Dear Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Family,
As schools and districts across the United States prepare for potential long-term closure due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many teachers will be asked to shift to online instruction. This may look radically different from lessons in a traditional classroom.
“Everyone’s mind goes to, ‘How do you still keep doing the same things you’re doing in the classroom, at home?’” Kevin Schwartz, chief technology officer and Verizon Innovative Learning Schools district lead for Austin Independent School District, told Education Week. “The challenge is how do you practically do this in a different way? … It’s rethinking the approach, not just from a tools perspective, but from a pedagogy perspective.”
Thank you to Verizon for answering the call and providing much-needed bandwidth increases to active Verizon Innovative Learning Schools so students can continue learning from home.
At Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, every student receives a device with a data plan to support learning. Our team has compiled 10 ways Verizon Innovative Learning Schools teachers can leverage those tools to prepare for home-based instruction:
- Create an “Online Learning Doctrine” to set teaching and learning expectations for teachers, parents, and students from the outset. Here is one example.
- Set up classes in a learning management system such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or Schoology. The platforms you choose should already be familiar to students. If you haven’t already used the tool in class, don’t start using it now, as it may cause confusion for students, which could take away from actual learning.
- Find online platforms to share resources, conduct online discussions, and allow students to post work, such as Padlet, Flipgrid, and SeeSaw. Many of these platforms will also allow you to see how much time students spend within them, which can help identify the need for further learning support. Some applications, like Kahoot, Pear Deck, and Nearpod, are providing free premium access for closed schools. Consider your school-recommended resources and curriculum as you plan your virtual lessons. You can find curated lists by subject area here.
- Help students plan their day. Create a daily to-do list or structured timetable with set times for each subject, including breaks and social time (“recess”). Use color coding to assist students with organizational deficits, and incorporate a checklist. Consider starting the day with a whole-class “meeting” using platforms like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams. Be cognizant that your students may have digital lessons from all of their teachers, which will likely equate to much more academic screen time than they are used to having.
- Consider synchronous and asynchronous learning. If your class involves video, you’ll have to decide between live streaming versus pre-recorded videos and screencasts. A mix of both may be a useful strategy. Pre-recorded videos should be 3-4 minutes long and include closed captioning for English language learners or those with auditory challenges.
- Don’t simply record lessons—provide opportunities for discourse, connection, and feedback. Flipgrid has a powerful whiteboard feature that allows teachers to demonstrate and students to show their thinking. This back-and-forth sharing can make lessons more social and connected.
- Find a forum to present lessons that all students can access to learn and can return to later if they need to watch again to relearn. YouTube, Vimeo, and EdPuzzle are great options to create or post video-based lessons.
- Keep your webcam on if you are meeting live. One downside to online lessons is the loss of the personal connection between teachers and students. When providing live video instruction to a group of students, keep your webcam on as much as possible. When students can see your face, it adds a personal connection back into the lesson. However, be sure to reduce background distractions so your students can focus on you.
- Make sure that students have a way to communicate with you for learning and tech support to avoid student frustration. Examine existing systems of communication on your campus and think about how they will shift when school is virtual. Ensure that students and parents know which channels to check for messages from you and to whom they should reach out for common problems. Consider holding set office hours when you will be available for live support each day.
- Create differentiated, self-paced lessons using Microsoft Forms or the Google Forms branching feature. This allows for differentiation in how and what students learn and can provide you with real-time progress updates and formative assessment data. EdPuzzle is another great tool for self-paced learning. Giving students choices can also naturally differentiate based upon different learning styles and needs. Be sure to show students how they might adjust their online learning environment for their specific needs, and consider working with your special education pros to make support or tutorials available.
We know that this is a stressful time for everyone. District plans are changing rapidly. Keep in mind that your students and their families are very likely developing their own plans for work and childcare. Having flexibility with deadlines and assignments may be necessary to keep anxiety levels low.
For more online learning resources, see Digital Promise’s FAQ and resources page and the VILS Connection resource center, both of which will be updated regularly as schools’ response to COVID-19 evolves. Share what you are doing in the VILS Connection Forum for Learning at Home. If it is helping you, it will probably help others. Our team will be moderating the forum and will be available to answer your questions as you make this transition from classroom to cloud.
Rest assured that we are here to help you through these uncertain times.
All our best,
Lydia M. Logan and the VILS Team