Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Shift to Remote Learning

Whew - what a week - what a MONTH!

The last time I saw my students in person was on March 13 as we left for Spring Break.  If I had know then what I know now, I would have done so many things differently.  None of us knew at that point that it would be our last day of traditional school.  We thought that maybe we might have an extended Spring Break, but we would be back together soon.

Yeah... that didn't happen. 

On social media, one of the hashtags has been #bookspinepoem and here's mine - an Ode to Remote Learning.  For many years, I have focused on Best Practices, on successful group work, on formative assessment, then during break, we had to "Switch" and "Flip the Classroom", learning to "Teach Outside the Box" as we "Rethink" everything!

Last week, we received our Remote Learning guidelines and it took me some time to think through how I wanted to shift my clasroom.  Each of my preps is designed slightly differently and to be honest, as of Saturday night, I still hadn't figured out my AP Stat classes, but thankfully it came together on Sunday!  Whew! 

Lessons Learned from Week Day 1

Lesson #1 - Organization is a must
I'm a paper planner person but my normal lesson plan book is designed for the traditional system and that just wasn't working for me.

I needed a way to keep track of meetings, of Office Hours, of to-do lists, to jot down notes, document student activity, so I had to do something new.  It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but so far it's functional and it's helpful to see my day at a glance as well as tracking my to-do list.

Lesson #2 - Learn to Improvise
When we left for Spring Break, I didn't take much other than my grading and my flash drive.  Of course, I also didn't know that would be the last time I would be in my classroom for months!  So as I sat down yesterday to start my first day back to school, I quickly realized that one thing that missed from my classroom is my phone holder, so Legos to the rescue!  :)

Later on in the day, I was in the middle of my Office Hours via Google Meet when I needed to step away from my desk.  I ended up creating an "away" screen in Google Slides that I could run on a separate browser window in the background and then present screen via Google Meet.  I currently have 5 "away" screens - the one pictured, one that says I went for a walk, one that says it's lunchtime, one that says "I'm here but working - please say Hi to get my attention", and one that is a virtual high five for Friday :)

Lesson #3 - Find a way to see / hear / talk to your students
As an introvert, I can spend all summer and never really leave the house, so having an extended Spring Break was kind of like that.  However, when the message came down that we would not be going back to our physical classrooms, I'll admit that I cried.  While life in general can be way too people-y for me, I really do love my students and my classroom.  My students bring me so much joy on a daily basis and emotionally I struggled with the idea of teaching mostly seniors, which means I may never see some of them again. 

Thankfully we live in an era of technology, so yesterday I hosted a Google Meet and Greet to see my kids and hear their voices.  I had about 65% participation in my AP classes and it really did my heart good to interact with them.  Hubby later on commented that from his office, he could hear the smile in my voice. :) 

Lesson #4 - Build in ways to give / receive feedback on your lessons
More than likely, if you are reading this blog, I am preaching to the choir when I talk about my love of Desmos.  In many of our math classes, we are using Desmos activities every day with a quiz on Friday. 

One of the biggest benefits I see to Desmos is the ability to give and receive feedback from my students.  For example, I can read student responses to questions and give them individual feedback (brand new feature!), give a formative assessment question like the one on the right and overlay responses as a temperature gauge of the entire class, do self / auto checking questions, allow for the sketch tool, etc.  It truly is an amazing piece of software and I'm so very grateful for all that Eli and his team do for the math ed community!

Lesson #5 - Make Connections - both with people and content
I've already mentioned above about seeing your students via video-conferencing, but it's also good to do some text-based connections.  Over the weekend, I had sent out a Google Form just to connect with my students and ask them about their Spring Break.  I wanted them to know how much I miss them and how much I hate that this is how our year is going to end.  I have been going through and sending individualized emails to my students to respond to their questions and concerns and mainly just to touch base.

This connection is also a great feature with the Desmos activities.  I used the new Desmos Starter Screens collection to copy and paste some checking in screens for students to tell me a story or draw me a picture.  One student on her Google Form asked if we could continue to have "fun exit tickets" so I need to gather some 'Would you Rather' etc just to break up the math and make those personal connections.

One lesson I learned today (on Day 2) is that I need to do a better job of making connections with the content.  I need to figure out a way to better link yesterday's lesson to today's lesson to tomorrow's lesson in an asyncronous world. So next week on the Desmos lessons, there will be some starter screens that ask them to look at the previous day's Desmos feedback and respond to it as well as screens for retrival practice (aka Powerful Teaching - Thanks to @pamjwilson for the idea!)

Lesson #6 - Planning a week at a time is HARD!
Each Monday morning, we have to have our lessons online and ready for the entire week.  Now, don't get me wrong, I've always been a planner and knew what my lessons looked like for the week, but not to this level of detail.  In my "normal" world, I have written topics in my lesson plan book for the whole week (or even month, etc), sent off for copies, etc, but I didn't have the nitty-gritty details planned because I need to see student faces and get a gauge on student understanding to know where we are as a class.  For example, I might know that Wednesday is going to be about the Pythagorean Theorem, but until Tuesday evening, I might not know the detail of whether that would be using whiteboards or a question stack or a Desmos activity.  In this scenerio, I have to think through the pacing and the details of the entire week without having those visual cues from my students.  Not really having the option to revise my lessons throughout the week is already driving me nuts, but one student has commented that he really likes being able to move at his own pace and the flexibility to do all of the lessons at once if he wants, so I guess that part is a positive?

Lesson #7 - Get up and MOVE!!I am NOT used to sitting down this much! In my classroom, I am on my feet all the time and rarely at my desk.  Now, I'm at my desk all the time, so I have to leave my office and go for a walk around the block a few times a day.  Grab your phone to call a friend, listen to some music or a podcast, but find a way to not be stuck behind a computer all day! 

My Big Takeaway
I'm sure more lessons will be learned in the coming days, but my biggest take-away is how vital those people-to-people connections are, even to an introvert like myself.  I have long used chatrooms and Twitter and other social media to make those connections, but I'm quickly learning how to harness the power of technology for instructional purposes.  I'm really excited to see how this pandemic shifts the educational technology sector to be adaptive to the human side of learning.

1 comment:

Amy Zimmer said...

So helpful to read! Thank you for sharing and preparing me to meet my students April 13. Yikes!