Remote Learning Lessons

Remote Learning Lessons

It’s the end of May, and the school year is officially over.  Ahhhhhhh.  Thank goodness.  I don’t know if I would have survived another week with my 15-year-old son.  In my previous post, the teacher in me was talking.  The schedule I created was for someone in authority to present to students.  Sadly, I forgot how little authority parents hold with their teens.  Anyone else have the same experience?  Anyone?  Feel free to share your experience with us in the comments section.

As it turns out, the schedule I offered in How to Manage Remote Learning Part 1: Make a Schedule was a panacea, a utopia, a dream.  Here’s what I assumed would happen.  I assumed my son would go to bed at a reasonable hour and not treat this at-home learning like it was summer break. I assumed he’d get out of bed when I woke him up. I assumed my son had some semblance of organizational skills.  I assumed my son cared about learning and school. I assumed my son would work hard because he didn’t want to disappoint his parents the way I did for my parents. What’s that phrase about making assumptions?  When you assume you make an ass out of u and me. (Shout out to the Bad News Bears.)

Well, it’s not the 80’s anymore.  My son informed me that he was on summer break, that none of his friends was going to do any of the work, that the school couldn’t fail everyone, and that he doesn’t care about learning.  Wow.  How could I know absolutely nothing about my 4th child?

In reflecting upon the experience, here is my takeaway: Our students need more guidance from their teachers. As a former teacher, I am not happy to put more pressure and more tasks on the plates of teachers; however, I do believe teachers are the only ones who have the connections and the authority to help our kids.

My recommendation is to create a homeroom or advisory period if one does not exist.  This period would be used strictly for relationship building and remote learning study skills. It is so true that students don’t care what you know until they know you care. Our children are struggling with a lack of social time, and they cannot know their remote or virtual classmates if the teachers do not take time to help them kids meet and get to know one another. In addition to knowing one another, they need to get to know their teachers and the teacher them.

Once there is a sense of community among this advisory group, I would field questions among my students and ask them what they are struggling with.  Then, I would allow the students to share out their answers for one another.  Students know best what works for students their age.  I imagine peer recommendations would be most positively accepted by teens and other ages.

Questions that I would present:

  • How many hours do students your age need per science and doctors to stay healthy and on your game?
  • When would you consider too late to go to bed?
  • How do you feel when you only get 4 hours of rest vs. 6, 7, or 8 hours of rest?
  • How are your eating habits?
  • How much are you exercising? Do you feel better or worse when you exercise more/less?  What does your body need?
  • What schedule is working well for some of you?
  • What learning environment works best for you? If your friend were struggling, what would you recommend s/he try?
  • What are some habits you developed that served you well? What are some habits that didn’t serve you well?

These are just a few items that I have tried to discuss with my 15 year old.  If I were still in the classroom, these are some items I would make sure to discuss with my students. Empowering students now is even more important than ever as our students are forced into independence.

We are all edupreneurs today.  As we develop ideas, we try them out and have to iterate over and over again until we find a working system. Please, share your successes and failures in the comments section.  Sometimes, sharing failures can help us save time, so don’t be afraid to share them as well.

If your teachers could use a remote training on how to achieve these recommendations, please give us a call. We are ready to help.

Thanks folks.  Stay safe.  Vote.  Wear a mask to protect yourself as well as others.


How to Manage Remote Learning Part 1: Make a Schedule

How to Manage Remote Learning Part 1: Make a Schedule

Only second to the medical community that is on the front lines during this COVID-19 pandemic, admins, teachers, parents, and students are today’s heroes.  In less than a week’s notice, teachers, parents, and students have moved to homeschooling and online learning. While many companies are generously offering online tools, this might be putting the cart before the horse. If students are only working on schoolwork and digital software, they will quickly tire of it and revolt.

An important point to consider as we adapt to what could be our collective new normal is that people, especially children, seek structure.

As much as we like to think lack of structure is relaxing, long term lack of structure is actually more stressful.

According to ,

Structure and routines teach kids how to constructively manage themselves and their environments.

According to,

Children need routine and predictability in order to feel safe. This is especially important during a time of crisis.

Try to create a schedule, so everyone in the house has some expectation of normalcy.  During this time, your children of all ages will want to know something is predictable.  A schedule can create the element of predictability no matter how small.

Below are some sample schedules for you to read through.  You can try them as-is or create your own based on the elements here. Please, make sure you have movement, fun, socializing, choice, reflection, and learning.

