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Get ideas to improve your practice, better meet students’ needs

Though distance learning probably still doesn’t feel easy, it’s no longer international journal brand new. Over the summer there was a small chance to take a breath, regroup, and figure out how we might improve the approach to teaching and learning remotely.

Of course, the circumstances remain challenging for everyone involved, but at least we’ve learned a bit about what works — and what doesn’t. These lessons can help us improve our practice, better meet students’ needs, support parents/caregivers, and sustain our own well-being during this tricky time.

We reached out to members of the Common Sense Educators Facebook Group to find out what they’ve learned along the way and what tips they’d share with their peers. Whether you’re just starting the school year or are really hitting your stride, we think you’ll find some helpful ideas here.

Equity and access
Educators agree that getting a handle on access issues early is critical. Find out who needs equipment, connectivity, or other accommodations to make distance learning work for everyone. In addition, keep equity in mind as you set distance learning expectations and norms.

“Many states have made funds available for schools to assist families, and they may not be aware of their options (or might be too embarrassed to ask). Low-/no-tech activities may be a better fit for kids with limited access to tech. Well-resourced platforms like Google and free tools like Khan Academy, PBS Learning, and Smithsonian provide high-quality content at no cost. Use tools that can communicate in languages that your students’ grown-ups are speaking at home so that they know how to help.” –Marianne Rogowski, media specialist, North Carolina
Allow students to keep their cameras off and/or use an appropriate video background, since some students feel uncomfortable allowing others to see their living space; being on camera for fear of screenshots and bullying; and trying to share a space with other people in their household. Find other ways to check in with them during instruction.
As much as possible, check in with students individually or in small groups to build strong relationships, and encourage kids to let you know their circumstances and what they need to learn.
Remember that lots of students are sharing devices, sharing space, and dealing with economic stress, so lead with empathy.

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