By Dr Nina Hood
As the probability of wide-scale school closures becomes increasingly likely, there’s no shortage of advice and guidance being shared across the Internet for how schools and teachers should address teaching and learning. It can be difficult to know what advice to trust, and how best to think through the multiple considerations and issues at play, including: the level of access students have to internet and devices at home; the age and year levels of their students; how best to support vulnerable students; and the capacity of parents and whānau to support children with distance learning.
The Education Hub is in the process of planning how best we can support teachers, schools, ECE centres and parents with this rapidly evolving situation building on our mission to provide access to reliable, practical resources on relevant topics. As a starting point, below is a list of 12 initial ideas for teachers and schools to think about when planning for distance teaching and learning.
1. Shorten timings
Think about how to organise learning into tightly focused bursts with regular breaks in between and opportunities for play and socialisation. Particularly for younger children, think carefully about the amount of time each day you expect them to spend on formal schoolwork.
2. Identify learning priorities
Rather than trying to do everything, identify the learning that you most value and will prioritise over the coming time period across the different curriculum areas. The bulk of your focus should be on planning for this learning. Reading should definitely feature highly on any priorities list.
3. Relationships and social connection are essential
Prioritise how you will maintain strong relationships and social connection among staff, between teachers and students, and between students and students. For schools moving to an online model, this might mean creating virtual classrooms using video conferencing or teachers holding daily online office hours. If you’re not relying on the internet, having teachers call each student daily for a brief check in on their wellbeing and learning might be an option.
4. Draw on what you know about how people learn
It’s important to remember the basic principles of how people learning are just as relevant when designing distance learning programmes. Make sure you take into consideration both the cognitive aspects of learning and the social emotional side, including motivation and self-regulation, when designing activities.
5. Keep things simple and consistent
Routine is incredibly important to humans and becomes even more important in times of uncertainty for both teachers and students. If moving to an online learning model, schools should select the platform they’re going to use for communicating with students together with a small set of tools for specific learning activities, and use these consistently.
6. Online doesn’t mean everything has to be online
While there are many great learning activities and resources students can use online, it’s also important to provide students with activities and learning they can do offline. Think about how you want students to capture this learning and share it with you and others for feedback.
7. Consider what resources schools can provide to students prior to closing
This is particularly important when online learning is not an option. Pens and paper, and a good selection of books, would be a good starting point.
8. Plan for short periods of internet access
Some students will only have access to the internet through a smart phone and for a short period each day, perhaps as little as five or ten minutes. Consider what sorts of resources that can be quickly accessed and downloaded would best support their ongoing learning.
9. How can you support parents?
Consider what your expectations are for how parents can be supporting their children, the most useful things parents can be doing, and whether there is particular support or specific resources that parents need.
10. Wellbeing is of central importance
While there is a lot of focus on how schools can continue to support their students’ learning during a shut down, it’s also important to think about how to support students’ wellbeing. Wellbeing, emotions and learning are all interconnected.
11. Don’t forget about play
Play is important for people at all ages, but particularly for children. Providing opportunities each day for play and encouraging children to engage in a range of different play activities is vitally important and enormously beneficial.
12. Demonstrate care
Most important of all, in times of uncertainty when anxiety and stress levels are running high, demonstrating care to each other and acting with compassion is essential. At The Education Hub, we think that the best way we can demonstrate care to our stakeholders is to do what we do best – be a hub for curated, reliable, practical resources that people can trust.