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Distance Learning is About Learning to Ride in the Rain

A skinned knee, the trophy I earned for learning to ride a bike. It didn’t happen overnight, as life-altering events take time…yet it is the challenge of crossing our comfort zone that matters the most and the message we strive to model for our students.

As I watched the Distance Learning with PBS LearningMediawebinar, I was so excited to see all of the questions asked by our PBS Teachers from around the country. Still, what was foremost in my mind was the silent teacher, the one I often was, listening attentively and trying to learn something new, trying to earn my skinned knee. Riding a bike took time, but distance learning became an overnight reality, a life-altering event. So let’s look at this reality as a unique type of differentiated instruction.

Every day in classrooms around the country, educators like us adjust lessons to meet the different needs of our students. There is no judgement, just an understanding of supporting our learners where they’re at. As a PBS Teacher, you have a network of fellow educators supporting each other during this period of differentiated instruction, that’s why PBS master trainers and educators returned with a follow up webinar Distance Learning With PBS LearningMedia: Your Questions Answered. What now? Put on your bike helmets because together we’re going to pedal our way into this new age of virtual teaching with more ideas!

1. If digital “anything” is as remote as distance learning, where do I start?

Reflect on your first year teaching, enough said. Does it give you shivers? If you were like me, I knew by the second week that classroom management was, let’s just say, my area of intensive remediation. I remember trying something new, it worked… for a while, then I revised it a little, and yay, success… for a while. One day I realized that classroom management wasn’t so scary anymore, my kids loved me regardless, they were learning, and I was growing. Here are some steps to welcome the new normal:

Set a Purpose – Recognize that you are a life-long learner and you are learning something new. So, be honest with your students and families and invite them to learn along with you. What a great way of empowering others, because you’re a teacher and that’s what you do!

Create a Plan – Consider this your personalized lesson plan and you’ve set your goal (purpose) so now define an objective (one new method of delivery), get familiar with the standards (ISTE for Educators), and check out a tutorial or two. Start by reading this article Distance Learning Tips from One Teacher to Another from PBS Teachers.

Join a Community of SupportPBS Teacher’s Lounge is an amazing resource, a place to learn from other digital innovators, just like we encourage students to collaborate. Check out your local PBS station’s website, follow their social media, and sign up to receive their newsletter.

Celebrate your Growth – Time to give yourself a sticker! Every week becomes easier, just like riding a bike. The best part is that you’re leading by example because we all know the kids are watching us!

2. How can I support parents to learn the digital literacy skills needed to navigate PBS LearningMedia with their child?

The learning curve for teachers is just as steep for parents. If you already use digital learning resources as part of your classroom, reflect on how you learned about the new technology, did you attend an inservice or watch a tutorial? How do you teach students to use the resource? If this is new for you, chances are it’s new for parents too. Here are a few thoughts to consider:

  • Use a digital tool such as ZOOM to record a quick tutorial on new technology, then provide the link to the recording so parents can view it along with their child. Remember that learning by doing refers to adults too! Give families time to play around with the navigation.
  • Remember scaffolding is for parents too! First provide links to resources and activities. Slowly assign the keyword search and favoring a resource. Keep scaffolding the sequence of assignments, maybe having both parent and child submit a resource they both liked and share why.. This builds on the prior navigation skills families are establishing and encourages co-learning.
  • After a few weeks switch it up and have families create a quick 15-30 second tutorial on something they’ve learned using the FlipGrid platform. What a great way to keep fostering the classroom community and sends a message that it’s ok, because we’re all in this together.

3. What are some ways PBS LearningMedia can support my students with accommodations?

Resources on PBS LearningMedia are standards-aligned, closed-captioned, and classroom ready meaning they are less than five minutes in length, most including support materials such as discussion questions, educator guides, activities and more. Every range of grade levels and content areas also include interactive lessons, offering individualized opportunities for students to work at their own pace. Teacher tools such as lesson builder facilitates integration of accommodations based on student needs. The flexibility is at your fingertips.

4. In what capacity can resource teachers support our classroom teachers?

“Stick to the basics of what you’re doing in the classroom,” suggests Connie Browning, former Brevard County Schools Reading Coach. “Try out a google or zoom room, having students read together. Provide quality respond to reading activities such as designing a book cover, writing a ‘teaser’ to what they are currently reading. Include links to favorite author websites and listen to read alouds.” Connie adds. Most importantly, she reminds educators to encourage students to journal using pictures, writing, or video to connect to real life experiences that integrate other academic areas. What else, keep encouraging kids to share, share, share because in years to come, they might be the author of this world event.

5. Are there resources for families with little or no internet connectivity?

As part of the public media mission to ensure all kids, regardless of their capabilities, have access to continued free educational resources at home, PBS stations across the country are dedicating blocks of programming from 6am-6pm specifically targeted for PreK-3, Grades 4-8, and Grades 9-12. This includes a weekly schedule with links to extended learning ideas and activities from PBS KIDS,PBS LearningMedia, and/or PBS KIDS for Parents. Check your local PBS station website to learn more about this At-Home Learning Initiative.

Let’s face it, learning can be a bumpy road, but every grown up had a teacher like you who dared to try new approaches and made a difference in our lives. Take off those training wheels, earn that skinned knee, and ride in the rain!