Blog Post

Lessons Learned from Distance Learning

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” -  Plato

March 13, 2020 turned the tide in education. As lifelong learners, educators took a giant leap. Face-to-face instruction was transformed to asynchronous online learning within a two-week span by incorporating computer science tools to get the job done. Mentally we consider this “business as usual,” but it is not. There are many factors to consider, and we continue to learn and grow every day.  Below are some of my lessons learned from the rapid shift to remote instruction. And remember, as you extend grace and understanding to others, remember to include yourself—see #1 below!

  1. Take care of yourself. It is quite possible, as teachers, to be “on” 24/7. Teachers have adeptly taken face-to-face instruction and converted it to online in a matter of weeks while juggling family and setting up a command post at home.
  2. Keep it simple. Choose a few tools rather than trying to master all.
  3. Start with the standards. Look at the standards for your grade and/or subject. What is essential for your students to know to be successful in the next grade? Focus on rich tasks that incorporate multiple standards.
  4. Collaboration is a lifeline for keeping everyone afloat. Our ultimate goal is to support our students AND parents in the successful implementation of online instruction in a home environment. Dividing the workload among your team or teams of teachers will make a positive impact on your own instruction. Consider this: Many of us have worked within 10 feet of colleagues for YEARS. What inhibits collaboration? Schedules, adequate space for kids, time to plan together, etc. Those barriers are gone in a remote environment!
  5. Distance learning takes longer. If you have been provided with suggested time parameters for student engagement during the day and/or week, you need to determine how long it will take your students to complete an assignment. A good rule of thumb is to double or triple the time it takes YOU to complete this assignment. Remember that some students are working independently during this time of growth.
  6. Google Meet is my life. I wish I had discovered Eric Curts' Google Meet YouTube series sooner. He covers getting started, using Grid View, presenting, and much more. His videos are well paced, very detailed, and his explanations are just right for our current teaching situation.
  7. Make Google Meet more secure through Google Classroom. To make Google Meet more secure, you can generate and control a link through Google Classroom in your settings. Some other features that have been added include: Host control, built-in grid view, naming a room for recurring meetings, hiding participants, screen capture, and Google Meet attendance.
  8. We have to accept that school may continue to look very different. While you miss your students, their schedule may not align with typical school hours. What do you do?  
  • Time management can be difficult. Provide a plan for the week with suggestions of what should be completed on each day.
  • Record directions and examples as a video. This will support students who have to work independently.
  • Flipgrid and SeeSaw are tools that allow students to complete assignments in digital or video format. Imagine being able to view the work of individual students while listening to a brief explanation which outlines their thinking process!
  • Offer a separate Flipgrid so that students can ask questions.
  • Provide a choice board of unplugged activities or games that accommodate standards. Many math standards can be accomplished with games involving cards and dice. I like Graham Fletcher Multiplication Array Cards and Graham Fletcher Multiplication Subitizing Cards.
  • Have a once-a-week check in with your students. This can be accomplished via Google Forms with a one-to-five scale or live Google Meet.

  9. Innovation in education takes place in times of great need. And YOU are leading the way!

What are your lessons learned through distance learning? Leave a comment and share with the community!

Nancy McGowan is an instructional math coach at Shades Mountain Elementary in Hoover, Alabama. Nancy is mostly self-taught in CS and she enjoys learning alongside her students. Nancy has been a member of the CS for All Teachers community for more than two years.