While much of the world is on quarantine, all educators’ eyes have shifted to distance learning. We want to continue teaching our students. We want to make sure our students and their families are okay. Distance learning gives us the opportunity to do both.
There are hundreds of companies at this point offering services for free in order to keep children learning and entertained while at home for an extended period. Many have a caveat, however: they require a classroom teacher to sign up for a service and provide an access code to the parents. This is doable, but it’s a huge undertaking. So how can we choose the best services for our students?
Video Distance Learning
In this category, there seem to be two main options that stand out among the rest. Zoom (website: zoom.us) seems to be far and away the most popular distance learning platform being used right now. This is one of the companies that are catering to teachers and students right now. With a free plan, they have removed the time limits usually in place for video meetings, allowing video sessions at no cost. If you want a tutorial for setting up and using Zoom for distance learning, visit my tutorial Using Zoom for Distance Learning!
The second-place platform is Google Meet and Google Hangout, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about this platform. Educators that I’ve spoken with have preferred Zoom over the Google applications for various reasons. However, this is still a free option that can do the job when it comes to distance learning.
The benefit of both platforms is that you can participate via computer, tablet or phone. This opens doors for families that may not have a computer or tablet but are able to use their cell phones. Because of its nature, video distance learning is easily implemented into any grade level, subject area, and content area from K-12.
As a kindergarten teacher, I am still wrapping my brain around how I can use this resource with my kiddos. Most of my kiddos are not computer-savvy. Some are still beginning- or pre- readers, making it difficult for me to utilize this to its full potential. However, I am determined to find a way and I will update when I do!
Other grade levels 1-12, however, can utilize this platform to create and assign work easily and interact, comment, and communicate with students as they work. I used Google Classroom a few years ago when I taught fourth grade, and it was so interactive in the fact that I could literally watch students working and comment in real time. This was a great instructional tool and would be great for distance learning.
I think this is a little overlooked at this point because it seems basic-and it is. But over the past week I have emailed many, many work packets that parents are willing to print on their own and have their children work on, which is more ideal at the kindergarten level. Innovation is awesome, but some basics are effective as well.
Not only have I sent printable work, but I’ve also clarified standards, sent main objectives, and reassured parents and families that are trying to help their children continue learning. The power in a simple email is distance learning as well.
Resources for Distance Learning
This is a list of some of the resources you can share directly with families. I compiled this list using my own criteria. It had to be useful, require minimal account setup, and be appealing in content. Click each title below to go directly to the resource! In no particular order:
- Vooks: this platform runs animated storybooks online. The pages of a story literally come to life! Parents can sign up on their own, and the first month is free.
- Scholastic Learn at Home: Scholastic has provided four weeks of day-by-day lesson plans, stories, and related activities in writing and math to keep kids learning. The whole program is created specifically for distance learning. It’s organized by grade level, and parents can access it for free.
- edHelper: Offering free daily worksheets and challenges for students by grade level. No account required.
- Zoos and Museums: This link to a people.com article provides links to 48 free virtual trips to museums, aquariums, and zoos around the world!
I hope this list has given you some inspiration for guiding your students’ instruction and creating some learning for them. Be safe and stay healthy, friends!