Our previous post My School or Daycare is Shut Down Due to the Pandemic, How to Avoid a Cash Crunch? has been read hundreds of times since being published 48h ago, outlining the real concern out there for the leaders of schools, daycares and other players of the education sector. We will keep updating it as we receive feedback from the community, so if you have not read the article yet make sure you do, and if you have already read it, make sure you have not missed the new tips added on Landlords and Creditors. Today we are covering the options available for remote education, which we urge all actors to consider even if they may seem crazy or unachievable for your organization. So keep an open mind and read on, the sustainability of your establishment may depend on it.
It’s a unique time in the history of education, schools and daycares are proactively closing their doors, families are at home together bonding, most businesses are working remotely. While the spring break season is offering quite a nice buffer during this time, at some point in early to mid April the expected start of a ‘normal school routine’ should come back. And what if the regular space where that happens is no longer available!
With risks and problems often come opportunities and solutions. Does the lack of a school space for a prolonged period mean that a child’s education stops flat? Thankfully, with new technologies, you can be in a good position to continue to offer an education to your students without them being parked into a desk with a teacher at the front of the classroom.
This is actually one of the pillars of the Montessori education system, where children are free to move about the classroom and pick what they desire to learn from, and this allows them to flourish creatively and has led to a lot of successful people. Regardless of whether you are a Montessori school or not, these tenets can be of use during this time, whereby you can offer educational instruction remotely and allow students to learn on their own devices in the comfort of their own home.
Online Support For Students
While the school is expected or continues to be closed, to ensure students continue learning, you can lead online classes via computer through applications like video conferencing and teleconferencing. This can be done on an individual basis or in collaborative groups depending on the lesson plan or the children’s needs.
Here are some of the useful applications you could use:
- Zoom (Zoom actually has a special free offer for affected schools that you can see here, and even if you don’t qualify, the first 40mn of a Zoom call are always free, after what you can just re-start another free call)
- GoTo Meeting
- Google Hangouts
- Many other options available online
Online Learning Best Practices
To keep the quality of the sessions similar to what you usually offer, here are some best practices for teaching your students online that you can follow:
- Remember your learning objectives: This transition might feel overwhelming, so keep objectives at the forefront: What is the most important thing for students to learn? How will they learn it? How will you assess their learning?
- Be specific: Give clear instructions and deadlines. If your students are not used to online classes, they may need extra guidance and support. Explain how students will submit assignments (if applicable). For instance, via email or through an online learning platform like Google Classroom, Edmodo, or Canvas.
- Provide resources: It’s helpful to send students and families handouts, PowerPoint slides that accompany your online learning sessions, and multimedia resources like videos to support online learning. Parents, many of whom are now working from home, will also appreciate suggested activities or ideas for deepening student learning, as well as suggested weekly schedules. In fact, these digital resources alone could help you cover some of your fixed costs such as rent even if you have decided to stop collecting tuition and do not want to hold virtual classrooms, because you could ask families to consider paying a ‘voluntary monthly solidarity fee’ of $250-300 (or 25-30% of your usual tuition, whatever makes sense) for receiving this package by email every month until the crisis abates. Think of what could happen if half or even a third of your parents chipped in, and how that could help extend your runway (the amount of time you can afford to stay closed while covering your fixed costs).
- Communicate regularly with students: Ask students/parents for feedback about how online learning is going, what else they need, and how you can be helpful. Consider holding “office hours” during which students and parents can contact you with questions.
Free Resources and Ideas for Virtual Learning
Currently, many online learning resources are sharing free lesson plans, activities, and more to support schools affected by COVID-19. These include:
- ABCmouse Early Learning Academy: ABCmouse for Teachers and ABCmouse for Schools are always free in the United States and offer more than 850 self-guided lessons for students in Pre-K through second grade. If you’re outside the U.S., complete this form to receive access to free resources if you’re closed due to COVID-19.
