Friday, May 15, 2020

Remote Teaching Ascent

I use mountain metaphors a lot since I climbed a fair amount of mountains throughout my life and have found mountains to be a terrific metaphor for life.

This transition to remote teaching and learning has been similar to hiking a mountain range. There are peaks and valleys that all relate to the same goal of teaching children well.

On the good days, I feel great, but on the not so good days, I learn more.

What have I learned so far?

Preparation is Key
At school we have a whole room of teaching supplies and resources to use to make lessons meaningful, engaging, and successful. At home, we have many tools available via the Internet, but, to a great degree, we haven't used or explored those tools much. There is a great learning curve here.

The better we choose the lesson content and teaching/learning tools, the more effective and engaging the lesson will be. In general, I find that content that elicits discussion, debate, problem solving, collaboration, and skill, concept, and knowledge building to be best.

The best tools are engaging tools that keep the students' attention, help them to share their thinking, creativity, and problem solving, and create a file that children can look back to when needed for the follow-up practice and projects. So far I've found that interactive documents, spreadsheets, games, and presentations as well as many Google tools such as the table tool and drawing/painting tools have been helpful. I have many more tools to explore with the goal of making the lessons more interactive and effective in mind.

Predictable Lesson Routine is Advantageous
Just like in the classroom, a predictable routine saves time for the deeper, more meaningful parts of the lesson. That routine seems to work well with the following components:
  • Greeting and some time for chatting and welcoming the group to the meeting
  • Introduction that is engaging and somewhat provocative to gain their attention (open up their brains to new and interesting learning)
  • Interactive lessons that focus on more of them and less of us (the teachers) -- they should be doing the work, talking the talk, asking the questions, providing the ideas and more. 
  • Time to summarize the lesson and share final thoughts and questions as well as words about what is coming next. 
Follow-Up Review, Practice, and Projects
After the lessons, there should be an opportunity for students' to grapple with the knowledge, concept, and skill in engaging, memorable projects, practice and review. 

Teacher Coaching, Review, and Feedback
Teachers need to determine the best ways to review and monitor students' study efforts and respond to that review with coaching comments, feedback and motivation. 

Professional Reflection and Learning
There needs to be time to reflect on efforts to date and take part in learning to continually build your repertoire to better meet students needs. 

Similar to the tired legs you get when you hike the mountains, I'm finding that my fingers, arms, and shoulders are feeling the physical burden of this sudden shift to so much online learning. This means I'll have to mix up the lessons too to keep my fingers strong for the online work.

When climbing mountains, the joy is the camaraderie you experience as well as the vistas along the way and at the summit. The beauty of the online learning is the children you teach, colleagues you work with, and the moments of joyful learning and exchange you experience. Now it's time to rest for the weekend before I head into the mountain range of remote teaching and learning again.