No matter what you believe about in-person versus distance learning for the fall, schools and teachers are being forced to quickly adapt to ensure the success of their students given the unprecedented circumstances that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. It is likely that most schools will be implementing some form of distance learning in the fall. No matter how you feel about that, Rift wants to make sure that everyone is as prepared as possible to give a great distance learning experience to students.
Teachers are a unique breed. A great teacher’s ability to read a room of students with empathy and insight sets him or her apart, but how can teachers read non-verbal cues in a distance learning environment? We don’t have a silver bullet answer, and we’re not sure anyone does. However, we do recognize that educators are going to have to change something to be able to connect with students. If you are an administrator, identify ways that you can help teachers identify patterns with their students, whether that is through behavioral training, personal tips, or technology. If you're a teacher, try to indentify on your own how you will monitor students, and what tools you might need to make that happen.
"How can teachers read non-verbal cues in a distance learning environment?"
It will be more difficult for a teacher to notice when a student is feeling down if the teacher doesn’t see that student each day. Data analytics technologies can use machine learning to analyze patterns and outliers in student behavior and performance, making it harder for students to hide behind the screen and slip through the cracks this school year. There is no need for schools to become bogged down by their technology stack, but some applications could prove useful when executing your distance learning strategy.
Don’t dismiss this section yet! We know that teachers want to teach, not finagle with technology until they’re at their wit’s end. However, we also recognize that most schools will have to rely on technology this year in order to succeed at distance learning. Student success in 2020 will come from awesome teachers leveraging great technology to serve their students well. That's why we are recommending that teachers leverage their own creativity when using the technology they have available. Schools need to be encouraging teachers to get creative with their distance learning format! If your students will be “attending” class online, consider how you may be able to create virtual spaces like lounges or chat rooms to help students have time to connect with their classroom and avoid burnout. There are several technologies out there that can assist, including Zoom, Google Hangouts, and more. If you already have access to these technologies, do your students a favor and get the most out of the product.
Everybody loves games and competition, and you can find lots of research that supports the gamification of learning and the importance of promoting effort and consistency instead of only penalizing incorrect answers. Rift recommends implementing games into the cadence of school activity at a higher priority than in a normal school year. Games keep students engage by introducing competition, fun, and a tangible benefit to success. As much as we don't like to admit it, some students don't see fun or a tangible benefit from school. While we wish we could change that with the snap of our fingers, we will start by encouraging teachers to use games engage their students.
Determine a consistent daily schedule, and do your best to hold your students to that. Will students have to be present to class at the correct time, or will videos be sent to students? Determine how that key difference can make a large impact on student engagement in the long run. Consistency will be key for students. Schools are very structured establishments that help students maintain consistency throughout the day. If students won’t be at school, and since they won’t be required to get up, get dressed, and get to school at a certain time, any sort of consistency will help students adjust to the new medium of learning.
Don't get us wrong, though. Don't mistake consistency for a lack of creativity. Be consistent with the fun surprises that you bring your students so that they look forward to learning and continue to be engaged throughout the distance learning semester. For example, if every Wednesday at 1 P.M. there is a surprise activity for your students, your students will be excited to be engaged at a time that would typically be sluggish.
"Don't mistake consistency for a lack of creativity"
One of the biggest fears that we see as students transition into remote learning is the potential loss of equity across classrooms and schools. As teachers, we must always seek to understand our students and empathize with them. It will be almost impossible for a teacher to be able to know fully what is going on in the lives of their students, but as we embark on unfortunate times, do not forget the power of empathy. Despite the fact that your students will not be right in front of you for several hours each day, teachers are still in a unique position to change the lives of the students they educate, and they do that best when they seek to understand their students well. We know that it will be hard, and it's likely that you as a teacher will feel burnt out throughout the school year. Stay strong! In the midst of the global pandemic, our amazing teachers are still in a unique spot to change the lives of generations beneath them. We wish you the best as you do just that.
Rift Innovation LLC is currently a seed-stage startup located in Dallas, TX. If you are an investor, educator, student, or technologist who is interested in what we are doing and would like to learn more, please use this form to get in touch with us. We will get back to you as soon as we can.