It is probable that you never imagined this professional scenario when you became an educator. Very few situations require the adaptability and flexibility that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. When are you returning to your building if at all? What about graduation? What about the things you are anxious about that administrators are too busy with crisis management to attend to (AP courses and testing for example)? There are many unknowns! Given that I have spent my career in the classroom, in part, and being responsible for solutions whether for NASA, school districts, online products or multi-million dollar initiates, I have a few ideas that may help. Take them or leave them but I hope these are not ideas you have read elsewhere!
IDEA 1: A new definition of “success”
Many common, traditional and even ceremonial concerns now have to be adapted for this world. How will you be observed? Consider that evaluation of you as a professional will now be less about what is seen in person and is probably ill-defined at the moment. Since it is out of your control, why worry about it! This is testing and ceremony season coming. There will be few ceremonies this year and if you can, at bare minimum, pull one off using Zoom, Skype, tin cans and string, or any other technology, that is the “new”, temporary success. As for academic achievement, you did not prepare for this scenario. If you are fortunate and have an online classroom already set up, you may be far ahead of teachers who do not. Right now, doing the most with what you have is success.
IDEA 2: Focus on the new “can” not the old “can’t”
For decades classroom models have diminished the teacher’s activity as “lead lecturer” and embellished the role as “learning environment builder”. Still, teachers rely on lecture and favorite techniques for delivering content and assessing mastery. Remotely whether online or not, lecture is less effective. Additionally, content is available in a more polished, expert format from many places! So if not lecturing and responding traditionally, how can a teacher be more effective in this temporarily new world?
Two ideas: feedback and reflection. I was once presented with research that showed that feedback is among the highest impact activities a teacher can undertake with a student. If we think of coaching a sport or teaching the use of a musical instrument this becomes obvious. In remote settings, feedback is critical. Those who have worked remotely and effectively for years will attest to providing feedback via voice and video (if possible) as more effective than feedback by email or embedded comment. Hop into a Zoom room or Google Hangout or whatever works best for you! Additional five-star pro tip: pulling two or more students into a room and having them give each other feedback or work together is a reasearched-based practice that is even more effective!
I mentioned reflection and without droning on in text I will leave that as a tease for my next post. What are your thoughts about the ideas I shared above? Have you tried using web conferencing software for feedback and group work? How has that worked compared to other activity types? What questions have arisen from this practice for you? Usually I end these with a humorous video but in this case I am providing a deeper dive into Zoom as a tool.