5 Keys for Successful Remote Learning

There is a lot to consider as schools either begin the school year or reassess where they currently are based upon the current COVID19 situation. Here in the United States, many school districts are adopting a hybrid model when they open in the fall, while others have made the decision to start remotely.  With the latter, it is imperative that any challenges and mishaps from the spring are addressed now to ensure better implementation at scale. The fact of the matter is that there were too many examples of how it didn’t work across the country.  Time is of the essence to get it right so that all kids can benefit from a quality learning experience that pushes them to think while limiting learning loss and achievement gaps.
Remote learning does not mean piling on excessive amounts of work on our learners. It also should not require them to be on a device for all of their learning activities. Non-digital assignments have just as much value and can give kids a much-needed break from screens.  When technology is used, sound planning ensures there is a balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning while building in breaks for movement, mindfulness, and other essential brain breaks.
There have always been issues with equity when it comes to education. However, the current pandemic and social justice movements across the globe have brought a more unified focus on the work that needs to be done.  In a previous post, I shared these thoughts:

COVID19 has unveiled the harsh reality of the inequities that plague learners in virtually every country. Where you live, in particular, has had a direct correlation to whether or not remote learning has been successful in many schools. The “haves” have tended to prosper while the “have nots” have suffered. We can ill-afford not to address this fact. Additionally, the digital divide is wider than many perceived. Access to devices and reliable WIFI needs to be emphasized.

Kids also need access to equitable resources and learning experiences. 
Pedagogy 
Let’s begin with engagement. If students are not engaged, then they most likely are not learning.  Herein lies why it is crucial to make sure that passive consumption of content and low-level activities are followed with more opportunities for active learning.  Successful remote learning is dependent on the consistent utilization of effective teaching strategies and pedagogy that empowers all kids to think and apply their thinking in relevant ways. The Rigor Relevance Framework is a fantastic tool for teachers to develop pedagogically sound tasks, both with and without technology. It also provides school leaders with a lens to provide valuable feedback to teachers when it comes to addressing priority standards, implementing scaffolding techniques, creating performance tasks, and developing quality assessments. 
From here, schools can begin to focus on a remote blended learning model that can serve as a foundation for all K-12 classrooms to create a more personalized experience.  


Professional Learning
Many schools were not prepared when the pandemic hit. Going forward, this excuse cannot and should not be used.  Over the summer, there has been ample time to support both teachers and administrators to plan and implement remote learning successfully. However, this has also been a time of considerable fluctuation and flip-flopping on opening plans in relation to COVID19 infection rates. If professional learning was not emphasized, it’s definitely not too late.  Think about experiences that reflect the conditions where your students will be expected to learn remotely. Foundations workshops and deep dives that address the areas noted in the pedagogy section above represent a solid start. For success, though, a commitment to job-embedded and on-going support in the form of coaching, mentoring, advising, and consistent evaluation of the remote learning plan is needed, with refinement and improvement being the main goals.
Family Engagement
It goes without saying that parents and guardians have many questions and concerns regarding how schools will effectively implement remote learning in the near term. Begin with meticulous planning using the information provided in the key focus areas previously covered above. Then think about strategies to inform and educate families as to what their kids can expect. Digital leadership compels us to meet them where they are and engage in two-way communications using a hybrid approach. Also, consider providing opportunities for them to experience remote learning actively. I have worked with many schools and districts, facilitating webinars for parents on the topic since the pandemic hit to ease concerns and illustrate validity in the approaches being embraced.
To dive deeper into various remote learning elements, please visit this comprehensive Pinterest board that covers teaching, edtech, and SPED strategies as well as abiding by privacy laws.  It is essential to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to remote learning. Each district is unique in terms of resources and demographics.  Success hinges upon taking and applying the key focus areas listed above and aligning them with your respective classroom, school, or district culture.