I am heading into week four of Remote Learning, and I am exhausted. The amount of time I spend sitting in a day and staring at a computer screen is ridiculous—and it can’t be healthy. Not only did I purchase some blue light glasses, but I also have my timer set to go off every 30 minutes as a reminder to get up and move around (or do some push-ups). So, yes…it has been 3 weeks; however, it already feels like an eternity. The school is a ghost town—it really does make you appreciate the energy of a social learning space.
Despite the mental and physical struggle, there is opportunity: Opportunity to try something new…to get out of our comfort zone.
Connecting and Conferring
When I first heard we were going to be moving to an online platform (initially for four weeks and now it will be longer…), my first thought was: “How will I keep a connection with all 95 of my students?” We know that connection is important for student engagement and learning:
Thompson (1998) says, “The most powerful weapon available to secondary teachers who want to foster a favorable learning climate is a positive relationship with our students” (p. 6). Canter and Canter (1997) make the statement that we all can recall classes in which we did not try very hard because we didn’t like our teachers. This should remind us how important it is to have strong, positive relationships with our students.
And establishing this connection when you can have a conversation in person, when you see your students on almost a daily basis is definitely easier. A remote learning context creates a gap…and we need to find the bridge.
I confer a lot. Whether it is a quick check-in or a longer discussion, conferring takes up a lot of my time throughout the school week. But this is also where a lot of connections are made—having that one-on-one conversation with a student is essential for getting them to buy in to your system. Because at the end of the day, if a student doesn’t trust that you are there for them, that you are doing what’s best for them, that you care….they won’t care. And we need them to care in order to learn.
So I scoured The Google for ideas and in my search I came across an app called Kami. Their tagline is the following: “Kami is the leading PDF & document annotation app for schools. Improve engagement and interaction in the classroom with Kami as your digital pen and paper.” And I couldn’t agree more. This platform has allowed me to confer with students on their work both synchronously and asynchronously.
Here is a screencast (using Quicktime) that I made for my colleagues regarding some of its functionality:
What I really appreciate about Kami is that I can:
- upload any type of file—a Google doc, pdf, jpg…
- give feedback in a variety of ways—written comment, voice comment, video comment, highlight, draw, circle, and there are math equation options (which I will never use)
- share the document with students and they can respond to the feedback (written, voice, or video)
- work synchronously with a student on a doc
- integrate it with Google Classroom
(I am sure there is more versatility that I haven’t even found yet, too!)
At the end of the day, Kami is helping me to keep a connection and keep conferring as we navigate this strange new educational context. Feedback from my students has been positive and they appreciate when I do the voice/video comments. One girl said: “It makes me feel a bit like I am back at school getting help from you.” This statement alone is enough for me to keep using it.
Remote learning not going away any time soon—I haven’t accepted that. And although it is definitely more of a struggle getting motivated to do the work every day, I am finding ways to find opportunities to continue to grow and learn (even in my personal life where I am finally learning how to play the guitar I have owned for 10 years…ha!).
How are you keeping the connections with students? What new apps or platforms are you using to give feedback? What new opportunities for growth are you taking advantage of? I’d love to hear your comments below or on Twitter @ReadWriteMore
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