What Does Distance Learning Look Like? Teachers Explain
Distance learning began this week for some schools across the metro amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools in Minnesota were given a two-week distance learning planning period.
Jennifer Mitchell, a teacher at Rice Lake Elementary in the Osseo School District, compared the planning period to starting a brand new school year.
“You have to set new expectations, decide on a structure and routine that will work for multiple learners, and figure out how to build community virtually,” Mitchell explained.
Mitchell said she spent more than the regular eight hours a day to prepare. However, now that the foundation has been set and there is a good planning system, she feels like things are stating to settle.
At the School of Engineering and Arts in Golden Valley, Principal Heather Hanson says teachers used the first planning week to prepare and have continued to refine the plan as needed.
Are Certain Subjects Emphasized?
Students in the Robbinsdale school district are engaged in their usual subjects, says Carla Reeck, program director of curriculum and instruction. Schools with a specialized focus including dual immersion, fine arts and STEAM will continue to emphasize this focus through distance learning curriculum.
Osseo school teacher Jennifer Mitchell said she assigns students daily choice boards. Students are required to engage in learning for at least 60 minutes daily. The photos below are examples of Mitchell’s choice boards.
How Teachers and Students Communicate and Stay Connected
The Robbinsdale school district utilizes multiple learning platforms including Schoology, Seesaw, emails and phone calls. Families can log into the online platforms to view daily assignments and request support.
Osseo Area Schools also use Schoology for discussions and to provide resources for students.
Teachers are providing both technology-based and offline activities to accommodate families without internet access. Robbinsdale and Osseo students in grades 4-12 are provided Chromebooks.
Robbinsdale school staff have found creative ways to stay connected with families. These include interactive morning announcements, reading bedtime stories and videos encouraging students to wash hands and stay safe.
Mitchell said she posts a morning message with a question of the day in Schoology. After students respond, she responds back.
“I also hold daily office hours from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Google [Hangouts] Meet. Students and parents are able to log in and ask question so just stop in to say hello,” Mitchell explained.
Victories and Challenges
Challenges for both Robbinsdale and Osseo schools have been technology. Schools across the country are experiencing periodic disruptions in Schoology and Seesaw services.
Mitchell said not seeing students everyday and being able to teach them authentically has also been tough.
Although distance learning may take a little adjustment Robbinsdale staff say it has provided a great opportunity for students to teach their parents/guardians about the technology they use in school.