During this time of distanced learning, teachers and students find themselves adapting to a different kind of learning. This type of learning is meant to protect our communities and people we care about by limiting the spread of COVID-19 so we can one day, hopefully, return to our classrooms and normal group gatherings. However, this poses new challenges for teachers because it requires them to take the traditional classroom, typically filled with bustling energy and important socialization, online. Online education is an opportunity to incorporate new tools and technology into a schools curriculum. New apps are being created every day that can have a classroom application where students are creating their own work with the knowledge they gain from class. Timeline creators can be a fun way for students to grasp sequences of events and evaluate cause-and-effect relationships. With the online aspect, students can also share their work with classmates and get creative. Through access of millions of pictures, layouts, themes, and content, students are really able to express themselves and guide their own learning. As teachers, we need to formulate our classroom in ways that inspire students to learn. Content should be relevant and students should express themselves. We should be flexible with due dates and get creative with how we perceive participation. Since students may not have access to the same technology or internet, we should do our best to compromise with students and allow them to show their work how they want or at least give several options in terms of how we want assignments to be turned in or what assignments can be.
It is important now more than ever to also build a sense of community among students because due to social-distancing, students can feel isolated and stressed during these important formative years. Because of our need to interact with people, I believe, as teachers, we need to make sure our students know that we are here to support them and create an online environment where students feel comfortable chatting with each other in chat rooms, video calling each other, and overall still feel connected to their school community. This can be accomplished through meeting with students one-on-one and checking in with them frequently to get to know them and offer our support in these times. Students should also be encouraged to study with each other over video calls and talk about their day or academic content if they would like. Synchronous parts of class should be informative and value their time as students, and their willingness to ‘show-up’, therefore transitions should be smooth and offer a time for students to discuss what they are learning in their asynchronous part of class. While asynchronous parts of online teaching is student-directed learning, teachers should be readily available to talk to students or host group study sessions.
Online learning can be an isolating experience. However, with proactive planning and working on creative alternatives within departments, we can make this experience a little less lonely by showing our students that we care about them and that we value the time they are putting in. I am nervous going into my student teaching because I really want my students to know that I’m trying my best and that I care about them. I also want to inspire my students to learn and make the content not only interesting but accessible to students. This is a learning experience for all of us and we should approach it with compassion, empathy, and relevant content.