The world of education has been turned upside down over the last year. Educators have had to rethink, relearn and reimagine how to deliver classroom instruction like never before. Teachers had to teach their students remotely rather than face-to-face and some had to figure out how to do that for children without internet access or digital devices at home.
As a former classroom teacher one of my mantras was “Manage your classroom or your classroom will manage you.” Now, obviously that means one thing when you have a classroom full of students versus distance learning, but effective classroom management is as important as ever, it just looks different in a digital world.
The struggle many teachers have had during the pandemic is how to deliver quality content, engage their students, and keep them safe while online. Teachers need to know the risks involved when their students have devices and internet access during distance learning. We’ve all heard stories about kids who fall victim to online predators, gone to questionable websites or engaged in cyberbullying. These problems are only magnified during distance learning.
Global educator and CEO of Impero Software, Justin Reilly, offers four suggestions on how educators can provide practical classroom management during distance learning.
First and foremost is digital citizenship. Reilly says, “This should be non-negotiable for schools that are doing distance learning. Students should be taught from Day One the basics of how to be responsible about using their device and accessing the internet. Schools should adopt or update their digital citizenship plans and curriculum to reflect new concerns raised through online or hybrid learning environments. They should teach students how to avoid potentially dangerous websites and how to protect their personal information. Teaching digital citizenship lays a foundation for a safe and productive distance-learning experience.”
Next, monitor your students’ online learning. In a self-contained classroom, the teacher is present and seeing their students on a daily basis. They can see whether that student is engaged in the lesson, struggling with a concept, experiencing emotional or social changes, etc. A teacher can lose this perspective because of distance learning. Reilly recommends online monitoring tools that teachers can use to see their students’ screens. This would enable the teacher to see if a student is participating in the lesson, playing online games or on social media. Based on this information the teacher has a better understanding why a student may be struggling academically or socially.
Reilly also suggests that teachers see technology as an advantage rather than an obstacle in their distance learning. There are many platforms that can make learning content exciting and engaging. Student engagement during distance learning is a real challenge so using technology in creative ways to deliver the content can be motivating to both teachers and students.
Finally, the ultimate goal is to have students take responsibility for their learning. According to Reilly, “Students need to be taught how to learn in new environments, whatever those new environments might be in the future. They need to be able to figure out how to complete unfamiliar assignments in new platforms and how to do work in a different way to meet the needs of the times. The world needs critical thinkers and those who can adapt with change.”
Education should not only be about delivering relevant content, but training students to take ownership of their own learning in order to prepare them for the future workforce.