Determining Short Term Vs Long Term Online Learning Strategies

 

In Part three of the Learning Counsel’s Emergency National Virtual Discussions, the focus was Determining Short-Term Vs Long-Term Online Learning Strategies. This issue is paramount to the overall game plan for schools and districts as they transform their delivery model from one of a place-based system to that of a virtual, distance-based delivery system.

“So the first question,” said LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher of the Learning Counsel, “obviously is how long are you going to be out? And it seems now like the conversation is turning to hybrid forever. So, the real question we want organizations to start asking is, ‘does this change your organizational structure for staffing?’ What partnerships do you really need? And then secondly, ‘what do you want to do as a school district?’ This is really top of mind for a lot of districts right now.
 

“And then the next question is ‘what do you have?’ This is missing for a lot of schools and districts; they don't even really know what they have in terms of their repertoire of apps and courseware. They don't know how prepared their teachers are, their students and their parents. So those are the questions that really need to be asked immediately. And then, ‘what can I do right now?’ One of the things that we've added to this list of what you can do right now is pay attention to your integration priorities. We've actually had people in the last couple webinars who aren't even familiar with single sign on, and what that can do to alleviate the burden of all the mass different logins that kids and teachers have.

“You may be doing some surveying right now to find out what people need and want. Then you have your full underbelly of all your major systems, your single sign on, security, what you're doing in your data warehouse. And then you may have a content management system for student information and learning management systems and quite a few others. Then you look at that whole world that's on that turquoise screen, the content resources and that's a mess for most places. That's going to indicate the direction you go and your first splash to promote learning. If you're just coming off a spring break and you know you've got to move to remote learning, this is the first thing you got to figure out.

“Are you just going to let kids wander through a lot of gamified apps, full courseware, courses, or are you going to try to maintain your usual schedule? Those are the questions. What are you doing with your integration of data, short term versus long term? What does the teaching data use? Are you trying to scale in some data or are you just going to help teachers right now with a lot of data? Are you retraining your teachers to use data remotely? Are you shifting some of your staff to remote analysts? How are you having your remote staff even report? Are there new policies that need to be created?

“We're finding out there has to be remote staff work policy. There has to be virtual attendance rules. There're rules on record keeping and centralized storage keeping so that teachers can access other people's lessons. And then also of course, accumulating portfolios for both teachers and students. And then finally, there's all these new security issues that are happening that people were not expecting.”

Terri Vest, Dean of Students at Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative at the River Valley Technical Center said, “Our governor has already announced we will be out of school for the rest of this year. And one of the things that we looked at as we began to structure some options for schools was not only would we be out this year, but what was going to happen next fall. So, we've started to look at this a lot more long-term. One thing that we've looked at that is what do you do when your teachers are sick? Because there will be a point where a lot of teachers are sick and individually designed and delivered. Classes are wonderful till the teacher can't do it. Who's going to be the substitute teacher? Should we try to continue or jump over? We've tried to propose a middle path since we already had a system, we already have curriculum available and our curriculum has already been cross-walked to the Vermont standards, graduation standards.

“So one of the things we're looking at is can we identify parts of a class that a teacher might want to use that standard with her students? Because the other part is, unless you're just still teaching your English class that you were teaching before, what do you do now? It would be a modified curriculum.”

Dr. David Long is the Superintendent at Beaver County School District, a small rural district located in Utah. “For us going into this, the first thing we did was line up our resources,” said Long. “We didn't know how long it was going to be, but we expected it would go more than a month. So we wanted to move our teachers in that direction. We were pleasantly surprised to find we were as ready for this as we are. Most of our homes have access to the Internet and our local telecoms were willing to set up connections for homes that did not have them yet. So, our kids are online at home with good service in the area. We have a whole host of programs available for teachers that we were using in school in a blended kind of environment. The move to a fully online model was a transition but not as difficult as it could have been because they (teachers) are familiar with the programs and how to use them.

“Probably our most difficult piece has been getting people up to speed on how to do video conferencing successfully. And now trying to help them learn how to balance their work-day and home-day. Some of them have had to split up their schedules to accommodate parents and students and meet needs that way. So, some are on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. Others start early in the morning and go right through. We had a lot of logistics to jump to here, but it was amazing to watch the teachers respond. But the data question is the plaguing question of the of the moment.”

Dr. Erin English, Executive Director of Innovation at San Diego County of Education, said “What we're trying to do at a County level is meet each district where they're at because every district is making their own decisions about the curriculum. What they're using, their model of delivery. And sometimes it's almost school to school at this point. We're going in and we're offering supports. We're jumping on support meetings with their administrative staff. We're bringing them into zoom meetings, we're talking to them, listening, finding out what their needs are, and then coming in with a customized training program for their staff. We've been doing Zoom trainings, Google classroom, Seesaw and Screencastify, offering career pathway conversations and connections with the industry. So, we're doing all that. But one of the things that struck me as of two weeks ago because this is our fourth week now, we didn’t realize in the first two weeks the depth of the emotional support that was needed. And that was huge. We immediately started doing, what I’m going to call, restorative circles with teachers and other school staff where we just let them talk about what’s going on personally, because they’re grieving how things were, and they’re missing their students deeply right now.”

 

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At this point in time, it is unknown how long it will be before we move back to the “old normal,” and how much of what we are learning will be applied to the “new normal.” The lessons we are learning now will have huge implications on what is to come. This discussion will take you into the thinking behind short-term vs. long-term decisions and give you great insight you can use in your own school or district.

 

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