Site icon Laura Randazzo – Solutions for the Secondary Classroom

Keep it Simple, Sweetie (Online Learning)

Today’s post comes from an email I received this week from a high school English teacher. I’m sharing our conversation with her permission, though I changed her name for privacy.

Hi Laura,
Next Monday, my school district is set to return with a hybrid learning model – “A” Cohort in person on Mondays and Wednesdays, “B” Cohort in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and everyone online with Virtual Learning on Fridays with Canvas.

I was wondering if you have any advice or material regarding Canvas, Virtual Learning, safety protocols, COVID – basically anything that might help me help my students as we face these new challenges.

Thank you in advance,

Hi Kathleen,
Thanks so much for thinking of me! I’m afraid I’m facing the Great Unknown just like everyone else, and I have so many more questions than answers. On the blog, I try to present solutions that I’ve used and enjoyed in my own classroom, but all of this COVID/distance learning stuff is foreign ground. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t published much e-learning advice this summer. Why so quiet? First, I’m drained. Second, I haven’t taught online (never used the Canvas interface – sorry) and don’t feel comfortable advising my peers on something I haven’t done myself.

The greatest source of answers and comfort that I’ve found has come from talking with teacher friends (everyone = same boat) and kicking around ideas in Facebook Groups – my favorite one is called 2ndaryELA.

My advice? Keep things as simple as possible for both you and your kids. To me, fewer layers of tech to navigate is better, at least until we figure out best practices and form a set plan. I worry about folks throwing too many apps, add-ons, and online software programs at kids. I mean, they have six or seven teachers a day and I can only imagine the labyrinth of links we’re all about to launch. Oof! Instead, make it easy on everyone and just post PDFs and online slide decks. If you want to get a little fancy, you can follow this advice about turning a PDF into an interactive worksheet, but I don’t suggest folks take on much beyond this right now:

Yesterday, I was talking with a close friend who teaches Eng. 9-11. Like most of us, she’s hoping for the best but planning for the worst. She’s lost count of the hours she’s spent transforming in-class lessons to fit her new Google Classroom, learning a slew of new programs, and building what really is the cutest Bitmoji Classroom of them all. Still, I asked her if less might be more. Her answer? She’s worried that her new students won’t respect her if she doesn’t “wow” them at the beginning of the year. Oh, sweetie, I wish I’d said at that moment, the kids will connect with you because of the wonderful person you are, not the code you know.

I’m sorry I don’t have more tangible advice to offer, Kathleen, but I’m just taking everything day by day for now. It’s a scary, frustrating time and I don’t know what this new year will look like, but I gotta believe the chaos will burn away and workable solutions will reveal themselves. When I find them, you know I’ll spread the word.

Hang in there,

Okay, teacher friends, what’s your plan for the new year? Is there an e-learning “must have,” “must do,” or “must avoid” that Kathleen/every teacher should know about? Leave your ideas, comments, and/or commiserations in the reply box below. And, as always, teach on.

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