to build SEL skills while at home.
There are many ways to use Flipgrid for education and also for connecting families together. To promote communication and collaboration, Flipgrid offers our students a comfortable space to share an idea and join in discussions with their teacher and classmates. There are ideas to get started with right away in Flipgrid’s Disco Library. It is easy to find something meaningful by searching the topics available and perhaps offer students the chance to design their own PBL. Another fun option would be to have students experience what it is like to be an inventor, learn more about or include one of the daily wonders available through Wonderopolis.
Full STEAM Ahead
The Full STEAM Ahead project, which is provided through MIT, offers week-long digital and non-digital learning opportunities for students in grades K through 12. The website has a lot of content available including helpful links, related videos, and lessons for students to work through. At the end of each course, students can then create a final project or invention to share with classmates or even families. My students explored genius hour and tried the "Stepping into invention" lesson.
Google Tour Creator
Google Tour Creator is an option for taking students on a trip while learning from home. Teachers can create a tour, have students create their own tour of a place, or explore some of those available in the platform. Some ideas would be to have students plan a trip to one place they’d like to visit and encourage students to add in places of historical importance, find ways to connect with current events and use this as an opportunity to immerse students more in learning by having them create!
Parlay is a discussion platform where teachers can create their own questions/topics for discussion or select from the library of discussion topics available. Using Parlay, students have a code to join in the discussion and can join in a live Roundtable discussion or continue it asynchronously. For the prompt, students have materials to review and can then submit their responses, provide peer feedback, and participate in a Socratic style discussion. Teachers have access to data and can provide feedback to students in a timely and more personalized manner.
Read more: Adopting the asynchronous mindset for better online learning
PBL Works offers some ideas for family PBL and this can be extended slightly to connect with our content but serve as a great way to engage students in more meaningful learning. With project-based learning, we are able to create opportunities for our students to pursue something that is of a more genuine interest to them. It is a means to help prepare them for the real world and to make connections to the content in a way that is authentic for them.
Read more: Get inspired by Project Based Learning! 3 Awesome PBL case studies
To promote creativity and engage students in more inquiry-based learning, check into Wonderopolis. There is a new wonder each day, that comes with reading support and a short quiz to check for comprehension. With each daily “wonder” there are “Try It Out” activities that are great to use as an extension of learning. Search their library to find topics for students to explore for use with PBL or for use as a daily discussion topic. Wonderopolis is a good starting point for finding out what students are interested in and then offer options for students to create something to share their own wonder!
By providing different choices through the many digital tools and methods available, our students are empowered to drive their learning, determine their personal interests, and in the process, build essential skills, and develop empathy. We also create opportunities to help our students develop social-emotional learning (SEL) skills while at home during this time.
Read more: Can edtech enable Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?
The five competencies of social emotional learning are important for life now and for future success. Using these tools and strategies, our students can build their skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.
Providing more independent opportunities through PBL, STEM, and STEAM learning experiences will help, as students transition in this remote learning experience and will be beneficial when we return to our classrooms.