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  • Getting Started with Online and Blended Learning

    There are many differences between face to face learning and online or blended learning so usually it does not make sense to try to take what you do in the regular face to face classroom and just put it online. That being said, there are some aspects of getting started and classroom operations that are similar and sometimes it is easier to get started when you think about things you are already comfortable doing. The document below outlines things that a face to face (f2f) teacher might do the first week of school and compares this to what and online or blended learning teacher might do. It includes things such as classroom set up, class rules and expectations, and materials distribution. The document also addresses some ongoing operational aspects of running a classroom such as taking attendance, motivating students, leading cooperative learning activities, and assessment. Additional resources are linked in the document. Check it out!

  • Online Teaching: Synchronous or Asynchronous?

    When converting to online or distance learning, one of the first decisions you will have to make is whether to offer learning synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous learning is learning that is happening in real time. Methods of synchronous learning include videoconferencing, teleconferencing, live streaming or live chatting. Some people may naturally gravitate toward synchronous learning because it is most similar to face to face learning. Synchronous learning does offer certain benefits which include the ability to experience immediate personal interactions and connections as well as the ability to provide and receive immediate feedback. There are disadvantages to synchronous learning too, however. One disadvantage is dealing with all aspects of the technology in a live setting. You will have to mute and unmute students to allow their participation. Some of their cameras won’t work. Often, they get bumped off so you have people coming and going as you are interacting. Bandwidth can also be an issue. Additionally, synchronous learning does not allow for flexibility in scheduling. If you teach in higher education or you work for a boarding school, remember that some of your students are now in different time zones. Do they really need to get up a 5am to listen to your online lecture live? Remember too, that some families may have only one computing device and multiple school aged children with parents now working from home. This can make scheduling many synchronous sessions difficult. Asynchronous means “not keeping time together” which means that students can learn on their own time, in their own place. Asynchronous learning might include self-guided lesson modules, streaming video content, virtual libraries, posted lecture notes, or exchanges across online discussion boards or social media. One advantage of asynchronous learning is flexibility. If students are sharing a computer with several family members, they can complete their work on their own time. An additional advantage is pacing. If students are working on their own, they can work at their own pace. If they need more time to read and complete an assignment, they can have it. If they need to stop and rewind a video to take notes or process information, they can do this without slowing anyone else down. Students who work more quickly may also be able to master more content in a shorter period of time, or in more depth. Some potential downsides of asynchronous learning include isolation and a risk of apathy. Sometimes working in the asynchronous environment can be lonely. (There are numerous ways to promote collaboration in an asynchronous environment. More on this to come). Some students may not have developed the self-regulation skills to complete work independently over long periods of time. As you develop online or distance learning courses, it is important to give some thought to which learning is best completed synchronously vs. asynchronously and to be intentional about your decision-making. It might be beneficial to include some of each in your course to meet the needs of a variety of learners. One advantage of the pandemic's disruption of school is that it affords teachers the opportunity to rethink aspects of teaching and learning to best support and engage students.

