Tag Archives: Distance Learning

Student Perspective: Are We Going to Learn Anything New?

When adapting your curriculum for remote learning, technological solutions (programs or apps) are sure to play a major role. For greater student success, make sure that the technology is not driving the lesson, and that all students understand how to use the technology and why it matters.

Here’s another look at remote learning from a student’s perspective. This is from an eighth-grader with dyslexia who is in her first week of remote learning.

For math, we got an assignment on Google Classroom. The assignment really didn’t have anything to do with math and more had to do with learning about how to use the graphing calculator app Desmos. I really don’t think we’re going to learn anything new in math over the next couple of weeks.

Overall, the assignment – although it was pretty easy – was pretty stressful because it had to be done in an hour without any guidance. One kid in my class asked for guidance but didn’t get it until the last 10 minutes of class. Now it’s our homework as well. Although I’m not sure. I think it is. I wish that my teacher told us that before and it would have been less stressful.

After lunch, I went back online where there were instructions saying that they would post more instructions soon. But they never did, so I had to text one of the kids in my class to figure out what was going on. She seemed to know, but I’m not sure if I misread something or missed something – it turns out an email was sent. The email was sent by my science teacher for an assignment. This assignment was similar to the homework he usually sends us. It was ok but I wasn’t really getting a lesson and the teacher was also not online, as in my English class. At this point I felt that I can’t live like this! I have no one to talk to! I’m a social creature! it’s not good for me!!!! Anyway, I figured out what I needed to do, but it would have been nice to be able to ask questions.

While apps like Desmos and Google Calendar can be very helpful, they may create more problems than they solve. Make sure students have the support they need to navigate these sophisticated tools, which likely were designed with adults in mind. Model how to use the technology explicitly and make sure students have access to support as needed.

Stay tuned for more insight into the trials and tribulations of remote learning.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

Student Perspective: Remote Learning and “Class Discussions”

As schools turn to distance learning, how will students with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning differences fare? Learning remotely can exacerbate the challenges that students with learning differences face, leaving them frustrated and at risk of falling behind.

What follows is a first-hand account of a day of distance learning from an eighth-grader with dyslexia. While her day was less than stellar, I hope we as educators can learn from her and make sure our teaching reflects the strengths and challenges faced by all of our students.

I started the day off by watching a video in English class and then “discussing” it with the class. The discussion was just hard because instead of FaceTiming, we had to use the comments below a post on Google Classroom. This meant the only option to communicate in the conversation was to type your answer as a comment. Since everyone was typing comments all at the same time, it felt like there was no real flow of conversation or ideas. 

It was hard to follow the conversation AND type really fast AND keep my comments relevant. I use voice dictation, which is not enabled in Google Classroom comments, so there’s a lag while I bring up the microphone with several extra clicks. By the time I was finished typing my comments, the conversation had moved on to a different topic.

To make this experience even more stressful, the teacher made a passive aggressive comment saying that we need to make sure our comments were in full sentences, had no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

 The second half of our English class, we broke into groups and started working on a new group project. My group was able to use Google Hangouts so we could talk face to face. This part of the class went relatively smoothly except for the beginning because there was a lot of uncertainty about what we were supposed to be doing. The instructions were written unclearly and there was a lot of debate within my group about what we were supposed to do.  And, we weren’t able to clarify with a teacher since they weren’t online.

Clearly, this experience was frustrating, and not just for a student with dyslexia. After all, having a discussion is about speaking and listening. By having all the students contribute willy-nilly, it sounds like no one was being listened to. By choosing a format that discourages the use of assistive technology and is biased in favor of students who can spell quickly, the essence of the discussion is quickly lost.

As teachers learn how to adapt their lessons for remote learning, it will be important to reimagine routines like discussion or explaining directions to take into account the perspective and experience of all students in the class. Try to incorporate essentials for distance learning and help all students access the material and strategies they need to be successful. Stay tuned for more from our student correspondent!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

4 Essentials for Distance Learning

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, schools across the country and around the world are turning to distance learning as a way to keep teachers and students connected.

Technology can be a double-edged sword; for every benefit there are unexpected glitches and headaches. Like most classroom teachers, you may have minimal experience teaching remotely, which makes distance learning seem daunting.

To all you teachers out there, you’ve got this. And we’re here to help! Here at SMARTS we’ll be hard at work to provide advice on best practices for distance learning, teaching resources, and tips from the student perspective.

Let’s kick things off with 4 essentials for successful distance learning.

1. Maintain Relationships

Trusting relationships between teachers and students are the bedrock of successful learning. One of the biggest risks of online learning is the loss of a sense of human connection. Motivating relationships, like friendships and peer support, are essential to supporting students’ executive function. Find ways to keep those relationships alive.

  • Use video chats to make sure students see your face, and the faces of their peers
  • Incorporate ice breakers and other engaging activators at the start of a lesson
  • Find ways for students to express and acknowledge the anxiety and fear of the unknown to keep your virtual classroom feeling relevant and important to your students

2. Keep Learning Active

Online learning can easily lend itself to more passive forms of learning like watching videos and listening to lectures. However, not only is passive learning less interesting, students will retain less information, and you, as their teacher, won’t be able to gauge student understanding. Find opportunities throughout your lesson to actively engage students.

  • Call on specific students to share their thoughts
  • Use a survey to test students’ understanding of a topic
  • Have students share their notes with you

3. Use Tech Wisely

Technology should serve the learning outcomes. Identify what you want to achieve, then select the technology best suited to help students reach the outcomes. There are plethora of online learning apps, sites, and programs (here are some of our favorites). Before students begin, help them understand how or why they are using a given program.

  • Demonstrate how to use the technology successfully
  • Check that all students understand the directions

4. Reflect

Here at the SMARTS program, we are big fans of self-reflection and not just for the students. Take time to reflect on how your distance learning teaching is going and adjust accordingly.

  • Keep a journal and jot down notes at the end of each online session. What worked well? Any surprises? What might you do differently next time?
  • Schedule a meeting with a colleague to share ideas and brainstorm
  • Don’t forget your growth mindset. Expect mistakes, analyze them, and learn! The more you reflect, the more you will be able to accurately identify the parts that are going well and areas you can improve.

Thank you for checking out our 4 essential tips for distance learning. Stay tuned for more information and resources you can use.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director