Welcome to a post that has taken be a while to write. As the Coronavirus has changed the landscape of education, I have become more and more aware of inequity and the digital divide. This is the reason for my title including the words Online and Offline. Over seven years ago I worked with our District Technology Director and Superintendent to create a 1:1 e-learning program that would be used to make up snow days. Some of the ideas in this article were part of our discussions and writings. I have looked at what we did and tried to rephrase it for the environment we find ourselves in today. In my reflection, I have attempted to present ideas for all schools across the digital divide. While I know I may fall short in many ways, I do hope everyone can discover at least one idea that might help their school, parents and students as they take on this new challenge (opportunity) in learning. Please feel free to contact me via email (email@example.com) or Twitter at (@mjgormans). If anything, I have learned from experience and if I can help you at this time… please feel free to reach out. While this is a longer post, I will be providing short posts in the future which will include resources that might help you out as we deal with this new reality. I do hope you read and please share with others! – Mike
Before sharing I wish to thank all of those educators, students, and parents in SACS (Southwest Allen County Schools, Indiana) along with Mr. Don Chase (Technology Director) and Dr. Phil Downs (Superintendent) who I was honored to work with as we facilitated e-learning in our District quite a few years ago. We defeated those snow days and kept learning going. As we look look to take on a new challenge I am honored to share our collection of thoughts and ideas… both past and present:
In moving forward, we must be willing to be aggressive and brave in what we try, but balance that against our abilities and the capacities of our students. We must not be fearful of the less-than-perfect because it is in the pursuit of eventually-being-better. Most importantly, we must remember that small, simple steps still move us forward.
Most of all we must also consider our students. This is a new approach and it may be viewed as overwhelming by many students (and some of us too!). During this time we must give less traditional homework and teach students time management while supporting emotional well being. To do this, we must consider the technology capabilities of all of our students at home. In our plans, there should be a time for technology and a time for no technology. Even students with the internet and computers at home may have to share with multiple household members. How can we design assignments that really do reach the lowest common denominator of technology such as a phone or cell phone? How might we place students in diverse support groups based on these different levels of home technology?
Students may also be concerned with questions about impact on their learning and of course… grades. We must make this time a positive opportunity for our students and want them to walk away with the idea that they can learn anything online or offline. We truly can use this as an opportunity to facilitate the idea of learning… how to learn. This is a skill that will last a lifetime.
Every step we take, we must practice empathy while thinking of equality. This is extra schooling for students and parents in a format they are not quite use to. While it must be stated that teachers are going through a formative process and may fail, educators must also remember that students and parents should also be allowed this same grace. Below I have 30 items you may want to reflect on as we all go through a new chapter of education and learning. I am certain it will be a chapter that makes us all a little better as we take small yet powerful steps.
30 Ideas To Consider When Implementing School Online and Offline During The Coronavirus – Michael J. Gorman (21centuryedtech.wordpress.com)
- Determine if school and district have the resources to use an e-learning experience. Determine the level at what this might be. It might go from text messaging, to email, to a a complete LMS. Do the best that can be done at the the level of capabilities a district is at. In other words… what can be done on and off line?
- Check any guidelines provided by your state DOE. If they have them you can probably find them online.
- Frequently survey all district stakeholders including educators, parents, and students during this event.
- Be aware of student home internet connectivity. There may be different levels. Think of the lowest common denominator. What can be provided with low bandwidth and quick access limitations?
- Determine community Wifi access points that may be available still allowing for social distancing… parking lots for uploads and downloads, etc.
- Investigate possible home connect programs for students who do not have access. Most of the cable companies are providing free access, but parents might need education about these opportunities. What education can be delivered on cell phone hot spots… keeping limited data in mind?
- Provide access points near buildings (parking lots) in the district and possibly place school buses housing Wifi for cars parked nearby. Communicate this availability to students and parents in a variety of ways.
- Investigate student special needs and include provisions in individualized learning plans. Understand that the district may need to make different accommodations for students unable to participate in this type of program.
- Allow extra time and alternative assignments to accommodate students who may have difficulty connecting. Think of assignments that might include student individual interest.
- Attempt to blend lessons as much as possible with learning that would have taken place if school was in session. Keep in mind that not everything has to be done online.
- Provide opportunities for some type of student collaboration from low to high tech. Just calling and interviewing a classmate could provide content skills while allowing for social interaction.
- Develop student schedules that provide a balance of no tech and digital experiences allowing students to experience the pre-analog world such as reading, writing, sketching and even conquering needed math facts. This balance should be provided regardless of the school e-learning capability.
- Provide training and assistance to teachers regarding the use of the district LMS and blended learning via synchronous and asynchronous delivery.
- Decide how content and grade level teachers might take on different learning delivery based on their skills. Some educators might develop low or no tech lessons, while others concentrate on the digital experience. They then share. One YouTube video could be shared with the entire grade or content class. This can lighten the load for all teachers.
- Consider ways that activities can include social and emotional learning. This might be especially important when society is more isolated.
- Conduct teacher meetings via video conferencing software. This can allow for sharing, learning, PD, and opportunities to use others for support. Consider online conferencing software such a Zoom, Google Hangout, and Go To Meeting.
- Encourage teachers to provide some low tech solutions such as using a video, text messaging, email, that can be accessed by cell phone.
- Emphasize that safety comes first and that no one should venture out to an access point if it compromises needed social distancing.
- Make a plan for this new out of school school learning program. Communicate both online and offline, and be sure that all stakeholders understand the way the program works.
- Understand that student work load may be different online, and a forty minute class may only require half the work time when online. Do not overload students and allow time for family interaction, self interest, and recreation.
- Include parents on texts, emails, voluntary online conferencing, and possibly weekly newsletter.
- Ask teachers to communicate with students via survey tools, LMS, polling, etc in order to get a temperature read for future planning and student progress.
- Find examples and encourage teachers to plan lessons that help students understand how to learn in the both the digital world and in a world with no digital technology.
- Take advantage of opportunities to promote regular and digital citizenship. Encourage collaboration between students where they might be part of a learning group that supports each other. Is there service projects they can do at home? This can also help meet needs of those with low and no tech.
- Attempt to set up teacher office hours that provide multiple avenues of connection while also allowing for anonymity in contact information.
- Provide opportunities and understanding that allows real blended learning to become a daily practice, not just an item saved for school closings. This will be important in the future!
- Encourage student production to demonstrate learning… not just consumption of content. In this way students can use technology, or not. Best of all they can practice creativity and critical thinking.
- Provide assignments and learning that does not always focus on technology.
- Evaluate, revise, and reflect in regard to the program on a consistent basis.
- Celebrate both large and small successes with constant communication and public relations.
Think of this new reality, as a pilot, and know that educators, students, and parents will make adjustments on this journey. Most importantly, the student-teacher relationship is so important to student learning and will be highlighted at the home and school. I do think that what we are experiencing can promote real and authentic learning. I am certain students will walk away with a new knowledge that will serve them the rest of their lives. It is important that we document the process so we can learn and plan from it. Thanks for joining me and please feel free to check with me on questions you might have involving lessons that I have learned. Best of all… remember that spring will be here soon!