By Shannon Flynn
Image: Beci Harmony on Unsplash
2020 was an enormous challenge for everyone, but for parents, adding distance learning to the mix makes things even more difficult. It’s been a solid nine months since the beginning of the pandemic, and while we’re starting to see the beginnings of a vaccine rolling out around the world, it will be quite a while before we’re ready to start heading back to school and work like we used to.
If your kids are heading back into distance learning for the 2021 school year — or you’re a teacher struggling to adjust to this new digital landscape — here are a few tips and tricks to make your classroom hours a little more effective.
Don’t Rely on Technology Alone
We’ve gotten used to Zoom calls and Google Classroom over the last nine months, and it’s tempting to rely entirely on technology for your distance learning lessons. While these programs and others like it have provided valuable tools throughout the pandemic, it can be difficult for a student — especially a younger student — to concentrate for extended periods while staring at a computer or tablet screen.
With that in mind, don’t be afraid to take your lessons offline. Send them outside for a safe socially-distanced scavenger hunt once spring starts bringing warmer temperatures. Provide printables or even consider mailing packets to your students, if the means and ability to do so. Taking some of the technology out of the equation can make it easier to keep everyone engaged as we enter yet another month of distance learning.
Make Things Accessible After Lessons
While the goal is to have every student in the virtual classroom, it isn’t always possible to accomplish. It’s also often more difficult to connect with your students after class, when everyone shuts down their devices in the effort to keep work and life separate. With that in mind, it’s important for distanced teachers to make lessons, recordings, and resources available after lessons are over.
Thankfully, if you’re using Google Classroom, it’s easy to sync with a protected Google Drive. You can also use this cloud storage if you’re utilizing Zoom or other virtual classroom programs.
Think Outside the Box
We might feel incredibly limited in our options for teaching — both as teachers and as parents — when we’re relegated to virtual lessons and digital classrooms, but if you’re willing to think outside the box, distance learning can provide all sorts of different opportunities to help students succeed.
Virtual classrooms provide a unique opportunity for one-on-one instruction that might otherwise be impossible as a tool for helping students who may be struggling through distance learning, or just struggling in general. It's much easier to schedule office hours and offer one-on-one tutoring when both parties are already in the comfort of their own homes.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with this sort of instruction, but it gives you the option to provide extra support for your students when we’re stuck at home.
Make Flexibility Your Power Word for 2021
While there is hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine, it will still be many months before things start to return to normal. That’s why it’s important to be adaptable in the coming months, both as parents and as teachers. If you make a new year’s resolution or choose a power word for the year, flexibility should be that word.
Take on each new challenge as it arises, but don’t cling to old or outdated techniques and technologies if they’re going to make your job harder. It’s important to embrace new technologies to engage students and spark curiosity while teaching from home. Aim to be as flexible as possible in the coming year as we work hard to help things get back to normal!
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