- BrainPOP: BrainPOP offers video lessons, quizzes, and other resources for elementary and middle school. BrainPop Jr. is also available for younger children. Schools closed due to the pandemic qualify for free unlimited use of BrainPOP while closed.
- BreakoutEDU: This innovative educational website uses digital games modeled after escape rooms to teach standards-based content. They’ve put together a list of free educational games that students can play from home.
- Kids Discover Online: Kids Discover Online offers an award-winning library of science and social studies material, differentiated by reading level. Closed schools and districts can request free access here.
- Scholastic Learn at Home: Scholastic created a free series of “cross-curricular learning journeys” for Pre-K to K, Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 6+. There’s enough content for 20 days of learning, with three hours of learning per day. Includes virtual field trips, article and story-based projects, geography challenges, reading challenges, and beyond.
How the Parents Can be Leveraged
As you are usually a liaison between the student and the parent during the regular school days, it might help to offer parents resources for fostering engagement with their children’s education. Parents will have more time to spend with their kids while at home working remotely or on leave, and this gives you the opportunity to allow them to connect and build a healthy, constructive relationship around learning.
Maybe the most important thing for parents to have their children avoid a “summer slide”, no matter how lengthy, is to establish a solid routine. Our advice to offer parents is to create a schedule and have the children stick to it. Keep wake up time the same, and keep bed time reasonable as well. Even if you are not sending the students home with any material, or offering online education like this article suggests, children will benefit from parents setting a schedule of when they will read, when they will do math, when they will have free time, breaks for meals, snacks, physical activities.
Parents can sit down with their kids and discuss the structure of this time off, they can create an outline of the schedule and post it in the home for everyone to see, maybe even have them sign it as a family agreement. Mention there are fun ways to have kids “learning” as well, such as watching documentaries together, having them teach parents something they’ve been learning, cooking and working on real world math with a kitchen “store”, make sure they are invested and engaged and that parents are not droning on and overwhelming them during this difficult time. Remember the mental impact and potential distress this time off can create, and encourage families to talk about any concerns as a unit.
Here are Some More Ideas for Parents
Share a list of fun and educational activities like:
- Ask children to pick a topic they’re interested in learning about, then explore that topic for 30 minutes.
- Have kids write a letter to a friend or family member they haven’t seen in a while.
- Inventory bugs, plants, and other wildlife in your yard. Can’t identify something? Research it!
- Write and illustrate short stories.
- Make a tent or reading cave and read through your favorite picture books.
- Complete a family puzzle.
- Create your own 20-second hand washing song.
- Engage your child in arts and crafts with the items you have around the house. Get creative!
- Play board games or card games. Depending on the ages of your children, you can even make it a tournament.
- Cook easy meals or try simple science experiments for kids.
- Choose a word of the day and try to include it in conversation as much as possible. Illustrate it, write a story about it, etc.
Or some more creative ways to keep busy like:
- Let them earn while keeping busy by giving out a dollar bill/loonie for chores, helping a sibling with homework, running around the yard, etc.
- Make theme days like a lego day and spill all the pieces, base a day around a board game like candyland, olympics day and have sports competitions (with as little contact as possible if other kids are invited).
- Go on a scavenger hunt, a hike through nature, play sidewalk chalk, make up an obstacle course – physical activity is important at this time.
- Create and edit a movie on the computer with or without a recording device.
- Audiobooks, Podcasts, Movies.
Parents will likely be working from home as well so all the above can help keep kids busy without a screen!
While we all wish for things to get back to normal as soon as possible, as you can see throughout the article, good options exist for the time being so that students can continue to learn and grow. Even if the closures last until the end of the school year, that doesn’t mean that the kids have to suffer or risk being held back. Kids get bored quickly and staying at home playing video games will lose its lustre, they will be looking for mental engagement and the routine they are used to, and that is where your decisions and planning can come in and support them during this difficult time.