This past spring when the world shut down unexpectedly children, parents, teachers and other school support staff were thrown into creating distance learning classrooms. We can all agree that distance learning has some clear advantages and disadvantages. As the new school year gets ready to start and has already started for some, schools around the world are still working to navigate the best ways to make and maintain positive distance learning classrooms.
To help both parents and teachers, as they struggle with distance learning classrooms, I did an informal study to determine what parents suggested or thought based off of their distance learning classrooms in the spring. It is my hope that their responses will help to guide educators as they implement their distance learning classrooms this fall and in so doing help other parents and students experience the most epic distance learning classrooms.
To begin, I think it’s important that we understand what distance learning and a distance learning classroom is. According to Britannica, distance learning is also called “distance education, online learning and e-learning.” Distance learning is described as a type of education where students and teachers are not physically together, but interact in a virtual setting during which teachers use a combination of technological resources to communicate.
As such, a distance learning classroom is an online classroom where teachers and students communicate, using many types of technology, to help children learn. Distance learning classrooms can look very different depending on the resources and tools available to the student and teacher and other factors such as the amount of time the teacher had to prepare, whether the student is elementary, middle or high school aged and many other factors.
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Can distance learning work?
Across the board, when it comes to distance learning and distance learning classrooms, what most people want to know is can distance learning work or to put it another way are distance learning classrooms effective? We can all agree that no type of distance learning or a distance learning classroom can have the same type of impact as in person instruction, especially for students experiencing distance learning elementary and middle school classrooms.
However, we can try to learn from the distance learning advantages and disadvantages, seen in the spring, to be more successful moving forward. Older children, in high school, may be less affected, academically, by the separation from peers and the limitations of distance learning classrooms, but we can still work to improve in those distance learning classroom settings too.
Regardless of the school level and grade level of the families involved in distance learning classrooms, they each had some suggestions and advice to help teachers create the most epic and successful distance learning classrooms. Before we get started, I wanted to share some short inspirational quotes to keep you going on the tough days.
1. Communicate often and clearly in your Distance Learning Classroom
Clear communication and instructions are key in a successful distance learning classroom.
Samantha Radford, from Evidence-Based Mommy, thought her child’s teacher did an excellent job with communication, videos and providing clear instructions. She specifically said, “We’re choosing to homeschool this year. But overall, given the circumstances, I felt my daughter’s teachers did a fantastic job with virtual learning.”
Samantha was not alone in her thoughts as many parents, who reported having their family and student/s having a positive experience with distance learning classrooms praised the teachers’ use of clear and consistent communication and also videos.
How can distance learning be improved?
2. Be Flexible with Distance Learning Classrooms and Expectations
Valerie of A Grammar Nerd's Life had this to say about what teachers should consider when creating the most epic distance learning classrooms, “As long as teachers consider the fact that parents have multiple kids at school at the same time and not enough computers for all of them then I'm okay with that!” Valerie mainly wanted to remind teachers to create schedules that were flexible and considered families with multiple school aged children, using limited computers as they created their epic distance learning classroom.
Christen from Best Money Mom also had similar concerns like Valerie as she has multiple school aged children. She shared, “I have 3 school age daughters, ages 5 to 9. I'm also a Canadian teacher myself, currently on maternity leave with my 4th daughter. The big problem for us was not having access to computers for all my kids at the same time. It was so stressful finding the time for all my girls to get on a computer and do their work. Also, my 9-year-old is the only one that can operate a computer on her own. I really liked it when the teachers used group video chats to teach a lesson to my younger children so I didn't have to look over their shoulders and lead them through how to read a lesson on the computer. “As a teacher preparing for the most epic distance learning classroom, remember to be flexible with distance learning classroom expectations and realize that each family has their own limitations.