Tips and Tools to Enhance Remote Learning Instruction
By Rachelle Dene Poth
The past month has definitely been a challenging time in the world. We are experiencing unprecedented changes in our daily lives and in particular, in education. These changes have forced us to act quickly so that we can support our students and their families and continue instruction as best as we can during this time.
As educators, we now find ourselves striving for balance in our days and seeking help with determining how we can provide meaningful instruction during school closures. An important thing to consider is how you and your students will communicate and collaborate in the virtual space during this time. Here are some different ways to exchange ideas and set up your remote learning instruction.
Focus on Communication
Provide online office hours: We have many options for helping students when they need to ask questions or want to brainstorm ideas for a project. Within the virtual space, we can make ourselves available for their questions by using tools such as Google Hangouts, Google Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Zoom.
Encourage class discussions and peer feedback: I have used many different tools for backchannel discussions over the years and some work well to connect with other classrooms and colleagues around the world. If you want to have students present an idea, or offer peer feedback during the PBL process, some of the options that are easy to use are: GoSoapBox, Loop, Parlay and YO Teach!. Parlay would be a good option for students to explore different topics and then engage in discussions with peers.
Give Students Opportunity to Communicate via Video: As evidence of learning or for creating their PBL product, just as teachers can use screen recording and other video tools out there, students can too. We can create instructional videos on concepts we want to teach our students, but we can also have students create their own videos to demonstrate what they have learned, to do a presentation for their class, or to even teach a lesson. Some of the options are using tools like Screencast-o-matic, or Loom or Screencastify for recording a presentation. Options such as Educreations or Explain Everything offer a whiteboard space for creating instructional videos as well.
There are many options out there and figuring out what works best can take time. However, I believe that by first starting with setting up ways to connect with students and families and then focusing on methods and tools for instruction second, we can work through this transition to remote learning together. With the uncertainty of when or if we will return to our schools this year, we should also take into consideration that what we do now will need to also transition back to our physical classroom space, or whatever the new norm will be when it comes to schools.
Provide Authentic Learning Experiences
We have an opportunity to try some new ideas, perhaps ones that we have wanted to but for lack of time or resources, we did not have the chance. We also have an opportunity to give our students more independence in learning and have them explore a topic of interest on their own. With this sudden change to remote learning, we have to do things differently than we have before, so now is our time to take some risks with teaching strategies and tools. We should focus on learning experiences that can promote active learning, creativity, foster curiosity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and innovation.
What are some learning experiences that we could provide for our students that would enable them to build the skills that they will need to be successful in the future? During this time, we have to be even more innovative with how we continue teaching our students and finding the right tools and methods to use. We also have to work with different learning spaces. By creating a space where students pursue topics of interest, they will engage more in and thrive in learning environments fueled by choice, that embrace risk-taking and provide more for them that simply practice the content.
By choosing methods like project based learning or Design Thinking, assigning a performance task or when we bring in learning opportunities as part of a STEM curriculum, we will provide students with the best opportunities to prepare for the future. With choices like PBL or design thinking, students can explore global and local issues, work through challenges, find resources and shift their focus from an end product, and instead focus on the purpose behind learning and the process involved. How can students share their learning?
Give Opportunities to Demonstrate Understanding
Although we are not in the same physical space, we can leverage different digital tools to have students create and then share their learning. In addition to the chat and video tools mentioned above, some students may prefer to talk about their work, create a presentation, or design an interactive lesson to share with their peers. Here are a few ways that my students have presented their PBL whether in or out of the classroom.
Buncee is a multimedia creation tool, which offers free accounts for teachers and has more than 31,000 options in their gallery for students to choose from. Students can even record a video within their presentation and include links and text to express their PBL findings and then share with classmates by posting on a Buncee board.
Flipgrid. Create a topic for PBL and have students talk about their explorations, invite peers to comment and keep the conversations going. It is an opportunity to create a space for students to interact and share ideas and learn from one another. It also creates the opportunity for those social interactions through video.
Nearpod. Many of my students have created their own Nearpod lesson to use as they present their PBL. It has been a great way to include polls, quizzes, videos, virtual field trips and more and to engage all students in more active learning. It is fun to explore the virtual reality field trips together and explore the world from our classrooms or from home.
Padlet: Educators can use Padlet as a way to keep all class materials available for students, to record videos, share links and more. However, it can also be a good space for students to post the resources they have used while working on their PBL. With Padlet, there is also the option to have classmates post comments or share other resources right on the Padlet.
With so much technology available to us today, deciding on the right platform, tool or strategy to use in our classroom, especially now for remote learning, can present some challenges. We have to focus on which will benefit our students the most? How does a specific tool or even method enable us to provide more for our students? A common question for many teachers is how much time is needed to get started? Each of the options shared are easy to get started with and for many of them, there are lessons and templates available which make it even easier. It simply takes choosing one platform or idea to start with and giving students the options for how they want to share their learning.
About the Author:
Rachelle Dene is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She serves as the President of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. Author of ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” Rachelle Dene’s latest book is with ISTE “Chart A New Course is now available. Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915.