Many countries around the world have turned to remote learning in light of school closures and teachers have done the world proud and utilised their problem solving skills to an applaudable level.
With the possibility of school shut downs taken as a precaution in the UK, we spoke to a teacher in Hong Kong who has been teaching remotely for two months already due to school closures. We asked her for top tips for teachers new to remote teaching and learning.
What is remote learning?
Remote learning is a way of learning when the teacher and learner can’t be in the same place at the same time. In this case, because the central location of the school has been shut down, children access education from their teacher via online ‘meet ups’. Timetables are constructed for teachers and children to follow and work is set by teachers across the internet via messaging services or online conferencing software like Google Meets.
What are the benefits of remote learning?
The main benefit of remote learning is that those who are unable to access regular education establishments whether that be for disability or any other reason, they are still able to access an education. There are also huge benefits of remote learning on the environment. Cutting out the commute for learners and educators reduces the daily footprint for this. Remote learning has also been invaluable in recent times where a reduction in social gatherings has been required/advised.
What are the difficulties of remote learning?
Remote learning can be logistically quite difficult. Time is needed to set up infrastructure and to draw out policies, guidelines and for all those involved to get to grips with the routine and software needed. In this instance, because remote learning has been quickly thrust upon teachers and learners, it can quite a stressful transition.
We spoke to a teacher in Hong Kong who has been teaching remotely for two months now. Following holiday for Chinese New Year, she was faced with the task of teaching her classes online and continuing to progress her pupils, despite not seeing them in the classroom. A tall task to say the least! She gave us some great tips to share with any teacher facing remote learning with their pupils.
Keep a routine
In a crisis, this is always the best advice. But when it comes to remote learning, this is even more true. Children, parents and even colleagues could be stressed out about the situation and the huge changes needed for a school shut down and remote learning. Routine can help. Setting work and having online lessons at the usual times help to provide a rhythm to proceedings and can help refocus attention away from stresses and onto important learning.
Keeping usual timetabling like tutor time sessions, assemblies and breaks may seem like a difficult prospect but they are not impossible and can provide a much needed routine for children. Google Hangouts Meet supports up to 100 participants, making assemblies still possible. Tutor times can be filled with helpful information about looking after wellbeing during this difficult time or even short lessons on hygiene.
• Set work and hold lessons using usual timings.
• Keep to a normal school timetable as closely as possible.
Accept that there are limits to remote teaching
There are always going to be limits to remote learning. Immediate feedback is much more difficult as is the collection of work from pupils. If a child doesn’t attend the lesson or doesn’t send over work to be marked, it is way more difficult to track the pupil down without seeing them in person. If you are experiencing reluctant learners, lend a supportive hand to parents by reaching out and checking if everything is okay. Ask if there is any way you are able to further support the child.
If you feel you have made all the contact possible and provided all the support possible, accept that you have done everything you can. Teachers so commonly feel they aren’t doing enough and in a remote learning situation, their ability to do as much is drastically reduced. Accept that you are doing everything you can and try not to worry about things you cannot control.
• Contact parents of children who aren’t attending or submitting work.
• Accept that you can only do what you can do.
Using technology for remote learning
Technology is definitely your friend when it comes to remote learning and there are so many resources out there to help you with it. One of the main ways teachers are accessing their classes from afar around the world is through Google’s suite, particularly Google Hangout Meets. Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues or even EduTwitter for help with tech that will help you with remote learning. Remember, some teachers have been using remote teaching for a period of time already and will be able to provide valuable insight into what works best.
• Get to grips with the technology needed to remote teach.
• Reach out to colleagues and EduTwitter for help with tech.
Keep in touch with parents and colleagues
Many parents are likely to be very stressed about the situation. Their ability to attend their own jobs will have been impaired and they will be concerned about their ability to educate their own children for prolonged periods of time. Contact with parents may be particularly heavy in the first instance of setting up remote learning. After this, consider checking in with parents of children who haven’t attended sessions or that appear to be struggling with remote learning. Parents of pupils of SEN may also benefit from regular contact as the complete change of circumstances and loosened routine may affect them more acutely.
Keeping in contact with colleagues will become incredibly important. You can learn from one another about what has worked and what hasn’t. It is likely that contact with colleagues will need to be way more of a conscious effort. Some colleagues may struggle hugely with the new emphasis and reliance on technology. Utilise the skills of those staff who are technologically savvy, and support those staff who are struggling.
• Check in with parents, especially of pupils with SEN.
• Utilise the skills of tech savvy colleagues and support those who struggle with a new reliance on it.
Be clear and be consistent
Regular teaching requires a clear and consistent approach. Remote learning requires even stricter levels of this. It’s helpful to have consistency to remote learning across a school. Using the same software for online learning sessions as well as resources will children find a rhythm with remote learning a lot quicker than if everyone uses different approaches.
Make your instructions for tasks as simple as is possible. You may not be able to explain things many times over like in a usual lesson. So try to strip back tasks into much smaller chunks and give pupils longer to digest information and complete tasks.
• Consistently use the same online lesson software across the school.
• Simplify tasks and give children more time to complete tasks.
Finally, take care of yourself. It’s an extremely stressful time for even tech savvy teachers. But to embrace remote teaching and to support learners from afar only demonstrates the amazing levels of determination and resilience that the teaching workforce has. Keep calm and keep teaching!
If you’d like to read more about how tech can help you with remote teaching, read our blog on apps and resources that help with remote learning.