- My students aren't Masters level students, they're in Grade 7
- We're in a crisis
The number one things that your students and families need to know right now are what space you're engaging them in online and how exactly that engagement is going to happen in that space. Instead of sending 15 gazillion emails, having a one-stop shop like a simple website or a platform like Microsoft Teams or Google Classroom is recommended. Start small within that space as not to overwhelm. Simple is better. You can gradually build pieces into the space over time once students and parents are used to how it works.
In other words, SCAFFOLD, SCAFFOLD, SCAFFOLD. Any app or website designed for remote learning can be very overwhelming at first glance. It's just the nature of the beast, unfortunately. People need to have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the space before the pressure is on to submit assignments.
So how am I doing this? I've been piloting Microsoft Teams with my fellow Grade 7 colleague, Sarah Moore this year. This meant that before this crisis even began, we already had the space where we were connected with students. The issue: we used the tool in a massively different way than we need to use it now.
In order to get students used to checking the platform daily for their learning tasks, we decided to provide some small engagement tasks. These include silly and simple things that are fun, like "What's your quarantine name?" or "Create a ridiculous scene and take a picture of it." We also share memes and funny videos that are school appropriate. While these are not robust, rigourous learning experiences, they set the tone for what we expect: come to this space to get our communication. We want them to feel that this is a space that is fun, that it is one that builds community first, so that they keep coming back. Building greater challenges in academic learning will come.
We post these prompts daily at a predictable time in a predictable format so that students and parents know exactly what to expect. While Sarah and I differ with the format we send them in (she uses OneNote/Teams and I use my class Weebly site/Teams), we are consistent in the philosophy behind delivery.
The routine matters. Everyone needs some predictability right now.
When we have shared these ideas with our colleagues, there has been a lot of interest in what the engagement tasks, videos, websites, and memes that we're posting actually are. We decided to create a document that links everything we've used so far and share it more broadly so that others can engage their students in their online spaces in the same way we have been. It's a live document that we will update as we go, so keep an eye on it for new ideas, or let us know if you have anything cool that is worthy of an add.
Click the button below to see the list. Happy learning!