Key Considerations for Remote Learning
Educators Share Perspectives
School closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic forced most districts and schools to forge rapid solutions for distance learning. But what should educators be thinking about now when revisiting their initial approach? To promote further conversation around this topic, SchoolWorks hosted a free webinar on April 15, 2020, featuring:
- Nicholas Kim, Director of District and School Success at Summit Learning (T.L.P. Education)
- Kristen Watkins, Director of Personalized Learning at Dallas Independent School District
- Darby West, School Leader at KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary in Colorado
Over 70 educators took part in this event, including administrators and teachers in both district and charter settings, education agencies, foundations, and K-12 support partners. SchoolWorks is happy to share these key takeaways with the community at large.
In early March, schools and districts adopted a common rule of thumb for remote learning: make sure no student is punished for something that is out of his/her control. As districts and schools shifted their role from providing accountability for learning to providing access to learning, teachers were encouraged to forgo grading incomplete assignments with “zeros” and, instead, simply leave grades blank. Meanwhile, district and school leaders frantically struggled to provide equitable access to digital learning systems. Kristen Watkins, Director of Personalized Learning at Dallas Independent School District shared, “Even though kids have devices [in Dallas], that doesn’t necessary mean that they have Wi-Fi. Before the pandemic hit DISD had close to 10,000 hotspots for students. The district is now in the process of ordering 15,000 more.” Unfortunately, connectivity was (and is) not always an entirely solvable problem; some districts and schools must incorporate distribution of printed packets into remote learning plans. According to Nicholas Kim, Director of District and School Success at Summit Learning, expectations about learning need to be adjusted. “It is not possible to do eight hours of school like students would have done in the building at home.”
Takeaway: Equity is the first consideration for program planning.
Communication is Key
In early March, panelists reported that many schools and districts used communication efforts to gather information about the immediate needs of families. Was there a need for food assistance? Had employment and/or childcare been impacted? Were older students obligated to care for younger siblings? These factors helped school and district leaders figure out how to establish reasonable expectations for remote learning in the coming months.
School leaders also shared some ways in which they prioritized communication with teachers. Darby West, School Leader at KIPP Sunshine Peak Elementary in Colorado, created self-care plans with teachers during one-on-one check-ins. “It is all about holding people accountable for doing it. This is not an option or something cute to do. We expect you to show up for families and kids, but to do that, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first.” Other communications included regularly scheduled team meetings and “family nights” for teachers to play games, connect and share with one another.
Takeaway: Strong two-way communication systems help stakeholders meet challenges and foster a healthy support system among staff.
As important as it is to create plans, monitoring successful implementation is paramount. As panelists shared, many schools created initial plans, then had to quickly shift strategies based on feedback they received from students and families. Kristen Watkins recommended using a Continuity Planning Framework, such as this one shared by the Texas Education Agency.
Takeaway: Monitor the success of program implementation to strengthen efforts.
A full recording of this session may be accessed here.