Why Distance Learning will HELP the Classroom

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The past few weeks have been nothing short of a whirlwind.

In a world full of uncertainty, there is one thing we can all hold on to. One glimmer of light shining from in between some dark, dark clouds.

Being thrust into distance learning will make you a better teacher in the classroom.

It might not seem like it right now. You may be more stressed than you have ever been; or perhaps you’re at the opposite end of the spectrum and are actually taking the change of pace as a breath of fresh air.

It doesn’t matter because every single eTeacher will end up being a better classroom teacher because of this experience.

Group of children wearing colourful wireless headsets while working on digital tablets, the teacher can be seen supervising the students in the classroom

Why Distance Learning will Improve your Classroom Teaching

I gave my first workshop in 2014. It was a very basic lesson in how to turn any topic into a student-led lesson. After this workshop, my peers started slowing coming to me to ask for advice.

Many of them made slight tweaks that changed the entire dynamic of their classroom.

Others? Well, they started all their replies to my suggestions with one of the following:

  • I would, but…
  • I can’t, because…
  • That won’t work since…

How many times have you began a reply about something “new” with one of those starters?

I began Student-Centered World in 2018 with the urging of my co-workers. I had mastered the art of student-centered learning over a number of years of trial and (lots of) error. Every time I helped my colleagues, either in a formal or informal sense, they always would shake their heads and ask what my future plans were.

Many thought I should get my administration certification, but I never really saw myself enjoying that role.

When I mentioned that I was getting extremely passionate about helping other teachers, they said I should absolutely take that and run with it.

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I’m glad I did because it’s giving me a really different perspective right now, that of teacher AND educational influencer.

When the mass school shutdowns began, teachers were flustered, to say the least. I quickly started our mastermind group on Facebook to have a welcoming community where teachers could discuss their concerns and bounce ideas off one another. Literally, being kind is a requirement to stay in the group.

As the days moved on, it was clear that the panic was dissipating and instead, a growing curiosity and, in some cases, a means to an end were being searched for more than a general understanding of what was to happen.

Guess what happened?

  • I would, but…
  • I can’t, because…
  • That won’t work since…

All those sentence starters began being used less and less. Sure, there are some technical issues sometimes. Other times there is a lack of engagement with the students for a myriad of reasons that may be putting a hiccup in the plans.

But overall? Those woulda, coulda, shoulda comments turned into “Okay, well how can I…” instead.

The biggest win? “But I’ve always done it this way” has gone by the wayside.

It’s literally unable to be used as an excuse in this situation.

child working on project on the classroom floor

The Long-Lasting Effects

So what? Right? After all, once distance learning is over, it’s back to business as usual, isn’t it?

Nope!

My friends, I want you to separate yourself from this for a moment.

So many of us (myself included) have learned about new, state-of-the-art concepts or devices in teaching over the years, but how many of us had the time to learn how to implement them properly, then tweak it appropriately for our own students, and then execute it while keeping on target with our learning goals?

We’ve all been to some great professional development courses where we love what is taught, but then never have time to do more than scrape the surface of the idea in practice.

How many of your districts have had the luck of going 1:1 with technology (or at least the ability to have the technology when you request it), but the devices turn into just new ways to do the same paper activities, yes?

We have literally been given a gift right now.

Raise your hand if you’ve learned about a new program or app or website in all of this that is helping you in some way.

I do a Facebook Live in our Mastermind Group each Sunday at 3 pm EST. This past week, I did one on how you can use Pinterest (of all things) to help you find hands-on activities, virtual field trips, etc. while distance learning.

Guess what! All of these fun new tools that you’re using to try to engage your students digitally won’t be going anywhere once you’re back in the classroom!

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Truly, this entire situation has a giant silver lining: it is taking everyone out of their comfort zone and making them learn something new. Students, teachers, administrators, everybody.

Obviously we wish it wasn’t happening, but if there is a silver lining for education, this is it.

We need to take this moment and seize it for all it’s worth. Check out this video from our second Facebook Live in our Mastermind Group that explains this unprecedented opportunity we’ve been given:

Now what?

It’s important to make sure you are keeping track of everything you are doing. You can create a spreadsheet or a running list that is handwritten, however you feel the most comfortable when it comes to organization (as tech-savvy as I am, I must psychically write on a calendar to keep myself together).

The purpose of this is so you can refer back to what you enjoyed or learned a lot about, even if you only used it a bit. You can revisit for other lessons and activities once you return to the classroom.

Props if you have the steam left at the end of the day to actually start making some of those changes for future lessons for next school year!

Also, consider taking the time to work on some professional development that you’ve been wanting to do and didn’t have the time for….or the time to implement.

Now is the time to sieze that moment!

My own professional development course that I offer explains how to turn your classroom into a 100% student-centered environment. Unlike other PD courses that discuss a lot of theory and then leave you on your own to implement (have you noticed yet that I hate that?), you will actually be creating your lesson (or unit) as you go, so by the time you’ve finished the course, you’re already set in motion.

And guess what? You can incorporate a lot of your “new toys” into your lessons!

Join our waiting list to hear more about “A Passion for Progress: Becoming a 100% Student-Centered Educator”

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