What is E-Learning?
In Illinois (and many other parts of the country, E-Learning is defined as a short term way to educate students when they cannot come to school usually due to weather. E-learning was written into law in 2018 as an alternative to snow days. It allows students and teachers to continue learning by reviewing materials taught previously. Some districts have this plan in place and have been using it. Others like mine, have been working on putting a plan together but haven't done so until now.
I really do like the idea of E-learning versus making up snow days. To me it makes more sense and my students always need time to review the content that they have learned. Plus research shows that breaks in stimulus actually allow the brain to learn more. It is a win-win in my book.
I created an E-learning plan that works for any grade I teach and is applicable to any time of the year. However, an e-learning plan is not designed for students to use for a long period of time.
What is Remote Learning?
Remote learning is defined in Illinois as a continuation of educational instruction done remotely due to a Gubernatorial (from the Governor) Disaster Declaration. Other states have similar definitions. By looking at just the definitions we can already see a difference.
What does this mean? What does this look like? How is this possible? These are all questions that teachers, students, parents, schools, districts, and so many others are asking. We are scrambling to make it possible. The answers to the questions will vary depending upon where a student lives and the technology that is available to them.
Only one thing is certain, everyday teachers are faced with challenges and obstacles in their classrooms that they were neither expecting nor prepared for. Everyday we meet these challenges head-on with a smile on our face. Remote learning will be met with the same optimism.
How do you Communicate with students?
This is honestly our biggest challenge. It will never be like in the classroom.
We can hold virtual meetings through Zoom, Google Meets, or another virtual conferencing application. We can record our selves using Loom, Screencastify, or our smart phones. We can push lessons through Google Classroom, Edmodo, Schoology, or Moddle.
The problem of technology comes into play. If a student has no way to access the sites above then they miss out on the lessons taught. This is in violation of state and federal laws as all students must have equal access. Technology limitations make this way of instruction unequal.
We can then send home paper packets of assignments for students to complete. This takes all of their lessons and turns them back into a worksheet. Not all students can teach themselves from a book. Especially younger students. They will need an adult to support them. The next problem comes into play... what if there is no adult to support them? This limitation also makes instruction unequal.
I do not see a way around making instruction for all equal. The best I can do is give options. I provide both online and packet materials. I set up 1:1 meetings to assist as I can. I communicate with them through platforms they are familiar with and have used in the classroom.
I act as a cheerleader for my parents. I tell them they are doing an excellent job; that they are excellent parents. I congratulate them for a job well done when work is turned in via photograph. I ask them to send me a picture of their child each week so we can "see" one another. I concentrate on building memories and relationships.
I focus on helping my parents build routines in their homes that I pray will outlast the virus. Eating a meal together while having a discussion. Going for a family walk and again discussing things. Reading stories together. Playing board games together. Cooking together. These are all skills that will help them become better learners in my classroom. Now is the time to make these things habits in the homes of our students.
Bitmoji Obsession (Part 2)
I couldn't leave you without an update to my Bitmoji COVID-19 obsession. Bitmoji has since added some new ones. Aren't these great? I told my students that they are all essential to our classroom success. How I miss their smiles each and every day. Several of my students were teary over this comment. Don't we all need to feel essential to those we love and cherish the most?
What happens next?
This song is what gets us through the tough time. It reminds us that no matter what is going on God is bigger. He has a plan. We just have to have the strength in our faith to wait for Him to lead us. This is where I am now. Faithful in the plan God has laid out for us. I don't know what it or what will happen next but I know I will be okay. We will all be okay.