Students, their parents and educators are feeling the extraordinary ripple effect of the novel coronavirus as schools shut down and quarantine methods are ordered amidst the public health emergency. In this series, we want to share best practices from our community and how our educators and innovators are managing school shutdowns, distance learning and other challenges around the world.
Brett Bigham, Oregon State Teacher of the Year 2014, Portland, USA
Our city schools are now closed for at least the next two weeks. This week leading up the cancelation was very difficult. In Oregon, we are under a State of Emergency with warnings for older people and anyone with preexisting conditions to stay at home. But many teachers fall into those categories and almost every school breaks the rule the governor imposed to follow social distancing guidelines. A special education teacher doesn't have that option. This week I was bitten, scratched and spit on so staying several feet away has not been possible!
In this time on need, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) is putting together a list of supports/curriculum and websites. I also have created a really cool kit called "Build a Space Station" where you design and build a space station out of paper. I've put it on sale and made it a free item. It has writing prompts and more to really get students thinking and using their hands! IT IS FREE, CLICK HERE!
Finally, I am sharing with you links to five FREE downloadable activity packs to help you through these very interesting times. These are hands-on activities that will occupy busy little fingers as well as overactive imaginations. You may decide to go back to medieval times or rocket into the future, but I hope they keep our young friends busy for many March afternoons!
Barbara Anna Zielonka, Global Teacher Prize Finalist Top 10 2018, EdTech Specialist, Oslo-Norway
On the 12th of March, the Norwegian government shut down all universities and colleges across the country. All the schools were closed on the 13th of March. This unprecedented situation forced teachers to turn to remote learning overnight. Many Facebook groups have been created and great number of digital resources have been shared on different social media platforms. It is fantastic to see how united teachers have become and how willing they have become to share their expertise and experience. My local education community has been coping quite well. However, one of the biggest challenges we have experienced has been unstable access to our learning management platform. Too many users logging into the same systems means problems. Hopefully, this is something that can be fixed by asking teachers to offer asynchronous learning (voice chats, shared documents, such as Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, and Google Slides, project management software such as Trello or Slack).
I believe it is important to focus on children and teenagers who do not have regular access to internet. Last week I curated a list of free educational resources for remote learning ( tools I have used for many years, but also new ones that I have never heard of before) and after a couple of hours I realized there were children out there who do not have any access to smartphones or mobile devices they could use. Even though this situation does not concern Norway, I feel we need to help each other and cannot forget about disadvantaged children.
As a teacher and an edtech specialist who has experience with hybrid and blended teaching, I have not had any problems while switching from face-to-face courses to online courses, but I know it may be challenging for teachers who have never showed any interest in digital tools or platforms. If you have always used digital tools and technology in your classroom, do not hesitate to contact teachers who may feel overwhelmed and out of step with technological progress. While designing online tasks for your students make sure they are collaborative and engaging and ensure that all students take ownership of their learning.
I highly recommend this website that shares a collection of free educational resources for remote learning!
Luciana Pölönen, M. Ed., Head of Service and Educational Design, São Paulo, Brazil
In São Paulo, the governor has declared a state of emergency and all schools were ordered to shut down. Unfortunately, not as many schools have prepared themselves for this situation and how it rapidly spread around Brazil. At Escola Concept schools, we have spent the past weekend, Monday and Tuesday planning our Virtual School service journey. Our teachers went through professional development for 16h so they understood how and what kind of technology we would need to use to make the launch as smooth as possible.
Escola Concept schools are fully PBL whose 4 pillars are Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Collaboration, and Digital Fluency. Thus we were able to mobilize our entire community to adhere to the Virtual Village with grade-level adjustments. We thought empowering educators wouldn't suffice so we also created a site for our families to learn how to navigate throughout our Virtual Village.
Google Classroom is our main platform for online classes.
For Educators, here are a few tips:
- Choose a platform where you will set up your classes,
- Learn how to navigate this platform,
- Create a step by step from login to uploading assignments,
- Set up Help Desk Hours,
- Think about different ways to engage not only your students but also the whole family,
- Take good care of your well-being, social-emotional, physical and mental health,
- Be positive!
For Families, here are a few tips:
- Make sure to read the step by step guide,
- Support other parents,
- Don't try and follow schedules you find alone, rather adjust to what works for your family,
- Routine is key for it brings a sense of security to our children,
- Practice sports or move your body even if you have to stay inside,
- Create a space in your house set for learning to happen without distractions,
- Support your child to hand in assignments on time,
- Take advantage of help desks,
- Be positive!
Adam Lenaarts MEd, Innovation Manager, Geography Teacher, Hoorn, The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, schools are closed now. Most schools already have systems available for distance learning. From what I can tell there are still huge differences within schools between those that are tech-savvy and those who are desperately forced to leave their comfort zones and cross boundaries into unknown space. Some need a shoulder to cry on, while others take a bold leap forward. This goes for educators and students alike. We are all challenged by COVID-19.
I love how everybody is sharing and caring to make sure we are still able to provide high-quality education. What is really missing is face-to-face communications which we are so much used to as educators. Communication breaks down when you move online and what is really missing are the little tweaks you would make when you would meet in persona.
Not much has changed since all our students have sufficient hardware (Ipads) and software suited for distance learning. We are used to having our daily programs in our Learning Management System (Magister) and most of our schoolbooks are available online and offline. Our district uses the G suite ecosystem, while other districts might use either Moodle or Microsoft teams. They all work fine, but we do note that they are being stressed by the huge influx of online participants.
I am now providing support, not just to students, but also to my colleagues. Most of it is asynchronous, but sometimes I hook up to provide support via web conference and screen sharing.
There is so much more online collaboration happening not just within the school, but also outside of school and internationally the support has been amazing. We were able to feed off the experience of our South-Korean colleagues, who were already in their sixth week of distance learning. The lesson we learned was to start slowly and work mainly asynchronously.
Now we are looking into making video recordings not just for students but also to start producing teacher-to-teacher tutorials. This is not our core business and so it is not weird there is a sense of losing control. Yet it can also be very satisfying when you do conquer your challenges.
There are so many tools and resources being offered at the moment. Many companies are offering their solutions for free to get by during these difficult times. unfortunately, COVID-19 scams are also on the horizon. Sometimes it feels like a tsunami of information washing over you, so you are challenged to choose wisely and limit your options.
No matter what, keep calm! Patience is truly a virtue.
As we are struggling to find new ways, we are also confronted with the "WHY" of what we are doing. We are not just concerned with qualifications, but also with well-being. Are we providing our students with enough opportunities to express how they feel and are we considerate enough of their emotional shifts? Mentors are doing an amazing job checking if all students are doing well. We have to keep an eye out for every student and double-check if messages get across in the right manner. Are we taking care of their special needs? A person with Dyslexia can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of written language. Communication does break down. so we have to invest more energy in how we connect.
There are some huge opportunities here to shift the paradigm as the whole country seems to shift to 100% online. This is really amazing when you come to think of it. We have evolved in a matter of days and I see people doing amazing things. I wish everybody good health and wish them all the best as we are bonded in our common goal to keep providing high-quality education for all.
We thank our our HundrED Ambassadors like Brett Bigham, Barbara Anna Zielonka, Luciana Pölönen & Adam Lenaarts for offering support and resources in this time of need. For more articles, innovations & resources, head to our Educator Toolkit especially designed to support educators & parents during this COVID-19 outbreak.