When it isn’t an emergency: Planning for Fall 2020

It’s certainly been an interesting spring with emergency remote instruction, figuring out where the weaknesses in our system lie, and just how many people in our state don’t have access, despite the fact that we are in the year 2020. I thought it might be useful to share some ideas about purposeful planning for online and blended instruction. We don’t know yet what the fall is going to look like but we can imagine that it will be some form of new normal. One caveat that I must mention is that I’m not able to provide resources for those without access. I will leave that problem to be solved by your districts. What I do want to do is offer some thoughts on how to more thoughtfully plan. Anything that you create, assuming you will be teaching online, can be used to support students even if/when your school returns to face to face instruction. This is one of the best ways we can differentiate for students by providing multiple means of instruction. So, here are some tips…

  • Good planning practices are still good planning practices. All that stuff about backwards design and the can do statements, that should continue to be the basis of your planning in online instruction as well. 
  • All content should be relevant. If you are not in a classroom, then perhaps you don’t focus on classroom objects. You can still teach the same structures. Just use them to describe the items in your home work space instead.
  • You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Consider what you already have access to. Does your textbook come with online materials that are good for supporting the understanding and remembering stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy? Have you checked YouTube for a video that explains something your students need? Do you have colleagues teaching the same content such that you could split up the work and share? (Remember, colleagues can be at other schools, not just the one where you work.) Set yourself a time limit to search for content, perhaps 20-30 min. If you don’t find what you need then it is time to make it yourself. 
  • Multiple means of instruction. One of the keys to differentiating instruction is to provide multiple means of learning. Since it doesn’t matter how students learn, it matters that they learn and that there are ways for them to demonstrate their learning, the more ways we can provide the better. Provide students video, text explanations, links to web explanations, and self-check exercises with feedback that they can repeat as many times as needed until they understand the concept. Some students may find that they learn best with a text explanation while others may want to use all forms to practice and ensure their understanding. It’s not about counting the clicks, it’s about providing an assessment at the end, perhaps a low stakes quiz or a post to a collaborative space such as padlet that tells you how well students understood. 
  • Scaffolding and modeling are essential. Provide students with more detail in the instructions than you would ever think they need. Have a friend read through what you create to make sure they are able to follow along. What is obvious to you, is not obvious to your students. By being very detailed you will have fewer questions and more students getting through the content as expected. Make sure to share models with your students to demonstrate what you want them to do. And, of course, don’t forget to share any rubrics in advance so the expectations are clear. 

Now that we have addressed the ground rules for planning for online instruction, let’s look at some of the technologies that allow us to scaffold content in meaningful ways. 

Creating short (5-8min) instructional videos…

  • Novice: You can do a voice-over in powerpoint and draw on the slides as you speak to create a presentation very easily. This saves as a movie file that can be easily uploaded to your instructional space. Add a Google Form quiz or one from your learning management system to see if your students learned the concept presented.
  • Intermediate: Use flipgrid to create a screencast. Allow students to respond with questions that they have. Then create another grid where they demonstrate their understanding of what was taught through a communicative activity.
  • Advanced: Use H5P.org to add interactivity to your video or slideshow with pop-up questions of various types that check for understanding. 

Concept checks, formative assessments to scaffold your lessons and check for understanding along the way. These are essential for informing your instruction and for students to identify what they do and don’t know. These should come after every instructional segment. 

  • Easy. Check for existing options. There are many quizlets, quizizz, and other similar game based options for students to practice and check for understanding. With a teacher account you are able to get the analytics so that you know what students know. Again, pace yourself so you don’t spend too much time looking when you could have created one yourself in less time. Google schools will find google form quizzes easy to create as well and to integrate into Google Classroom. Similarly any other learning management system will have a way to do this. Remember, you don’t need 25 questions to confirm knowledge of a couple of concepts taught in a short video. 4 questions may be sufficient.
  • Intermediate. Learning through a collaborative game. Have students complete a preferences/experiences/abilities card based on using the new structure. Turn this information into an interpersonal activity where students have to find others with similar or different preferences/experiences/abilities. If you have face to face meetings, the follow up happens in class. If you are still working virtually it could happen asynchronously be students posting their answers to a padlet or other shared space. For oral communication this could be done in Flipgrid or Extempore rooms. Or, synchronously as a videoconferencing task. 
  • Advanced. Build your own concept check using a variety of interactive content types found in H5P.org or LearningApps. Once you get the hang of it they are both easy to use. The catch is to get the analytics out you need some technical know how and access to more of a development end of your website or technical support that can assist you. 

Regardless of what you choose to check for understanding, it is an important step in the process so that you and your students know what questions still need to be addressed. 

If you are looking for an easy way to do a mashup of content so that students are guided through a learning experience that happens in one location, here are a few ideas for you. 

  • App.wizer.me: interactive worksheet creator.
  • Hyperdoc: Created with google docs containing hyperlinks.
  • Thinglink: interactive poster where you can add any kind of content as an extension of the background.

Finally, your summative assessments can come in many shapes and sizes using many of the technologies already mentioned. It is about the task not the tool. What can be most interesting about summative assessments is providing a means by which students are able to look at and perhaps even review the work of their peers. Consider creating a space for students to share their digital products. If they are shared in a discussion board space or flipgrid, peers are able to leave comments. (Teach them to do so constructively or provide a rubric for this.) Provide models and consider integrating the technologies that students already enjoy using to express themselves such as TikTok or an “instagram-like” post as their product. 

Finally, look back at your lesson. Can you identify where students have practiced all 3 modes of communication? If not, something is missing. Make sure students also do some reflection on their learning and if they are in fact able to meet the Can-do goals of the lesson. 

While I’m sure we all hope to be back in the comfort of the classrooms we know, preparing for the fall feels much better than the emergency situation we found ourselves in not long ago…


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