With last week’s decision to close schools leaving teachers across the country reeling, we’ve compiled some ‘top tips’ to help facilitate the transition to remote learning.
Firstly, instructions are everything
Setting clear instructions and success criteria will be crucial to avoid a tsunami of emails asking the same thing and in providing zero excuses for pupils looking to avoid work. Model answers will also help students work independently and provide parents with clarity on what children should produce. Considering that parents may be juggling the education of several children, in addition to their own workload and existing responsibilities, it might be worth adding a “minutes you should spend” to all assigned work. This will help parents to organise their children’s days.
Technology is going to be your new best friend through this period. There are some amazing online learning platforms to embrace which provide quality content and add variety to learners’ experience. There is also some not-so-great learning material. Be sure to investigate resources thoroughly, considering how they meet learning objectives and how tasks could be differentiated. Always watch any Youtube video ALL the way through before assigning to students. Unlike in class, you won’t be there to pause it should anything confusing, irrelevant or age inappropriate pop up.
Make deadlines for work as generous as possible. It is likely that the majority of pupils will be negotiating computer time with both siblings and parents. In addition, as Britain’s internet networks strain to facilitate connections to the millions now working from home, it’s probable that areas may lose connectivity for periods of time. For this reason, it may be prudent to set a week’s worth of work (especially for older learners) on Monday, giving pupils flexibility as to when the work gets done. Keep parents informed of deadlines through email or platforms like SIMS.
One of the silver linings of this obligatory period of remote learning is that many pupils will start to acquire the requisite autonomy, organisation and IT skills to thrive in both FE and the work place. Support them in this acquisition. Introduce pupils to simple –but often overlooked- study skills such as making lists, the basics of research and Microsoft Office tips. It is often assumed that generation Z are born fluent in the language of technology but this is not always the case. Youtube is awash with short tutorials on IT topics. As you’ll be receiving a lot of emails, take time to teach students how to write one properly.
Teachers will find themselves robbed of their usual tools for assessing learning. Techniques taken for granted such as questioning, reading over shoulders and information gleaned from facial expressions and body language are gone. As a consequence, for many subjects, more marking will be inevitable. However, being selective in what you will mark and clear with pupils about the standard expected will help reduce your mark-load. Have a document ready with common feedback points which you can copy and paste to save time. While challenging, use this period as a potential opportunity to learn all you can about your pupils’ progress through increased marking.
Despite the extra marking, all in all, teachers might find themselves with more time –and certainly more energy- at the end of the working day. Use this time productively: is there an appraisal target or area of Teaching and Learning that you’ve been meaning to read up on but never find the time? Is there a scheme of work that could be worked on? Could the time be used to work on differentiating existing resources for SEN pupils?
It is worth remembering that when pupils do finally return to school, old habits and positive behaviour patterns will have been disrupted and dislodged. Freeing up time now so you can focus energy on helping students settle back into school life will help ensure a smoother transition when the time comes.
As anyone with a standard 9-5 will testify, emails will eat up your whole day if you let them. Assign a set period to check and respond to pupil and parent emails. It is possible that teachers may bear some brunt of the anxiety and stress parents are experiencing. Avoid becoming embroiled in back and forth emails which are rarely productive and can quickly escalate into hostility – the last things everyone needs at this difficult time. Just because you’re working remotely, don’t feel like you’re on your own. Pass concerns onto senior leadership as you normally would.
Be patient and forgiving
These are unprecedented circumstances and it is going to take us all time to learn how to teach remotely. Parents and students are also going to undergo major stress as they adapt to new routines. Learn from mistakes. Share successes. Embrace the positives. This experience might just open our eyes to the power of technology and its ability to transform teaching and learning in ways which could have huge benefits and implications for both teachers and pupils for years to come.