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Shake Up Learning Show

Apr 7, 2020

Full blog post and show notes available here.

Let's get real, y'all! While the world is battling the coronavirus, teachers and schools are scrambling to figure out what this home learning thing looks like.

I've put together 12 practical tips for remote learning during school closures.

To be clear, this is about this particular crisis situation. These are not the same tips that I would share for a normal school day.

Let's keep this practical. Let's prioritize what's really important right now. Let's share and collaborate to make the best of this situation.

12 Practical Tips for Remote Learning During School Closures

I wish I could do this for you. I wish I could take this burden off of the many teachers who are in a panic right now. Take comfort in the fact that we are all in this together.

Here's some practical advice to consider for home learning during school closures.

1. Grace is Greater Than Grades

We’ve never faced this problem before, and we need to make sure our priorities are in the right place.

While many are focused on the tech, and how to deliver lessons electronically, we must face a harsher reality.

This isn’t just an eLearning day.

This is not a snow day.


Students, teachers, and parents are scared and suddenly balancing fears and anxiety with working and teaching from home. All of us, including you and me, need a little grace right now.

Under normal circumstances, I would never recommend completion grades, but right now, they may be the best we can get.

I wrote more about grace in this post.

2. Prioritize Emotional Needs

For some of our students, we are their only safe place. They miss their teachers and the safety of school. Even our students that have safe and loving homes miss their classmates and teachers.

Let's prioritize the emotional needs above the learning needs. I always come back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and meeting these basic needs is more important than a worksheet or checklist.

If you can, schedule a daily or weekly office hours check-in with your class. If your school has enabled a video conferencing tool like Zoom or Hangouts Meet, set aside a couple of hours to be online for any students who want to chat.

Record a good morning video for your students. Show them your workspace, your family, your pet, anything to connect on a human level. Everyone is missing connections right now.

Keep interactions light-hearted when possible. Try having a joke of the day, funny video of the day, or playing a game.

3. Choose a Platform and Stick with It!

As I learned many weeks ago from my interview with Jennifer Pearson, a teacher who had been teaching her students in China remotely for many weeks, this is NOT the time to throw a bunch of new tools at our teachers and students.

If you were using Google Classroom, or another LMS before your school closed, great! If not, you may be scrambling to figure this out--and that's okay. (Here are some cheat sheets to help with Google Classroom.)

But as a campus, and as a teacher, choose your platform and stick with it! Consistency is your best friend right now. It doesn't need to be fancy. It doesn't need to be innovative.

Create a one-stop-shop for your students--something I have always recommended. Whether that is Google Classroom, a Google Doc, a Google Site, SeeSaw, Microsoft Teams, whatever, keep it simple! Only use new tools if you haven't been using this kind of technology at all!

We are in survival mode. If we can get kids to engage in any kind of learning right now, we should count ourselves lucky.

4. Prioritize Offline Activities for Equity

We need more offline activities than online activities for multiple reasons:

  • Digital equity is a significant problem in most areas, so we must give students offline options.
  • Even students with devices and an Internet connection, shouldn't spend all day in front of a screen.
  • The distractions online have always been an issue, but now more than ever, as coronavirus talks dominate every media.
  • The stress of this on parents, teachers, and students is tremendous. Keep it simple!

Give students offline options for every activity you assign. Get creative! Offline or paper choice boards, at home BINGO, scavenger hunts, and more, can keep students engaged and entertained. They don't have to require rigor and critical thinking right now. I'm sorry, but just keeping it real.

5. Use a Simple Weekly Checklist

Jennifer Pearson also recommended the checklist idea, but I've seen so many crazy templates floating around, it's essential to keep things simple.

It doesn't have to be daily. Many schools are embracing a partial week schedule, which I think is a good idea. Assigning activities for the week will simplify communications and the turn-in process.

This can be a simple Google Doc or Word Doc, printed for those without access. I would even consider creating a 2-3 week checklist to simplify even more.

Check out the weekly checklists shared in this post.

6. Reduce Work by AT LEAST HALF

Jennifer Pearson learned early on that you cannot replicate the school schedule every day at home. She recommends reducing the workload by half. I say you may need to take that even further than half.

Again, we cannot replicate the school day at home.

7. It's NOT About the FREE Tech Tools

Times are tough. Remote teaching and learning is hard, and many teachers, students, and parents find themselves increasingly dependent on technology right now.

I am happy to see technology embraced, even if it is out of necessity.

However, the focus of what we teach should still be aligned with our learning goals, not the technology.

In fact, now, more than ever, we need to be equitable, patient, and full of grace for all our learners.

I get it. Right now, teachers need help. They are searching for it, and desperate to find a solution to help them manage this mess we call remote learning, home learning, distance learning...Heck! We don't even know what to call it because it is so new and unprecedented.

