Tuesday, April 7, 2020

10 Things You Should Know About Distance Learning 

For the past few years deeper learning, or DL, has been making its way to classrooms everywhere. Due to the current challenges facing the world and the world of education, those two letters have now come to mean something completely different, distance learning. What wasn't on anyone's mind a month ago and what seemed like an impossible task less than three weeks ago, has quickly become a daily routine for many. Although far from perfect and certainly not anything like being in school, distance learning has forced us to look at our practices from many different perspectives and got me thinking...

It's okay to make mistakes. I have long believed that as educators there is nothing wrong with showing students we are not the keepers of all knowledge, in fact, acknowledging our opportunities for growth and modeling the learning process is cause for celebration. Distance learning has forced us to embrace this mindset.

Communication has never been so important. The necessary changes to our routines that we've had to accept have been stressful for many, however consistent messaging and accurate dissemination of information makes a world of difference. What we say and how we say it matters now more than ever.

Patience. Distance learning has been placed in everyone's toolbox literally overnight. That "everyone" includes teachers, parents, students, administrators, paraprofessionals, office staff, school committee, and community members. If you are involved with distance learning in any way, I can guarantee you that today you will cross virtual paths with someone who seems to be able to do it all better, and someone who feels that way about you.

Don't pretend that it's just like being in school because it isn't. This is different, very, very different. I wish I could outline all the ways it's a deviation from the norm, but I haven't even begun to enumerate them. The point is to embrace the current reality and use your strengths and creativity to make it work for the students.

Have an open mind. Gone are the days of struggling to locate resources in order to meet the needs of your student. There may be many more challenges and unknowns due to the shift to distance learning but there are also a plethora of solutions. Embrace new ideas and different ways of thinking that are presented to you.

Support from colleagues is an essential piece to making distance learning work. For years now we have been saying they we need to view student as "ours" not "mine", this is our chance to prove it. The task before us to too broad to take on alone, we need to rely on one another in order to make it work.

Honest and respectful dialogue should be encouraged. We are all in this together but we will most likely not all be in agreement on how to do it all the time. It is essential that we maintain an environment that allows for individuals to share their thoughts and ideas through appropriate forums and without fear.

Organization and keeping up with digital communication is no longer a luxury. If your email inboxes and drives aren't getting full, you might want to check if your internet is connected. In these times of constant change and updates, it is crucial that people get timely responses. There can be some negative consequences if correspondences get lost or ignored.

Trust. Now that educators are in everyone's homes and families are in every classroom, an entirely new level of transparency has been revealed. All parties involved are getting a peak behind the curtain. Discretion and responsibility must be exercised as our personal and professional lives have become less private.

Professional relationships are being formed. Without the physical barriers of rooms and with the absolute necessity to collaborate, colleagues who may not ordinarily cross paths are now seeking one another out. Furthermore, distance learning has created opportunities for leaders among our learning communities to emerge.

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