This spring semester is different than anything we’ve experienced before. The spread of COVID-19 will impact every corner of our society and we’re already seeing its effect on education. Schools that are preemptively closing are doing the right thing, but it still leaves thousands of teachers faced with a new set of challenges.
Before now, online learning has been evolving at a glacial pace. Some high schools have been slow to embrace technological advances, but this pandemic is dramatically speeding up the process. More and more colleges are moving all classes online every day and high schools are following suit. At this rate, it’s likely that many regions will experience massive school closures for extended weeks.
This kind of shift would normally come with professional development to ease into changes, but with this crisis, there’s no time to prepare. We’re all about to be thrown into the future of learning faster than anyone could have predicted. 🦠
And if you think about the real inequities that students face at school, it’s not hard to see remote learning as the trend that closes the long-standing opportunity and achievement gaps. Online, your zip code doesn’t matter. You can learn anything, from anyone, anywhere. No educational reform has come close to achieving that.
Of course, there will be challenges. Online learning won’t work for students that don’t have access to the internet or computers. And it’s worth noting that online learning will never be quite as powerful as face-to-face learning, especially with passionate teachers. There’s something about a physical classroom space that may be impossible to replicate online.
With that said, this is a massive opportunity to experiment with online learning at scale. We’re all jumping headfirst into a new frontier and that’s a silver lining to this confusing crisis. Let’s make the most of this.
To think about how best to teach high school students online, I’ve looked to other areas where remote experiences thrive. There are plenty of companies that have adopted distributed teams, colleges that run entirely online, and even personal trends on social media that can guide us through this time.
Here are five ways to create effective learning experiences for your high school students:
1. Keep it simple
There are a lot of platforms out there and I know this is overwhelming. Above all else, keep it simple. This is a great time to experiment with different lessons or platforms, but it’s also a stressful time and you may want to stick to what you know.
The most important thing is to keep engaging students as much as possible. The most useful platform that you should embrace is Google Drive. You can do just about anything with a Google Doc or using forms to assess students. One doc can house directions, resources, and collaborative discussions. Any lesson for any subject can be successfully taught through one document.
Create one doc per week or per day and send out an email with instructions. Use the doc to guide the lesson and to capture student feedback or responses.
2. Flip your classroom
Flipped classrooms are not a new idea and plenty of teachers have been exploring it for some time. The idea is for students to engage with direct instruction before class so that time together can be used for practicing. In an online classroom, you’ll need to fully adopt this practice. There’s nothing more frustrating than a meeting that could have been an email.
There’s no need to schedule a video call for you to lecture. Instead, assign videos or readings that cover the topic and preserve precious face to face time for practicing or digging deep into a topic. Plan your lessons in a way that gives students the responsibility to explore concepts without you and then come together to apply them.
For AP students, we have a ton of videos, slides, and articles on Fiveable that you can assign. All of the content is free and you can set up a teacher dashboard to track student progress and live attendance.
3. Create as many asynchronous resources as possible
If you’re flipping your classroom, you’ll already be creating or adopting asynchronous materials, but you should take this as far as you can. The best part about online learning is that the time of day shouldn’t matter. Some students will get up early, some will stay up late. The more you allow them to work and engage during their own peak hours, the more productive they will be.
- Try using Loom to record short videos of yourself explaining answers to frequently asked questions.
- Create a Google Doc that documents directions for complex tasks.
- Post daily check-ins on Google Classroom that can be answered at any time.
4. Plan interactive experiences
Asynchronous learning is key, but students will also need time to engage with each other! Interactive experiences should be fun and lead to community building. They also are where students can test their knowledge, practice together, and feel connected.
- Play live trivia on Fiveable or set up a class game using Kahoot that you can stream to the class.
- Assign science experiments and have students video chat in to play it out together.
- Write an essay together in a google doc.
- Have students post responses to questions on Flipgrid.
5. Use social media
Every social network has a use case in the classroom and there’s never been a better time to meet students where they are. Ask them to help you if you need to set up an account or get comfortable with it. They would love to show you around.
Don’t assume that they use the same networks you do. Poll your students and be open to learning a new space. You can even plan different experiences for different groups of students. This is such a good way to build relationships with them.
- Schedule Twitter chats and have students respond to Qs using a class hashtag
- Go live on Instagram for Q&As
- Have students create Tik Tok videos in response to a prompt
- Play video games on a Twitch stream while you discuss a concept. Or have students play while you discuss.
I know there are plenty more ideas out there and I’d love to hear them! Tweet me at @AmandaDoAmanda
Stay healthy. 😷