Take a deep breath. You got this. You are a teacher, and our bottom line is still about learning and supporting our students, not about finding the BEST tech tool.

Yes, it's great that so many are available during this crisis, but these giant lists are not useful to the average classroom teacher.

As Jennifer Pearson says, use what your students know. New tools can cause assignments to be late or wrong and can add to the anxiety over the situation.

Digital learning leaders may find these lists useful, but for the average teacher or parent, it just adds to the confusion and chaos.

Please do not overwhelm your classroom teachers with one hundred free tech tools.

If you are a leader, take this list down to 3-7 tools for each grade level or subject area.

8. All Teacher Videos Should Be Recorded

If you have the capability, record any live teacher videos, so students who cannot attend live don't feel left out. Even the ones without access may appreciate this when they return to school.

While we have to be careful and follow privacy and protection laws for recording children if teachers are willing to record their lessons or a good morning video, let's make sure every child gets a chance to see it. That may mean that these are saved for later viewing for students without access.

9. Give Students DETAILED Directions

Remember, without you there by their side; students have no context. They need even more detailed directions than usual.

Here's a post on How to Package Your Digital Assignments that should give you some ideas.

10. No Assigned Group Work!

As much as I usually encourage collaborative learning, now is not the time. This will over-complicate things for you and your students. Do not require that students collaborate or work together.

Those students that can work together are already getting on Facetime to share the answers. Yes, I said it, and you know it will happen. Yet another reason to keep it simple and understand we can't control the environment.

11. Fail Forward

We all have to have a growth mindset through this process and accept the fact that this is not going to be perfect.

The control freak teachers and administrators will have to let that go. There is no way to control this. There is no way to know precisely what is happening in the home learning environment.

It's all going to be fine, even if it is not perfect. Even if there are things we don't know and cannot predict at this moment, it is what it is.

I beg administrators not to micromanage teachers and students during this time. Even if you ask teachers and students to track EVERYTHING right now, it will not be accurate. Treat your teachers as the professionals they are. Trust them to know what's happening with their students. Just because you can't control it, doesn't mean we should be micromanaging. This doesn't help the situation at all, and in fact, it is adding more stress and anxiety to an already stressful situation.

No matter what your role in education, we all have to let go and accept that this is out of our control. You will learn things from day one. You will adapt and be flexible because you are an educator, and that's what we've always done.

12. Practice Self Care

Don't forget to take care of yourself during all of this! Being a teacher is hard under normal circumstances.

You are about to put on your superhero cape and FLY! I know you can do what needs to be done, but be sure you take time to relax, exercise, pray, meditate, take a long bath, whatever you can do to keep your stress and anxiety down so you can be there for your students.

And of course, practice social distancing, stay home if you can, and by all means, WASH YOUR HANDS!

This is NOT Our Tech Moment.

As much as technology has suddenly become a priority, even for the most resistant teachers, this is not our moment. By "our," I mean all of us who work in edtech, support edtech, promote edtech, and love edtech.

Leaders in digital learning are also suddenly very popular, and this is our moment to help and support.

Technology will help us survive this, but we also have to accept that survival mode means we can't expect innovative, dynamic learning experiences in an environment we can't control. Even in schools that are working hard to send home devices and hot spots, we have to accept the fact that we have ZERO control over what happens in the home.

When we return to school, I do believe there will be a renewed interest in digital learning, and then we will have our moment.

Thank you for all you do!

I don't think there has been a time when I have ever been more proud to be an educator!

Resources to Help

FREE Resources, Podcasts, Blog Posts, Cheat Sheets, & More!

I am working day and night to create FREE resources, videos, podcasts, cheat sheets, and more. New podcasts and blog posts are in the works to help you through this.

I created a brand new Google Classroom Cheat Sheets, one for teachers, and one for students. I hope these help more teachers who suddenly find themselves having to learn a new platform.

I've created a Remote Learning Resource page, curating all of the resources that are specifically useful at this time.

I have been blogging for more than six years, and have created hundreds of free articles, podcasts, ebooks, cheat sheets, webinars, and more. Check out FREE PD for Teachers Stuck at Home.

I am also creating and adding new YouTube videos to my channel. Subscribe to the Shake Up Learning channel so you get notified.

FREE Tech Coach Collaborative

I am also putting together a collaborative group for digital learning leaders and tech coaches. It's a work in progress, but we are better together.

Join us for weekly meetings and shared resources.

50% Off Online Courses

I have also discounted my current online courses by 50%. I wish I could give these away for free.

Please know, there is a cost to these courses, the platform, customer service, and providing service hours. The purchase of these courses helps me continue to create all of the FREE resources that I provide.

MUST USE COUPON = homelearning at checkout to claim the 50% discount.

This includes the following courses: