Remote learning – “Be honest with your students”

As schools continue adjusting their approaches to remote teaching, it’s vital that teachers encourage a virtual classroom culture of openness and transparency, says Jonathan Perry…

Jonathan Perry
by Jonathan Perry
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In these unprecedented times it’s more important than ever that teachers feel connected to their students, and that students know that their teachers are still there for them – but how can teachers create a sense of togetherness between them and their students?

The answer lies in ensuring that everyone in the virtual classroom demonstrates transparency and patience, and being patient as students adapt to this new way of learning. For teachers, it can be a daunting prospect to have to digitally ‘drag’ a cohort of students through what remains of the academic year, but won’t necessarily be reluctance on the part of students that hampers such efforts.

For many young students this will be their first experience of accessing remote learning, possibly in households with parents who won’t have the skills to help them with technical issues. It’s therefore crucial to for educators to acknowledge the confusion and strangeness of this time if they’re to protect their bonds with students, even if it’s through a screen.

Two-way relationship

Providing troubleshooting tips and making sure lesson resources are easy to access via the school’s VLE will clearly show students that their teachers are on their side. Whilst some students might be getting to benefit from modern edtech platforms, older alternatives can be challenging for learners to access properly and use in the way they need to. That’s why it’s especially important that teachers across the board maintain a steady, clearly-signposted approach to distance learning.

This whole situation is equally strange for both students and teachers, yet as many educators will know, students usually expect their teachers to have an unshakeable grasp of both the curriculum and the means by which they intend to deliver it. Those expectations are still likely to be there, even as our classrooms move online.

As such, it’s vital that teachers are transparent when it comes to how they intend to deliver their classes, and any difficulties that might force them to re-work their plans. If your original plan was to embrace various online learning tools to help assess your students’ understanding in effective and creative ways, be honest with your students if one or more don’t work out as expected.

If, for instance, you’re struggling to curate a homework quiz, why not share the difficulties you’re experiencing with your students? It will make you look more human, engage them in finding fun and fulfilling alternatives and perhaps even bring out some of their problem-solving tech skills.

Acknowledge our surroundings

Transparency such as this will help foster a stronger and more understanding relationship between teachers and students, but it’s easy to forget that teachers can further fortify this simply by appreciating the craziness of the world that currently around us.

On top of their curricular commitments, teachers have in important role to play in opening up virtual discussions around other, non-school concerns. You may not have all the answers, but setting aside time to discuss how students are finding the experience learning from home, and any anxieties they may be feeling around social distancing, loneliness and trepidation or excitement for their return to school will strengthen these ties considerably.

We’re very much in uncharted waters for teachers and learners alike right now. Making connected learning work requires flexibility, innovation and teamwork from everyone. But even during a period of such uncertainty, we’ve seen how creating an effective dialogue that speaks to both sides – appreciating the difficulties faced by both teachers and students – goes a long way to maintaining that crucial connection.

Jonathan Perry is learning consultant at Instructure, developer of the Canvas Learning Management Platform; further details are available here, or by following @canvasLMS

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