Sample Elementary Student Homeschooling Schedule:

  • 8-8:30 am wake, dress, brush teeth
  • 8:30 – 9 Breakfast
  • 9 – 9:30 Plan for the day.  Discuss the schedule for the day, so kids know what to expect. Let them know you are going to try it out and ask for their feedback at the end of each block or at the end of the day, so they should be thinking about what they liked and what they would like to change.
  • 9:30 – 10:30 Exercise: play outside, ride bikes with parents, walk dog, play wii dance or wii sports, download an exercise app if it is raining or too cold to go outside
  • 10:30 – 11:30 Thinking Time: Do some school work if there is any. This can be paper and pencil work or online work. If there is not any structured work, download brain or memory games apps such as concentration, puzzles, memorize the 50 states and their capitals, word finds, crossword puzzles, etc.
  • 11:30 – 12:30 Lunch: Help make and eat lunch.  No electronics during this time. No iPads or phones or TV.
  • 12:30 – 1:30 Playtime of choice: play inside or outside.  Board games, card games, coloring, manipulatives, crafts, swing set, running around, etc.  Remember, only to play with family in the house and not anyone outside the house.  If parents are the only other people in the house, be your child’s playmate.  You won’t regret it.
  • 1:30 – 2 Personal connection: Feeling a sense of belonging and friendship is very important.  Kids want to know their friends and family are safe.  They worry.  If you have Internet or phone access, call or have an online video call with friends and or family.  If you do not have electronic access, write cards or letters to friends, and have them do the same for you.  Then mail them and wait for yours to arrive.  Pen pals are till just as exciting as they were 20 years ago.
  • 2 – 3 School Time: electronics are okay now.  This can be elearning software, iPad apps, or educational TV or YouTube videos.  Just make sure you are monitoring the topics. If you are not sure where to go, check out Common Sense Media for approved apps and sites for learning.
  • 3-4:30 Personal Choice: It is important for children to have some autonomy in their day.  Let them choose how they want to spend the last block of their day.
  • 4:30 – 5 Reflection and Feedback – check in with your child and discuss how the day went.  What went well?  What did you like?  Where did you feel successful?  Where did you feel pride in accomplishment?  Discuss whether the schedule worked and how it might be improved.

Sample Middle and High School Homeschooling Schedule:

Because middle and high school students are older, they seek autonomy and deserve the opportunity to start trying out their organizational and decision-making skills.  Being a real adult is not age-based; being an adult is based on decision-making skills.  Our children and students deserve to make choices in a safe zone. This is the perfect opportunity to let them make choices, live them out, and reflect on whether they would make the same choice again. I’ll be blogging more about that in the future.

  • Prior to 9 am – Pre-Learning Time: let them know waking, showering, dressing, working out, and eating need to be fully completed beforehand just as if they were at school.  Let them decide what they will do before 9 am.
  • 9 – 9:15 am – Reflect: think about pre-school choices and how things went. Ask students to plan out tomorrow’s pre-school activities now.
  • 9:15 – 9:30 Get organized:  Spend the first 15 minutes discussing tasks to complete that day, order they want to complete them in, and expected completion time. Share the overall schedule for the day now, so they can fill in blocks with subjects or activities.
  • 9:30 – 9:45 Set Goals with built-in, self-created rewards if they meet their goals. It is important they they set the celebration to make it intrinsic.  If they are not ready for this, consider offering an extrinsic reward like 15 extra minutes of self-choice time during the day.
  • 9:45-10 Set up your space: choose the best learning space for you.  Bedrooms are not recommended unless your child has proven in the past that they can get work done and not goof off. I have three teens at home.  One chose the dining room table.  Another chose the kitchen island.  The third chose the living room sofa.
  • 10-11:30 Quiet time to work on assigned school work in the order they chose in the “Get Organized” slot earlier. This is a super-focus time when everyone needs to work quietly.
  • 11:30 – 11:45 Reflect and Celebrate: Have kids report out on what their goal was and whether they met their goal.  Celebrate with high fives, happy dance, or whatever else is fun and spontaneous.  Ask kids how they feel when they meet their goal.
  • 11:45 – 1 Lunch and Socializing: Lunch equals friends and socializing for most kids.  Encourage yours to FaceTime or call his/her friends.  iPhones can make group calls and group FaceTimes.  Android phones can do Google hangouts with one or many people. Encourage your child to socialize during this time.  It is incredibly important that they stay connected with their friends and social network.
  • 1-1:30 Movement: A full stomach can make anyone sleepy.  Encourage your child to get outside and move.  Kick a soccer ball around, shoot some hoops, go for a bike ride or a jog.  Anything to get the blood pumping to their brain.  This increases their attention span and mental capacity.
  • 1:30 – 3 Quiet time and work. This can be electronic software, Kahn Academy, school-assigned computer work, reading, etc.
  • 3:00 – 4:00 Personal Choice: Allow students to relax how they choose.  This could be video games, reading, biking, playing an instrument, listening to music, drawing, etc.  This is more of a creation time than consumption.  Encourage your child to make something as much as possible.  Don’t force them to do anything, though.  Let them choose.
  • 4:00 – 4:30 Reflection: check in with your child and discuss how the day went.  What went well?  What did you like?  Where did you feel successful?  Where did you feel pride in accomplishment?  Discuss whether the schedule worked and how it might be improved. Listen to their feedback, and try to incorporate it into future days’ schedules.  Each time you make a change, be sure to ask how you will measure its success. Reflect on whether to keep the change.

