Students, parents, and educators are feeling the extraordinary ripple effect of the coronavirus as schools shut down and quarantine methods are ordered amidst the public health emergency. In this series, we want to share best practices from our community and how our educators and innovators are managing school shutdowns, distance learning and more. Veeraiah Kummari a High School Teacher in Oberursel, Germany, and Dr. Tyler S. Thigpen, Co-Founder at The Forest School, share their plans on how to mitigate the spread of the virus while maintaining personal connection, clarity, and collaboration through e-learning.
Veeraiah Kummari, Senior High School and IB Chemistry Teacher in Oberursel, Germany
We haven’t closed schools here in Germany yet, but we have contingency plans in place to offer distance learning to all our students. As a senior high school and IB chemistry teacher, here are my e-teaching plans for the near future:
1. Personal Connection: Making short screencasts to explain core concepts and embedding them on ‘PowerSchool’ / ‘Google Classroom’ gives students that personal connection with their teachers and it could be done using simple apps. ‘Flipgrid’ is a popular one. I used ‘Camtasia’ software to create YouTube videos for chemistry.
2. Clarity: If we could clearly communicate the goal(s) of each of our assignments using rubrics and share exemplars of related content, we wouldn’t have to worry about spending too much time on face-to-face meetings. I intend to use interactive e-textbooks and smart learning platforms, such as ‘Kognity’ and ‘Seneca Learning’ with students to assign reading and practice exercises. The former provides statistical evidence of student participation and achievement.
3. Collaboration: Assigning collaborative tasks, say investigations using simple materials at home, posters, projects, group discussions etc. and by grouping self-starters and high achievers with struggling students, we could promote motivation and increased participation. I’ll also be slightly generous with extrinsic rewards for completing major assignments which might still count towards their semester grade.
4. Metacognition: Encourage learners to maintain a reflective journal to jot down their strengths and limitations on each of the major assignments which in turn should help teachers to have productive webinars / Q&A sessions. My colleagues and I will be using ‘Zoom’ to organize video conferencing to answer student questions and offer mini-tutorials.
Most of the student evidence from the above-mentioned tasks could be shared either on Google Classroom or a similar platform, where they could upload Word files or images showcasing their written work. I also ran a mock e-learning session on campus with students successfully where we sorted out the technical nuts and bolts in order to have a fairly seamless virtual navigation. Most importantly, the goal is not to overwhelm students with assignments, but give them room to relax, reflect, and recuperate.