Creating classroom community in a digital space

One of my favorite parts of being an educator is the sense of community that is created with each new class of students. Fostering that feeling in person has its challenges of course, but is a bit easier to administer and coach when you’re face to face. When asked to build that same sense of community with my students through a computer screen as we went into a distance learning mode, my brain started to misfire. How am I going to do that? Are the students going to be engaged in their learning? Will they be able to feel that sense of belonging in a virtual classroom setting? So, after a few days of crying and worrying, I accepted this new challenge.

My teaching and tech skills were going to be put to the ultimate test.

As I’m reflecting on this past school year, I think it’s the strongest bond I’ve ever built with a group of students, thanks in part to technology and the community building that had to initially happen in our virtual classroom. My goal for this article is to share strategies and tips that worked well and helped me nurture and grow that strong teacher to student relationship through a screen, despite the collective challenges we faced.…Read More

5 learning strategies that are here to stay

Each year, we share our 10 most-read stories. Not surprisingly, many of this year’s Top 10 focused on student engagement and online or hybrid learning strategies related to pandemic teaching. This year’s 4th most-read story focuses on some learning strategies that have staying power.

In 2020, students, teachers, and parents made an extraordinary pivot to distance learning with no preparation at all. From the district perspective, investments have been made in technology and infrastructure that may not have been made otherwise. We all gained phenomenal skills and insights as a result of having to make this abrupt turn, and then having to sustain that as the global pandemic persisted.

Now, we’re at a point where students, parents, and teachers all deserve to sustain those investments and the skills that they’ve built over time in order to reach one another and continue the learning. There will be some undeniable academic, social, and emotional gaps, of course, because kids have been away from their friends, teachers have been away from their classrooms, and school leaders have been away from their buildings.…Read More

Could digital citizenship be the most important pandemic lesson?

When the pandemic prompted schools to quickly shift to distance learning last spring, educators became responsible for using online technologies to teach students. This was the first time that many educators had to grapple not only with virtual classroom management, but with helping their students learn the ins and outs of staying safe online. This included a crash course in learning and behaving online.

This set of “online manners” is referred to as digital citizenship, which is how we should behave when using digital tools, interacting with others online, and becoming better stewards of technology.

As a leader of a nonprofit where young kids connect and learn online, we prioritize teaching kids these important skills that will take them well into adulthood. …Read More

2 teacher perspectives on ELLs and learning loss

Since the pandemic started, teachers and students have had to transition from brick-and-mortar classrooms to virtual environments, and back. During this time, learning loss–the reversal of academic progress due to disrupted formal education–has been of significant concern to educators. Unfortunately, studies show that English Language Learners (ELLs) have been disproportionately impacted by learning loss, as compared to their peers.

According to the OECD, school closures and distance learning measures have put ELLs at a greater disadvantage compared to the general student population. A learning gap, which existed prior to the pandemic, is widening across the United States. At the same time, the demands of virtual and hybrid learning have put incredible strains on teachers throughout the pandemic. 

This issue has become a point of controversy for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers, who do not feel the term ‘learning loss’ accurately describes the complex situation faced by ELLs in America.  …Read More