Educators have long known that one of the most important skills to instill in their students is the ability to collaborate. Because solutions to the most difficult problems often require the input and contributions of teams, the earlier children can develop these essential interpersonal skills, the better prepared they will be to overcome complex challenges.
Due to the uncertainty that COVID-19 has caused for school districts nationwide, and the reality that hybrid and virtual learning will play a significant role in the 2020-2021 school year, it’s crucial that teachers continue thinking about what effective, distanced collaborative learning looks like. For a few best practices you can employ today, we invite you to read below.
The Importance of Equity and Understanding
Before quality virtual learning can take place, educators must understand that each student has unique challenges. While it may seem obvious that not all students have access to essential technology, a stable internet connection or a quiet workspace, it can sometimes be easy to create lesson plans that assume any number of scenarios. According to professor and bestselling author John Spencer, patience and understanding in this new environment is key. “Please show students grace with online learning,” Spencer recommends in an article on his website. He goes on to say that in a K-12 environment, some students may be caring for younger siblings, sharing a single computer device and living in various states of debilitating uncertainty. When in doubt, Spencer suggests applying empathy to these difficult situations.
Brainstorming From Anywhere
Brainstorming is an effective way to produce a large number of ideas in a short amount of time. While it is likely you have used this strategy in a traditional classroom setting, adapting this same activity for remote learning can also produce impressive results. For this scenario, separate your students into groups and use your video conferencing platform to create small “breakout rooms.” In these groups, encourage children to spend five minutes coming up with as many ideas as possible to solve a problem. During each of these sessions, one child should be responsible for recording the responses, and then hand over the responsibility to a fellow classmate. Remind your class that during brainstorming sessions, there are no bad ideas! This will help create a comfortable online learning environment where students feel confident enough to express themselves.
In an article for Edutopia, Kareem Farah, Executive Director at The Modern Classrooms Project, explains that what many students miss when transitioning to a virtual learning environment is the human connection cultivated in traditional school settings. To mitigate this, he suggests “creating structures for personalized touchpoints,” which can include phone calls, emails and video messages. Online learning formats also create the unique ability to praise and encourage on a large scale. Consider creating a class webpage to act as a hub for these interactions to occur. Assigning your students to post at least one positive message a week directed toward another classmate can go a long way in helping them build the socio-emotional skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Learn More About NIHF’s Back-to-School Learning Solutions
Here at the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, we understand that the upcoming school year will be filled with uncertainty. Because of this, our team of education experts has created a number of solutions that will help make educators’ lives easier no matter what their school year looks like. To learn more about these educational programs, we invite you to visit our website.