Over the past year and half, teachers and students have had to quickly adapt to an increased amount of digital learning. This has not been without challenges that continue to cause frustration for schools and families. The topics that seem to offer the biggest challenges are digital citizenship, online assessments, managing screen time, student engagement, and teacher training.
Challenge One: Digital Citizenship
The goal of digital citizenship is to keep students safe online by protecting their privacy. Schools should start with a written policy in place that can be used as a reference when issues do come up. It should include components such as the policy for keeping student's information and passwords private, not sharing any personal information online, etc.
It’s also important for teachers to have their own classroom policies of how to handle online interaction with students, keeping in mind the school policies as well.
If there aren't any concrete policies in place, work together with the administration at your school to decide what those policies should be and have something in writing. Then, document and communicate those policies and procedures to students, parents, and families so they know the right way to act. Follow these 6 Rules for Digital Citizenship to help clarify and set expectations.
As new technology continues to evolve it also provides new solutions to some of the issues surrounding digital citizenship. It’s crucial to take the time to choose technology wisely and make sure it’s not going to introduce your students to something that could potentially be unsafe.
Challenge Two: Online Assessments
A common question teachers ask is, how do we do assessments online? Many schools are still remote in some way, so figuring out the best way to measure students’ progress continues to be a challenge. Some of the publishers, like Pearson and McGraw Hill, have provided resources and integrated some tools. Learning management systems like Blackbaud, Canvas or Schoology have resources too. But many teachers are sharing that the use of a virtual study hall is working well. This can be used in the form of Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, or whatever video forum your school is using.
A virtual study hall time is set up to monitor the test taking, so that if students have questions about what is on the quiz or the test that they're taking, rather than reaching out and sharing answers among peers, they're able to chat the teacher or facilitator overseeing that study hall while they're taking the assessment.
Other ways schools have adapted is by reassessing the percentage of the grade. A lot of schools decided to go with some other options as far as using a rubric or other ways of measuring competencies and lowering the percentage of what those assessments’ weight was on the actual grade.
Another option is an open book test. Instead of multiple-choice questions, they ask for written answers to questions and students can use the books to find the answers. Some integrated schools are using forums, posting individual questions, or using test banks within the publisher platforms that allow students to take the assessments right from the platform. Then grades go directly to the teacher. Teachers can customize options as well.
Challenge Three: Managing Screen Time
Everyone, including teachers, have been experiencing an increase in the amount of time spent in front of screens. That's where a lot of our interactions are happening. While eBooks and technology to facilitate learning have allowed learning to continue, it can also feel like overkill. Sooner or later tech fatigue will set in. Teachers have gotten creative on how to facilitate learning online, while also helping kids get out from in front of the screen and still able to continue learning.
Some options that have worked great for teachers are:
- Creative Journaling. Posing a question to students and allowing them to use the time offline to reflect on the question that's been asked. Then they write down that information – or take a picture if they’re handwriting – and send it back to the teacher.
- Online learning tools. Many of the online platforms have discussion boards or the ability to put students into learning groups so they can work on solving problems together – whether that is offline and then sharing among their peers or doing the work individually, and then meeting up to discuss it later.
- Scavenger Hunts. This can be used in many different classes. Students have a list of questions, must find the resources and answers offline, and then be able to come back together and share that information with the class.
Challenge Four: Student Engagement
A lot of that screen time and tech fatigue can lead to challenges with keeping student engagement up. Using some of the tips above to break up the amount of time just sitting in front of the computer can help, but using ‘temperature checks’ with the students, especially if you’re working completely online can be effective. Because working online makes it more difficult to visually pick up on cues that you would when face to face, it’s important to find a way to connect individually with each student.
Finding ways to do just do a quick check-in with students remotely or online is extremely important to make sure that each student is able to have the tools that they need to continue to learn.
Here are some resources that work well for teachers:
Challenge Five: Teacher Training
Ongoing teacher training is crucial because it allows you to learn how to engage with your students better and be able to teach more effectively.
There are many places that training is available, where you're not sitting for hours in a professional development course. Start with the publishers. If you're using an online platform or online publisher, take advantage of the training resources that are available. All the major publishers offer live webinars, recorded webinars, and links to help you more effectively use their platform.
Consider carving out time on a weekly basis to become an expert in something that will allow you to reach your students more effectively and give you the opportunity to share with your peers. If you're already using one of these platforms, your school has invested thousands of dollars to make these resources available to you, so take advantage of what's available!
EdTech Solutions leverages education technology to improve learning by making it easy and simple for schools and students to manage and access individualized digital content on any device. EdTech’s cutting-edge approach to schoolwide ebook implementation and our innovative online platform and tools give school administrators and teachers the controls they need while providing students and parents with access to all their content on one easy-to-use platform with a single login, in most cases.
When you work with us, we create a personalized bookstore for your school where students can access and purchase their ebooks and textbooks on Shelfit.com. We also help publishers make their content available digitally to students on our robust multi-publisher ebook reader platform. We strongly believe that knowledge and good education should be available to all, and we are committed to developing and providing the online learning tools and modern services that make it possible.