These are merely samples of items to include in your homeschooling schedule during this unpredictable time. Make it work for you and your children. Remember, learning is supposed to be enjoyable, exciting, and social.  Do you best to include all of those things.  Some structure is needed to provide a sense of normalcy and allow students some predictability in their day.  Consider using shorter learning times in the beginning and increasing them as  you all settle in and build your endurance.  Attack it the way a triathlon athlete would.  Plan, practice, and increase your activity as you go.

Please, leave some comments to share what is working and not working for you.  If this plan can be improved, leave some feedback.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Anjelou

Cultivating Collaboration in Blended Learning

If you have tried station rotation as a blended learning activity and felt less than impressed by your collaboration station, you are not alone.  Of over 25 K-12 teachers who were exposed to station rotation and tried it out in their classes, only 2 said the collaboration station went well.  Students didn’t know how to talk to one another; they didn’t know how to get started; they didn’t know x… they didn’t know y…they didn’t know z.

What do we do when students don’t know how to do something?  Do we force them into it and let them figure it out?  Of course not.  We give them time to learn it and practice it.  When we are confident they will be able to apply the skill with success, only then should we put students in a situation to apply the skill on their own.

What is Collaborative Learning?

According to the Global Development Research Center,  “Collaborative learning is an educational approach to teaching and learning that involves groups of learners working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product. Collaborative learning is based on the idea that learning is a naturally social act in which the participants talk among themselves. It is through the talk that learning occurs.”

Further, “Collaborative Learning is a relationship among learners that requires positive interdependence (a sense of sink or swim together), individual accountability (each of us has to contribute and learn), interpersonal skills (communication, trust, leadership, decision making, and conflict resolution), face-to-face promotive interaction, and processing (reflecting on how well the team is functioning and how to function even better).”

According to Hari Srinivas, “Collaborative learning is not simply a synonym for students working in groups. A learning exercise only qualifies as Collaborative Learning to the extent that the listed elements (below) are present.”

  • Positive interdependence. Team members are obliged to rely on one another to achieve the goal. If any team members fail to do their part, everyone suffers consequences.
  • Individual accountability. All students in a group are held accountable for doing their share of the work and for mastery of all of the material to be learned.
  • Face-to-face promotive interaction. Although some of the group work may be parcelled out and done individually, some must be done interactively, with group members providing one another with feedback, challenging one another’s conclusions and reasoning, and perhaps most importantly, teaching and encouraging one another.
  • Appropriate use of collaborative skills. Students are encouraged and helped to develop and practice trust-building, leadership, decision-making, communication, and conflict management skills.
  • Group processing. Team members set group goals, periodically assess what they are doing well as a team, and identify changes they will make to function more effectively in the future.

Is a Collaboration Station Necessary?

Ted Panitz lists 44 Benefits of Collaborative Learning.

The collaboration station serves many purposes:

  1. It is more engaging to work with a partner than to work alone,
  2. Technology has dampened social skills and has encouraged people to live alone in their own worlds
  3. Collaboration is one of the top 4 skills employers are looking for.

How To Teach Collaboration

Collaboration is a desired soft skill for good reason.  It is important to real teamwork, powerful discussion, and inclusivity.  Knowing how to disagree with someone without making them feel rejected is a skill that many people don’t have innately.  Sharing new vocabulary, modeling the skill, and practicing the new skill are necessary.

Click here for Hints for Better Learning Groups from the University of Texas, Teaching Resource Center (Srinivas).

Srinivas, Hari. “GDRC | The Global Development Research Center.” GDRC | The Global Development Research Center. Web. 25 May 2017.