A Systematic Approach to Online Teaching and Learning

    Charles Xiaoxue Wang and Susan Gower offer tips for teachers, parents, and kids during the COVID-19 school closure and beyond

    How surreal it was as we said goodbye to our fellow teachers. We had, of course, no idea that it would be so long before we would be seeing our students. Before we left, the kids in my Intensive Reading classes were responding to the situation with little emotion, or none, like most of the rest of us, not taking it too seriously.

    These times are certainly unprecedented and uncharted territories for all of us. Helping students with online learning is a multifaced challenge that calls for multifaced measures to deal with it. We have gathered some information to provide a systematic approach that we hope can be useful to all of you.

    Suggestions for Teachers

    • Contacting the parents is essential. You can use Schools Messenger, which can send out pretaped messages to one or all of the parents. Calling all the parents individually with the personal touch makes it easier to get them to buy in to online leaning.

    • When you can call some parents, ask them what types of support they need. If they need food or anything else, you can get them in contact with the right resources. If the family’s basic needs are not being met, the child’s education will not be a priority.

    • Use an instructional design model you are familiar with to help organize your thoughts and ideas when planning a successful online lesson. The simple CAFE model below can help you move your instruction online successfully.

    Content – Organize your instructional materials and content.

    Activities – Design and develop a wide variety of online learning activities.

    Facilitations – Facilitate online interaction to increase the social, cognitive, and emotional presence of instruction.

    Evaluation – Implement holistic assessments and evaluation for online learning in multiple formats.

    • Use the KISS (“keep it simple for students”) approach in presenting your learning contents and activities online. I have already contacted one of my students to be a guinea pig for my assignments to make sure he understands the assignment and the appropriate links are working.

    • Work with peer teachers to shift lessons online collaboratively. Communicate with other peer teachers for ideas and thoughts on facilitating online learning.

    • Create a learning community of parents and provide them with online means to share their experiences of how to coach kids for online learning at home.

    • Schedule individual virtual office hours for each class to communicate with its parents and students. Use audio and video messages to address the whole class regularly. These efforts increase the social, cognitive, and emotional presences for your online lessons, which are crucial for student online learning.

    Suggestions for Kids

    • Technology check: Try to take this seriously. Although you may be in your pjs or “non-dress-code clothes” (I’m talking to you, middle schoolers…), you still have work to do! Check your Chromebook to make sure it’s working. Check to make sure your sound is working. You might be using video conferencing with your teacher.

    • After you complete an assignment, let your parents and teachers know, so we can continue to encourage you.

    • Ask, ask, ask! Don’t hesitate to ask questions. I know that teachers will try to make the assignments easy to follow, but, as in class, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your teachers for clarification.

    • Move it, move it, move it! Work hard but take a break every half hour or so and move away from the computer. Physical activity will help your brain.

    • Talk to us. This is a tough time for all of us. It’s like nothing most of us have ever experienced. If you are stressed, let us know. We are there for you.

    • Schedule your day. Work with your parents to come up with this tool. Include some breaks within the lessons. Making it match closely with your regular school day will make it seem more like your regular school day. Include exercise and family time!

    Suggestions for Parents

    • Make a daily schedule for your child. This creates a sense of normalcy and keeps everyone on track. Have the day set up in increments of 45 minutes to an hour for each subject, depending, of course, on the child’s age and number of classes.

    • Provide a work environment. Having a comfortable but quiet place for your children to work will ensure a better chance of success. Turn off the TV and eliminate other distractions during their work time. If that workplace is your child’s room, set expectations and check on them frequently.

    • Check assignments periodically and offer timely encouragement. Although you can’t be expected to sit right next to your child (nor does she want you to!), you can try to show interest by checking in periodically.

    • Give them a brain break. Encourage your child to get outside if possible, or at least step away from the assignments to do something physical and AWAY from the computer.

    • Keep in contact with the teacher. Don’t hesitate to email or call the teacher with any questions you have about the content of the course or the technology delivery. Not understanding these points will prevent the student from being successful.

    • Learn how to help your kids to learn online. There are many online resources for parents from school and district websites.

    By following some of these tips and being consistent, teachers, parents, and students can be more confident and successful in helping the teaching/learning process continue through the rest of the year.

    Dr. Charles Xiaoxue Wang ([email protected]) is a professor of educational technology in the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University.

    Susan Gower ([email protected]) is a graduate student in educational technology at Florida Gulf Coast University and an intensive reading teacher at Gulf Middle School in Cape Coral, Florida.

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