By Drew Sarmiere - July 6, 2020
Tips for Successful Remote Learning This Fall
It is almost a certainty that there will be some form of remote learning (online learning) this coming school year. Considering how well things went this past spring, many parents and students are understandably concerned about how to successfully navigate remote learning (online learning) so that students experience a positive education outcome. Fortunately, it is possible for students to learn effectively via online platforms. We’ve been doing it for over a decade at Peak. However, it must be done using the proper approach and guidance; otherwise, it can be a disaster. So, here are some ways you can help your student have the best possible experience using remote learning platforms.
Create a Schedule - kids will achieve better educational outcomes if they are provided a structured schedule to follow each day. Treat a day of remote learning like you would a typical school day. Students should have a set time to wake up, have breakfast, get dressed (yes, get out of the pajamas), start school, attend “classes”, take breaks, and finish their school day. Your school day and a regular school day do not have to match hour for hour. In fact, they probably shouldn’t. For example, if your child regularly would have 90 minute classes, it is not a good idea to sit him in front of a computer for 90 minutes. Forty-five to sixty minutes is probably the maximum amount of time kids should work before taking a break. The younger the student, the more often he/she will need breaks. Lastly, while it is important to maintain a regular schedule, it is ok to break from the schedule from time to time when needs arise. And don’t forget to give your student days off, ideally the weekends. School should not be 7 days/week.
Provide Guidance/Scaffolding - This is especially important for students at the onset of remote learning and for younger students overall. Students are going to struggle to adjust to remote learning - it’s obviously very different from going to school each day - so, they’re going to need help from parents to figure out how to effectively manage their work. You will need to go through each class one by one to determine how each teacher is going to provide instruction, what types of assignments will be provided, how much daily work/studying there may be, when assignments will be due, how to meet teacher expectations, how to turn assignments in, and how to best communicate with teachers when problems arise. Again, each class will be different, so you’ll need to go through each class together.
Check-in Regularly - all students will benefit from parents checking in on their online learning from time-to-time. It’s up to each parent to determine what’s appropriate. The older the student, the more autonomous he/she can be. Younger students will need more frequent attention, as will students who are struggling with the transition to remote learning, those with self-discipline or motivational issues, and/or those with learning differences. When in doubt, checking in more often than needed will yield better results; you can always reduce check-in frequency over time ( it’s harder to increase it once you’ve set precedent FYI). Frankly, the majority of students in grades 10 or lower will benefit from a daily check-in.
Trust but Verify - This, hopefully, will not come as a surprise to a lot of parents out there: it’s always best to double check and actually see the completed work than to take the student’s word for it that it’s done. Also, completed work and actual learning are not one and the same. In fact, this is the primary problem with online learning - students become very good at getting work done with as little effort (and learning) as possible. Can we blame them? They are, after all, kids. Ask your child if he completed assignment X. When he says “yes” (as he most likely will), say, “great, can I take a look at it?” If there’s any push-back, it’s probably either incomplete or poorly done. This is where you can have a huge impact on your child’s learning! A lot of students (especially “good” students) will do a good job getting their work “done”, but, upon closer inspection, you will find that oftentimes very little learning actually took place. Remember, the point of all of this is to learn, not to to just get the work done.
Communicate With Teachers - Teachers, by and large, want nothing more than to see their students achieve and learn, and they will bend over backwards to help. Keep the lines of communication open with teachers to ensure your student knows how to meet his teacher’s expectations. Importantly, do your best to be sure your child is taking responsibility for this communication (provide appropriate guidance as needed). It is your child’s responsibility to handle this, especially older children. Lastly, be careful to do your own “homework” before emailing teachers. Undoubtedly, there will be some confusion during remote learning, make sure you do your part to clear up any confusion before you email your teacher for clarification. Teachers will become easily overwhelmed if every student/parent emails them every time any issue or question arises. Take a moment to figure things out for yourself. If you still cannot clear up the confusion, then email the teacher.
Make Learning the Goal - I’ve already mentioned this but it’s worth restating. If students go back to remote learning during this school year (and they almost certainly will), it’s not going to be for a couple of months like this past spring. Students are not going to be able to afford to get by and hope for the best - learning, real learning, is going to have to happen. Make sure you continue to send that message to your child/children and take a proactive role in their remote learning in order to ensure learning really takes place. The above steps will help.
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