On Friday, April 17th it was my pleasure to be a guest on my friend David Mahaley’s new weekly webcast delivered on LearningRevolution.com. LearningRevolution is a daily online education conference site that educators can sign up for free. Every day they offer multiple different live sessions online.
David and I have known each other since back in 2012 when, as Head of School for the Franklin Academy in Wake Forest, North Carolina, he envisioned and facilitated a 1-to-1 iPad program starting in the high school there, which in turn led to running the TLIPAD annual conference for several years (this was really the first national conference series focused on using the iPad in education).
Today David is busy helping to develop online learning and courses for various businesses and education institutions, and he runs his own consulting company, Edtech Solutions.
With the onset of this challenging situation we find ourselves in worldwide, David wanted to share his knowledge and experience and help educators with the transition so many have had to quickly make to taking their instructional show online. His weekly webcast takes place at 1 PM EST every Friday afternoon (sign up for all of the LearningRevolution webcasts here).
In this episode of The Pandemic Educator, David explains his four part approach to being able to deliver a high quality remote teaching experience, and then we explore some of what I have experienced as we quickly moved to fully remote teaching at The College of Westchester. I provide the recorded session below, and then summarize some key takeaways from the discussion.
4 Points of Emphasis when it comes to taking your instructional show online
David does a great job of identifying and briefly exploring four key considerations that all educators will want to work through as the move to remote teaching. Here is late April as I write this, many educators have already had to tackle some of these things, but many are also likely to not have considered a few of them and how they might help them with this new, challenging approach to teaching.
1. Home Base – This just refers to the idea that you need to select the primary platform from which you will delivery resources to students (in many cases, your school will have identified this for you already). In higher education, this is typically an LMS (Learning Management System), whereas in K-12, platforms like Google Classroom and Edmodo are popular. There are also myriad web page hosting platforms used by schools, which are focused more on proving simple resource pages for teachers to use. In cases where educators have no school-determined platform, they may be whipping up their own using web sites like Weebly. Most teachers are likely to have already figured this part out by now.
2. Learning Library – Here we consider how we can best organize resources thatwe wish to catalogue for our own use and reference. I frequently here educators and users in general complain about the challenge of organizing the many web links that they wish to store and have access to. The basic bookmark structure in browsers is not always very efficient (and of course, this is browser dependent). There are many tools for doing this sort of thing (I’m a fan of Trello, for example). David suggests the use of Google Keep (jump to around 9:00 in the video to check this out further).
3. Connecting Through Media – This is an area that is likely still ripe for exploration by any educators. There are many forms of media available to supplement or compliment the content you are delivering, and the ways in which students review and apply the knowledge they should be acquiring. Slide decks, videos, podcasts, and other rich media can provide engaging means by which students can learn more about a topic. David recommends exploring Steve Covello’s Teaching With Rich Media, a free online book, to explore and understand this at a deeper level.
4. Communication – Lastly, David emphasized the importance of effective communication with students and their families during this unusual situation. Tips include providing a weekly overview, make it clear what needs to be completed and when, and focus on timely responses and contact (explore the video for more).
Key Takeaways from my experience as an online educator and administrator
In the second portion of this episode, David and I discuss some of the things that I have experienced in my role at The College of Westchester, both from a teacher’s perspective and from an administrator’s perspective. The college was very proactive from the start as things began to be concerning in the first week of March (I wrote a piece about this here).
After a little dialogue about EmergingEdTech, we explored these questions:
• What had to be done to quickly move your faculty and students to an exclusively online format?
• What are some of the most important activities leaders in education can do to support their staff, students, and extended learning communities (families)?
• How can the flipped learning format be used effectively…to produce quality learning results and high student engagement [while remote teaching]?
• What advice would you give to instructors as they work to take their instructional show online?
To the latter question, a few key points I emphasized were:
• Presence – One of the most essential aspects of successful online instruction is instructor presence. You need to be seen and be present for your students. In the case of moving to remote teaching, one of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to conduct synchronous video meetings with tools like Zoom (and, although some students may have issues attending, there is a lot to be said for doing this during the time slot that you would have taught regularly).
• Feedback – Student need feedback on their work! I have often been frustrated to learn that my kids were not getting feedback on work, or when I hear this from other students. How did I do on the assignment? Why did I get a C? What can I have done better?
• Let them know their grades – This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Students should have a sense of where they stand in a class. My daughter’s high school provided 5 week (i.e. mid-quarter) grade ranges and comments – that’s awesome. On the flip side, I’ve heard students say half way through the term that they have no idea what their grades are. Teachers make absolutely sure that students know how to access their grades, and what their approximate grade range is, it multiple points throughout a term (and no, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of traditional grading, but if we have to use it, they are more useful and meaningful when students are readily aware of them).
• Flexibility/understanding – I don’t know about the students you work with, but my school is located in Westchester County, just north of NYC, and many of our students come from socioeconomically challenging circumstances. Many also work in the healthcare field. Suffice it to say that many of them are facing serious difficulties as a result of themselves or family members losing their jobs or being sick, quarantined, or worse. It is a very rough time for many of them. What do you know about what your students are going through? Be understanding and realize that you may not know what they are dealing with.
Hopefully some of the ideas and resources in this article and video can help you make the most of this ‘new normal’. Our students deserve the best we can do to support them. Thanks and stay well.