Teacher Tips For Distance Learning At Home

If your child is going to be entirely or even partially doing online learning here are some tips, based upon my experience teaching online in the Millburn Public Schools from March through June, that will help your child get the most out of their learning.

BEFORE THE VIRTUAL SCHOOL DAY BEGINS: Children need to be well rested in order to have the concentration and attention necessary to focus on online learning. Therefore, here are some tips you can remind your child to do to ensure they are ready to get the most out of distance learning.

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  1. Go to bed early. Your child should get up early enough so that they can wake up in time to get ready for class. Then get out of bed! I had a student who came to online learning literally in bed!
  2. Get dressed. No pajamas or lounging around clothing. Same student as above, came in her pajamas-and it wasn’t even pajama day!
  3. Eat a decent breakfast. Good nutrition has been demonstrated by numerous studies to be connected to being able to learn. That’s why children who depend on school breakfasts for nutrition are impacted more by schools being closed than by your child. As a society we need to take care of everyone, but these tips are about you taking care of your child. And this is also true if your child is lucky enough to actually go to school.
  4. Washed face and brushed hair and teeth. Doing this also gets the student mentally ready for what they’re going to do. In addition, it avoids giving other children that are prone to tease anything to make your child a target.

CREATE A SETTING THAT WILL ENHANCE DISTANCE LEARNING and set some standards of behavior to ensure learning.

  1. The computer should not be in the bedroom.  When the door is closed to your child’s bedroom, it is impossible for you to monitor your child’s behavior and online interaction. Furthermore, bedrooms are filled with distractions. Stuffed animals are adorable, but really don’t enhance learning. (I have to admit, we did have stuffed animal day every once in a while. Hey they’re kids! But they had to bring it out of their bedrooms and I made sure it did not become a distraction.)
  2. If not in the bedroom, then where? If you have only one child at a time on the computer, you can probably find a quiet, public place in your house. Some of my students did their best online work in the kitchen. Sometimes parents were in the background. But other public rooms are fine, especially if you have several children online at once.  I had one child literally log in from a row boat in a lake.  This is not a good idea, but I did get a good laugh out of it.
  3. Absolutely no multiple monitors! Since the teacher can’t see the setup at home-but you can-a student can be playing a video game or watching something else and the teacher won’t know. (Although in addition to having eyes in the back of my head, I was able to somehow know this too!) Obviously if you have a high school student who is doing a physics problem that the teacher is working on using an additional screen, that is something else. Parents, you know what I’m talking about.  After a while I had an idea that several students were not always focused on what we were doing. I knew I had to find a way to make sure they were engaged, since their parents obviously weren’t doing their jobs. I created pop-up questions. Some were specifically related to something I put up on the screen for a short time, or else about something we had just talked about. Students then had 15 seconds to answer a VERY easy question about what they had just seen or heard. I only gave a few seconds, because I didn’t want students texting each other to help them cover. There were no extra points or punishments-that’s not my style- but even so after a while everyone was fully engaged!
  4. No eating and drinking during class. It’s a real distraction to your child and to other children. Teacher approved breaks or snack time is okay, grazing is not.
  5. Camera must be on and aimed correctly. Yes, the internet was glitchy and sometimes a face icon would come up through no fault of the student or teacher, but really….Your child’s face needs to be entirely on camera.
  6. Make sure the supporting technology is working. This means that your internet, WIFI and computer need to be up to the task. Once again, this is where children from homes with less resources suffer a disadvantage to your child. If you are having trouble with your technology, most schools can be of help. In my district they lent out chromebooks.
  7. Learn at least a little about the software your district is using. My district used Google Meet and Google Classroom, but other districts used Teams.  They all function more or less the same way.  In addition, many textbooks are online. Our math for example was on ThinkCentral. In addition, teachers made work sheets and assignments that could be handed in using Kami and Google Docs.  Whatever the software, it’s not rocket science and you can familiarize yourself with it. (I know this since my son is an aerospace engineer- so not rocket science!) Furthermore, even “older” teachers have been able to learn this-you can too!
  8. Ask to be present when work is submitted.  Some children, not your child of course, claim to have submitted work that they claim mysteriously disappears. REALLY? For example, in Google Docs all the work and changes can be tracked. Back to you….just tell your child that you want to be present when a completed homework or assignment is being submitted if possible.

About the author

Doug Weisberger has over 25 years of teaching experience in the United States and Scandinavia, including 4 months of distance learning. He is a former Randolph Board of Education member, and the father of 3 children.

© Doug Weisberger August, 2020