  • The 7C's of Effective Communication

    As many teachers, faculty members, and education leaders move to distance learning as we are social distancing, effective communication is paramount. Communicating in the online environment can be particularly challenging because you cannot hear tome or see body language. Effective communication practices lead to a more effective learning process. To communicate effectively, it is helpful to keep in mind the 7C’s of communication developed by Cutlip and Center (1952) in Effective Public Relations. According to the 7C’s, communication needs to be: 1. Clear 2. Concise 3. Concrete 4. Correct 5. Coherent 6. Complete 7. Courteous 1. Be Clear When communicating, you need to be clear about your goal or message. What is your purpose in communicating with this person? If you are unsure, then your audience won't be sure either. To improve clarity, try to minimize the number of ideas in each sentence. Make sure that it is easy for your reader to understand your meaning. Bad Example: Dear Sally Student, I wanted to send you a quick note about your assignment. There were some problems with your work. I’d like to talk to you more when you have time. Your Teacher To which assignment are you referring? It is not clear. What exactly is wrong with the work? Again, it is not clear here. How urgent is it that you speak and what will be the nature of the conversation? It is not clear from this communication. Better Example: Dear Sally Student, On assignment 1.5, you neglected to cite your sources for your evidence and some of the evidence does not appear to align with your thesis. I’d like to speak with you on Monday to develop a plan for your revision and resubmission of this work. Your Teacher In this communication, we know which assignment is at issue and exactly what the concerns are with regard to the student work. We know when the teacher wants to meet and for what purpose. 2. Be Concise When you're concise in your communication, you stick to the point and keep it brief. Don’t take 6 sentences to say what can be said in one. Do not repeat your point several times in different ways. Remove unnecessary qualifying words. Bad Example Dear Parents, I am really excited to start this new unit with your students. This new unit will cover ancient Greece. Students will learn many aspects of ancient Greece. I am looking forward to working with you on the ancient Greek unit. There are many assignments in this unit where parents can assist their students. Ancient Greece is a very interesting topic. I think your students will very much enjoy this new unit. Don’t you? Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the ancient Greek unit and its many interesting topics. This is too repetitive and uses too many qualifying words, i.e. “really” and “very” that are not necessary. Better Example: Dear Parents, We are starting an exciting new unit on ancient Greece and there are many opportunities for you to support your students including the development of a Greek play, an analysis of Greek mythology, and an architectural study. Please contact me if you have any questions. Your Teacher 3. Be Concrete Your audience should have a clear picture of what you are telling them. Avoid too much educational jargon and vague terminology. Bad Example: Distance Learning: Contact your teacher if you need accommodations. This is general and abstract. People may not know what you mean by accommodations. Better Example: Is your child having trouble with distance learning? Is the work too hard and the pace too fast or the work too easy and the pace too slow? Please reach out to me so that I can better support your student. This is a little bit more specific and concrete because it is referring to their specific child. *** Note: All online postings should be accessible to all learners. More on this in another post. 4. Be Correct Make sure that your communication is free from errors and that the language and technical terminology is appropriate for your audience. Bad Example: Dear Studants, You must be chicking in and working on the computirs every day during this perios of distance learning. Sincerely Teacher This communication is filled with errors. Use the spell and grammar check before sending any communication. Better Example: Dear Students, I would like to invite you to check in to our online course daily for news, assignments, and feedback throughout this period of distance learning. I am here if you need assistance. 5. Be Coherent A coherent communication is one in which all points are connected to the main topic and the tone and flow are consistent. Bad Example: Dear Parent, I wanted to reach out to you to let you know that your child is missing several assignments. Also his behavior online is becoming disruptive. This will not be allowed to continue. Also, I wanted to remind you that we are having our student presentations Friday and we are inviting all parents to log in to see the kids present. I am also looking for a few parent volunteers to help facilitate in the online classroom. Let me know if you are interested. Thank you, Teacher This email contains too many different topics. The missing assignments should be its own communication. Which assignments it the student missing and how do you want the parents to help? Can the student still turn the assignments in? The students’ behavior should be addressed separately. This might be better addressed in a phone call. What is the child doing? What steps have you taken already to address the behaviors? What were the results? What will be the next steps according to the school’s discipline policy? How do you want the parent to support you? Finally, the student presentations should be addressed separately. This should be sent as an invitation to all of the parents with a request for parent volunteers. Better Example: Dear Parent, You child is falling behind on his assignments. Lessons 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 are overdue. Please talk to your child about completing these assignments as soon as possible. It might be helpful to set aside some designated time for your student to work on these lessons. Please know that I will be available online this week on Tuesday and Wednesday at 2:00 pm if there are portions of the assignments that he does not understand or with which he needs some additional assistance. Working together, we can help your child to be successful. Thank you, Teacher Behavior Issue: Phone Call Student Presentations: Dear Parents, I am excited to announce that we will be holding our first annual online symposium in which students will be sharing their culminating projects for the unit. We would like invite you to attend this event next Friday from 1-3pm online. The students are excited to share with you what they have learned. I am also looking for a few volunteers who could help the facilitation of the online classroom. If you are interested and available, please respond to this email. We look forward to seeing you next week! Teacher 6. Be Complete A complete communication has everything your audience needs to be informed and to take action. Be sure to include all relevant names, dates, and locations. Bad Example: Dear Parent, Guidance Counselor, and School Administrator, I just wanted to remind you about the important meeting we have tomorrow to address a student concern. Thank you, Teacher This communication is incomplete. What meeting? For which student? What is the exact time and location of the meeting? Better Example: Dear Parent, Guidance Counselor, and School Administrator, I just wanted to remind you that we are meeting tomorrow at 2pm in my online conference room (include online conference information) to discuss opportunities for advanced learning for Suzie Student. I am looking forward to speaking to everyone tomorrow. Thank you, Teacher 7. Be Courteous Courteous communications are friendly, open, and honest. They take into consideration the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of others. Bad Example: Dear School Administrator, I wanted to let you know that I don’t appreciate the fact that we had to put all of our courses online without any time to prepare or any training. Why wasn’t there an emergency plan in place before we had an emergency? I don’t feel as though I am being fairly treated. You don’t appreciate all of the hard work that we teachers do and we are always being asked to do more. Sincerely Teacher While some of your frustration may be understandable, this is not at all courteous or appropriate and may get you in trouble with your supervisor. There are more courteous and constructive approaches to this problem. Better Example: Dear School Administrator, I was hoping that we could set up a time to meet online this week to share some specific questions and concerns that some of the teachers have related to distance learning. I think that if we work together to brainstorm solutions and can leverage some of our internal expertise, we might be able to improve the experience for all. Would Monday afternoon work for you? Sincerely, Teacher Practicing effective communication can improve the learning experience for students as well as enhance your relationships with students, families, and colleagues. Get started by using the 7Cs.

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