Planning to Continue Teaching and Learning
(This is Part 1 of a two-part series.)
Schools and educational agencies in the US and around the world are coming to grips with the possibility of having to temporarily close due to community concerns and actual cases stemming from the outbreak of the coronavirus. If and when that occurs in your locality, does your school have a plan for continuing teaching and learning?
Just in the last week or so, a number of articles have come out that focus on this possibility and how to respond. Although making the shift from the classroom to online learning should be thought out and planned for well in advance to develop a high-quality distance program, the reality exists that some teachers will be pressed into online teaching by their schools and districts. Today, we address some steps to get started with online teaching and make the shift from face-to-face to online instruction. (Part 2 will discuss more teaching tips and resources available for online teaching and learning, from OTAN and other organizations.)
First, even if the decision to move online is made quickly, it’s still advisable to make a plan for getting teachers and students situated in this new learning environment, especially those with little to no online experience. In their article Preparing to Take School Online? Here Are 10 Tips to Make It Work., Reshan Richards and Stephen Valentine suggest that communication be the primary goal during an online learning period and learning and assessment be secondary. A school and its staff should consider a number of steps, including:
Consider the audiences – Students will need different resources, preparation, and guidance than teachers (and administrators, too).
Define your technology landscape – Determine what edtech resources and communication tools are available and can be called on during the school closure (e.g., text/SMS, email, website, audio and video conferencing, collaborative tools, LMS, etc.).
Plan for the closure in stages – what should happen in the first five days, the next five days, and after ten days.
Consider different communication strategies, like video messaging instead of texting or emailing, to connect with students and personalize the online experience.
Training, training, and more training for students and staff!
Create and share lists, schedules, and timelines, which create familiarity and regularity.
Provide as much online support as possible.
A helpful guide for teachers just starting online teaching (as well as a check for online teachers who are refining their courses) is How to Be a Better Online Teacher: Advice Guide by Flower Darby. We also recommend reviewing the IDEAL Distance Education and Blended Learning Handbook, which our Digital Leadership Academy (DLAC) agencies study to help reach their technology and distance learning goals.
To stay informed about the coronavirus:
World Health Organization webpage: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
Centers for Disease Control webpage: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
In Part 2, we will focus on resources that you can use in your distance learning program. And please reach out to OTAN (and visit the OTAN website) for questions about getting started with distance learning and online teaching!