Distance Learning during the Pandemic: Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
In the early spring of 2020, schools had to pivot with little or no preparation. This left many districts scrambling to find technical resources for their teachers. Quite often, the teachers have had to conduct their own research to find the best tools to utilize for long distance learning.
In contrast, what was a difficult situation turned out to be one of opportunity for innovation and ingenuity. “Classrooms” were set up in home offices, living rooms, dens, wherever space would allow for a teacher to instruct while employing the use of a webcam, headset, and a dry-erase board. From there, a combination of “live” class meetings, slideshows or videos, and uploaded assignments became the norm—while the hardest hit schools relied on the distribution of packets to parents driving through the parking lot. At this point, the classroom began to evolve.
Adapting to Ever-changing Conditions
Then what seemed to be a temporary arrangement emerged as the new normal. As case numbers of Covid-19 have fluctuated throughout the U.S., more school districts have put off in-person instruction while waiting for the virus to subside. The summer months, however, have not only given teachers a much-needed break but also more time to plan for distance learning.
Fortunately, administrators and teachers are now able to access resources that made adapting to distance learning less complicated. Therefore, the dawn of the new school year started off with teachers creating structured meeting schedules, incorporating technology on a more consistent basis and choosing the applications and platforms that would best suit their students’ needs. Some of the frequently used sites that prove to be both flexible and effective include:
Some of these platforms offer analytical tools to track students’ progress and make decisions regarding lesson planning and instruction. Others provide an efficient means to communicate with parents and students. All of them also have a tutorial available to help with the onboarding process. Thus, by utilizing these resources, an instructor can transition smoothly to the new learning environment.
Furthermore, a social network for teachers exists that also provides a virtual classroom. Pedagogue features tutorials to help new members navigate the site and its tools. Best of all, educators have a place to go for insight into virtual (or in-person) instruction, access to the latest information that centers around the world of education, and the ability to create their own virtual classroom either for live streaming or for recording lessons for their students. This combination of an online group of professionals and the teaching tool will lead instructors into the new world of educational technology to not only overcome the challenges of today’s pandemic crisis but also to evolve with the changes that are constantly occurring in this field.
Overcoming the Odds and Looking to the Future
With so many tools and sites available, distance learning can be tailored to optimize the educational experience. Likewise to overcome the initial obstacles one can employ many of the same tried-and-true practices of in-person learning such as:
· Reaching out to colleagues for advice
· Adapting instruction and adding variety to lessons to further engage students
· Keeping objectives focused and measurable
· Making the lesson as interactive as possible
Most of all, teachers can have faith in their abilities to provide the education that will move their students forward into their future, and at this moment, they’re also providing a vital connection and the compassion that students need during this time of uncertainty.