The ripple effects of COVID-19 have thrust the world into uncertain times, and especially schools and students. As K–12 educators try to adjust to a new reality, many stories in the media note a tension between maintaining academic expectations while also supporting students’ basic needs. But these priorities don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Students can and should continue their learning during stay-at-home mandates. But getting remote learning to work well requires feedback loops between schools and families. Never have frequent and meaningful check-ins been more important in providing the responsiveness and flexibility required to keep students from falling through COVID-19’s cracks. One of the keys to success for any effective distance learning program is taking into account students’ personal circumstances, such as their home life, home resources, and access to technology.

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But, to ensure check-ins happen, educators need one thing that may be in short supply: capacity. Due to constantly changing and often confusing remote learning instructions, as well as their own home life challenges, educators may struggle with prioritizing time and attention to connect with students in a structured way. Yet, with the right online resources and edtech tools at their disposal, teachers can find ways to focus on both academics and positive relationships.

About the Author:

Thomas Arnett is a senior research fellow in education for the Clayton Christensen Institute. His work focuses on studying innovations that amplify educator capacity, documenting barriers to K-12 innovation, and identifying disruptive innovations in education.


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