Learning at a distance.

Our Middle School is going to have “distance learning day” during parent-teacher conferences where students will be expected to continue their learning away from school. This day presents challenges and opportunities for us to create engaging learning experiences while raising questions about the nature of learning, the role of school, the possibilities of connection and communication via technology. Here’s a list about 5 ways we might engage students via distance learning.

Make it Experiential

Singapore Flyer by Eustaquio Santimano 

One of the great opportunities of having a day where students don’t have to come to school is that they can go out and experience learning in other settings. Singapore if full of learning environments that are conducive to learning in every academic subject and across our “Five Pillars.” A morning at the Botanic Gardens, or Singapore City Gallery would create a rich learning environment for students to do a variety of activities. Many of the Singapore museums already have suplemental site-based learning resources that you might use as a starting point for developing activities.

Additionally, groups of student could gather and continue the learning from previous lessons i.e. organize a game of touch rugby where students play and rotate role of observer/documenter with video that students can use to augment the feedback that they give.

Capitalize on Collaboration

Motion Gears -Team Force
 by ralphbijker

Learning is a social endeavour. In a distance learning situation, capitalizing on the social nature of learning is possible through the use of collaborative platforms like Google Docs. Many students are already using collaboration features of Google Docs such as commenting for peer review and collaborative note taking.
To take it another direction, one option could be to have students write a collaborative story. In teams, one student takes the lead and writes an introduction, another student picks it up and carries it forward and so on until the conclusion is reached.

Show your Learning

student_ipad_school 057
by flickingerbrad

Students can demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways and on the distance learning day, it could be a good excuse for you to throw something new in the mix. Allowing for choice in the way student show their learning accommodates for differences and allows for differentiation by the students. All students have their ePortfolio sites that they could use to write down their goals. In addition each student in Grade 7 & 8 have a blog that they may write to while reading and commenting on others.

Many of our students are quite handy at producing short videos or capturing images to convey their learning and could publish their work over YouTube, Picasa (accounts associated with G Apps), or by sharing them via the Google Drive.

One of the exciting ways for students to show their learning and practice the metacognitive skills is by producing a ‘Learning Talk,’ a voice-over screen recording or drawing where they show their working out while explaining and defending the choices they’re making.

Join them Online

If you’re able, during a break, you may want to schedule a Skype or Facetime call/chat with your students where you can check in with them, they can ask you questions and you can check in on their progress. You can also join them if they’re working in Google Docs by using the chat function.
It’s quite powerful to leave comments in the spaces where students are working. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or in depth, rather something that shows ‘I’m here and I care’ can be quite motivating to students. Leaving a comment just to let them know you’ve read their blog post can do a great deal for validating their effort.

“Plus est en vous”

Everest and Nepal Service

Our students are capable of doing amazing things, we’ve all seen this in the classroom, on the climbing wall and during service. On this day we have an opportunity to try a new way of learning. Sure it may be uncomfortable for us to think and plan this way. But, I’m convinced that quite often we underestimate what students can do to learn themselves. Utilizing the world’s information at their fingertips and framed by a motivating, relevant challenge, they will surprise us and show us that ‘there is more in you than you think.’

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