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Perspectives on Creating and Teaching for Distance Learning: What Makes the Shift Work?

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

This morning I was so inspired by the work of some Filipino teachers from around the globe. It's interesting to get to know these teachers, and actually see the work they have been doing in their respective field, particularly in promoting our own Filipino culture.

After watching a video that was created by @missliezlmejia.

I thought I could use this as an example of how to design digital content for students, so that they benefit from it. At the same time, parents become more acquainted and confident on how they could support their children's learning at home.

Designing digital content for #distance education should not solely transfer knowledge, communication, competencies online through substitution. Teachers should always have in mind that the digital world has its own language and processes. Powerpoint presentations, website links or videos are only resources that still need an appropriate design so that these become an effective teaching tool.

The essential question: "What Makes the Shift Work"

1. Design process comes first

This is the most common source of stress among students when doing a homework. When they cannot do the homework on their own, it only meant to show that the child cannot be independent because it has not been "taught" properly. Information retrieval will only happen if the information has been stored already, and is ready for us to use and extend on. The key design teaching strategy here is: SCAFFOLDING

Design your content in such a way that knowledge or skills are unfolded one at a time. Most of the time, you will need a series of video demo or visual mind-mapping strategies to show and communicate to the children what they are learning, how will they be progressing and what will be and how will the end outcome look like. A downloaded You Tube tutorial video that is very fast won't be able to do this. It is always ideal for the teacher in charge to do the demo in split parts, with complete instructions, and expectations that are communicated early on when the unit has just started and never towards the assessment time. Make use of YouTube playlist or @FlipGrid so students will have access to the organized materials anytime. Remember that ORGANIZATION is another strategy that works well with any type of students, most especially with students who have underdeveloped #executive functioning skills. The way we organized our content will significantly support how they learn.

2. Create opportunities for DIFFERENTIATION

Differentiation is one of those key strategies in supporting how students are learning. We need to practice differentiation in order to allow our students work at their own pace.

"How do we differentiate in online learning?"

Let's watch this inspirational video by @missliezlmejia, and see all the opportunities for differentiation here in this sample activity : "Tinikling" (a Filipino Folk Dance)

A. Learning environment

In pajamas, shorts, rooms, gardens etc...are only examples of how diverse is our learning environment at home as compared to when we are in school. Keep this in mind when you are preparing for materials or letting the kids work on something. Just like working in the science lab, we need to be specific as to how we want our students to stay safe yet mobile, resourceful and creative when doing the activities that we or they design.

Always give options for materials that they can use to perform the activity. Just like what was shown in the video, we can still learn the "Tinikling" dance even without a bamboo stick.

B. Complexity of Skills

The second half of the video is the most interesting part. It clearly showed us how children of various ages perform the skill. Let's not forget that development is never linear, so children who are more ready should have that opportunity to advance. The implication is that in the digital world, "waiting time" should never exist. Materials should always be ready anytime so children can advance when they are ready. Now, what about students who need more time and scaffolding? The same....they should have access to the materials that will help them understand the concepts better, and develop their skills in time. Always design with modifications and accommodations in mind.

C. Empower creativity and autonomy through CHOICES

This is another personal favorite. In the "real world" this often show itself in the type of product that our students want to use. But how do we "shift" this into online learning? I think it becomes more interesting because students have more autonomy of how they want to make use of their time. Time that includes not only deciding on the end product, but also time to decide how things can work better for them, including taking an active role in making choices not in the end but throughout the entire process. Teachers can design materials that will allow students to choose so that they still learn in the context of their interest, relevance or needs. In other words, let the students go through their own adventure, allowing for choices and mistakes, so that they learn the value of process in meeting the ends.

In the context of my private music lessons, I use a virtual music room for my beginner students. Designs like this will enable the learner to have centralized portal for all their learning needs, including opportunities to have a choice on what they are doing. Again, organizing your content will help students navigate better, and maximize their time so they can focus on the task and not on navigating through your resources.

Source of Inspiration: Mrs Schoenbeck's Music Room

3. Design Materials that will allow students to monitor themselves or be given TIMELY feedback

Exploring resources online for music, there are some video resources that can allow students to self-check what they are doing. This usually comes in a form of visual guide, along with the audio.

With P.E., it's important to provide all the necessary movement cues before, during and after the execution of the skills. This will help students to become more mindful of their practices. It's like you hear a teacher beside you who is always reminding you to do things this way, that way. :)

As teachers, we need to be more mindful of how we are communicating things to our students online, and how our students are receiving, processing and communicating the information.

The absolute truth: It is never the same as teaching them in the classroom. Let's remember to SHIFT and not FIX.

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