Welcome to the era of emergency distance learning.
In these unprecedented times, teachers and administrators have had to scramble to craft distance learning options for students.
Mind you, this is not easy. (Understatement Alert.) The best instruction is the most difficult to bring into an online environment – a principle that’s easiest to understand with a quick exemplar. Take look at this lesson (you’ll need to view the full thread):
First students were finding evidence from the text to support the central message of the text.
They recorded notes independently, then they discussed their thinking in pairs.
— Karen Vaites (@karenvaites) February 22, 2020
This lesson shifts from whole group discussion to small group collaboration to a Socratic Seminar. It’s an excellent lesson – with experiences that are pretty tough to recreate online.
That’s what makes Kyair Butts so standout right now: he has already found his sea legs in the transition to distance learning. Y’all, he was using Zoom breakout rooms in the first few days of distance learning. Someone get him a cape.
Mind you, Kyair was a standout teacher before the coronavirus chapter. He was Baltimore City’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, and he has given powerful voice to his work in the Baltimore Sun. I had the fortune of visiting his classroom and I’ve been a fangirl ever since.
Still, I’ve watched with outsized awe at Kyair’s distance learning journey. Here are a few glimpses into his classroom (many of which are a part of threads, so you can click through to Twitter for more):
Super fun day engaging kids with learning. 1st we watched a video, made connections to @WitWisdomELA M3, looked at art & wrote a summary. I also posted a content related question to Instagram thanks to an idea from @MrsHallScholars #TeamCitySchools pic.twitter.com/PCIbZ6pCoR
— Kyair (@kyairb) March 18, 2020
Another wonderful @zoom_us lesson today. Student work looks great as we did @WitWisdomELA Lesson 27 from Module 3. I’ve gotten better with breakout rooms for chats and student-led discourse opportunities. Even had 4 parents join along with roughly 25 kids. #TeamCitySchools pic.twitter.com/awgX5UZxfJ
— Kyair (@kyairb) March 19, 2020
I feel like a talk show host. “We’ve got a great lineup this week: SEL practices, Google Classroom tour, text analysis, pic analysis and video knowledge building. Fluency performances by RFK & a virtual decision-making tour of Jamestown.” #LiveLearningLessons @karenvaites pic.twitter.com/LQerJDwgrJ
— Kyair (@kyairb) March 22, 2020
We went all in today for 90 minutes of fun. 25 students, several parents joined in and the engagement was outstanding. Who said our kids can’t? We are proving them wrong. #TeamCitySchools @karenvaites @elachat_US @bmoreedchat @WitWisdomELA @SonjaSantelises pic.twitter.com/GDs1r2aXnA
— Kyair (@kyairb) March 24, 2020
Check out this breakout room “group discussion”. No desks? NO PROBLEM! We can still “turn and talk” listen as they summarize understanding of Ch. 4 (@WitWisdomELA ) and make connections. @karenvaites @elachat_US @bmoreedchat @SonjaSantelises #TeamCitySchools #LiveLearningLessons pic.twitter.com/uHb9piIelE
— Kyair (@kyairb) March 24, 2020
Standing. O. 👏🏾👏🏿👏🏼
I’m not the only one who noticed this awesomeness… apparently Kyair had a number of observers in his Friday lesson. ‘Cause many educators want to learn how to pull this off, especially as more students have access to devices and wifi.
So, Kyair is going to take us to school! On Wednesday, April 1st at 8pm ET, he’ll host a special Zoom chat to model aspects of the lesson experience, and explain the key Zoom features for breakout rooms. He’ll also explain how he works with students unable to join the lesson on a given day.
Then, Kyair will discuss “Practical Pedagogy”: how he’s modifying lessons based on the constraints of distance learning. He’s ensuring that students are still building knowledge – even though they don’t have all texts in hand. This part is just as inspiring as the Zoom sorcery.
We can’t publish Zoom links openly (’cause Zoombombing!), so please sign up for Zoom Distance Learning in Action on Wednesday at 8pm ET. You’ll receive the Zoom link by email.
This chat will replace the usual #ELAchat which occurs weekly at 8 ET. Zoom chatting will be a new format for us, and one we’re excited to try. We’ll attempt best practices by recording the session for those who miss it and including time for Q&A.
Thank you to Kyair for continuing to model stellar teaching, especially in these challenging times.
A Note on Realistic Transitions to Distance Learning
I write this knowing full well that many districts, including my own, are still working to establish device and wireless access for all students, and that asynchronous learning is currently the norm. Honestly, as a parent of a second grader, that was an easier Week 1 start for me, too.
Also, everyone – Kyair included – has rightfully focused first and foremost on the health and well-being of our students and communities.
By celebrating Kyair for being way ahead of the pack in standing up awesome synchronous learning experiences, I don’t mean to judge anyone who’s still figuring it all out. We’re all still figuring it out. Leaders like Kyair can help us figure more things out.
I’ll try to collect additional exemplars of teacher leadership as well as strong options for asynchronous cases in a separate blog.
Thank you, reader, for everything you are doing to bring connection, normalcy, and ongoing learning to our kids during this challenging time.
A Few More Resources
For folks trying to get their heads around classes via Zoom, here are some helpful resources. At the bottom of the blog, you’ll find steps to create an educator account.
A video that many have found useful: How to Use Zoom for Remote and Online Learning.
In EdSurge, Tony Wan collected info on avoiding the ‘hijacks, hijinks, and hazards’ of remote learning via Zoom, including strategies to combat Zoombombing.
Kyair is bringing a Zoom guru – Anders Lindgren – to ELAchat to answer any pro-level questions. In the meantime, they compiled these helpful resources for key Zoom features:
For Google Classroom, North Carolina created a parent-facing guide to Google Classroom (smart!).
Lastly, here’s a thread with my parent reflections as my daughter was putting her toes in the Zoom water – the good, the bad, the hilarious, the pajamas. (So much pajamas.) It has a few things for teachers to look out for when getting into remote meetings.
The most important reflection is at the end, about her social-emotional needs during this time. Because that is ultimately the most important part.
Shout out to all the teachers starting remote learning today.
After hosting the optional class Zoom chat for 4 nights, I can report:
– Zoom for 8YOs is a Hot Mess
– they learn the tools VERY quickly
– the real action quickly moves to the DMs
— Karen Vaites (@karenvaites) March 23, 2020
How to Set Up Zoom as an Educator
Zoom is free! Zoom, a platform for video conferencing, small group working, screen sharing and more and it has opened their platform for Education for free!
To get started:
Step 1. Sign-up for your account
Step 2. Get verified as an educator in order to gain access to a better free version!
Step 3. Login and play around with the features. Look for these tools: small group breakout rooms, hand raising features, chat features etc.