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Let’s End this Debate and Talk about Best Practices for Remote Teaching

July 14, 2020 am31 12:35 am

One way or other, the debate will end.Last week the Chancellor announced that NYC schools would engage in some sort of blended learning – a hybrid model – for September. Sometimes kids would be in school, sometimes kids would be out getting remote instruction, but they would have five days, and some would be in school. Teachers would come to school each day. Some kids and some teachers would opt out or be medically excused (completely different processes).

I’ve written a bit about issues with scheduling and safety that are so serious that I believe this plan is dangerous and will lead to chaos if not stopped. And a lot of other people are talking about it. It should be stopped. It can be stopped. It will be stopped.

The Chancellor is unlikely to just back down because of scattered resistance from teachers or schools. But the resistance may start to come from many schools. Or the union may feel the unease of members, and back away from its support for the idea. Or Cuomo may not permit NYC schools to reopen. Or the pandemic may surge again in the northeast, and make much of this moot. But one way or another, I think we will be remote in September.

And that’s a problem. We just finished the better part of a term remote. And I don’t know if you noticed, it didn’t go well. Not for most of us. Not for most kids. We learned about problems. Some of us found some solutions. Some of us modified pedagogy. There’s so much. And these conversations desperately do need to happen. Because the quality of instruction in September matters.

Let me throw out a few questions, and hope to come back to them

  1. Pedagogy Grouped by? – how do we look at this? Subject specific? Age specific? Grade specific? Native language specific? Ability specific?
  2. What does a lesson look like? I guess some could be regular lecture, but on camera. But discussion has to be different. Activities have to be different. Teacher check on independent work has to be different. And there’s more.
  3. Assessment? Are we giving tests remotely? (I don’t give them in person anymore, so I’m not the one too ask), How can students prepare meaningful work, have a chance to improve it, and then submit it?
  4. SEL – In every class? How? Is it just a check in?
  5. Attendance – not to count against kids – but to keep track of them. Are we noticing when kids are not there? How do we/our schools reach out to figure out what is going on?
  6. Technology?
  7. Time – do kids need to be in class at a certain time? Are we making proper allowances for kids whose home situation does not allow it? Have we created alternatives that are not inferior?
  8. Deadlines – strict, because structure helps? Loose, because empathy matters more? A sliding scale?
  9. Recorded lessons?
  10. Homework?
  11. New modes?  (I can do a quick intro – distribute a worksheet, and dismiss, temporarily, all but those who need more help starting. We can reconvene (when?) and go through the worksheet together. Ok, that’s barely a new mode. But I bet there’s other stuff.

Look, there’s not even a start here. Not a full idea. Just an appeal to start to come up with an idea.

What about special education? Therapy? Are there things that desperately must happen live?

But school is, perhaps, nine weeks away. And it should be remote. It probably will be remote. Time to get discussing remote pedagogy.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. merlinthevillageidiot permalink
    July 14, 2020 am31 7:46 am 7:46 am

    I would like to hear more about your no test idea and how that works for assessment and grades in a math class

    • Susan McAulay permalink
      July 14, 2020 am31 9:00 am 9:00 am

      Could Delta math be used as an assessment? What about an assessment via Google Meet where student does 2-3 questions showing his/her paper and how they are doing it? Though I am sure that would be time consuming.

      • July 14, 2020 am31 11:26 am 11:26 am

        I think some people do use Delta. I’m not a fan, but would be willing to be part of the conversation.

    • July 14, 2020 am31 11:25 am 11:25 am

      For different courses I found different ways to assess kids’ learning. And then during the pandemic, many of us did.

      1. Frequent, repeatable quizzes. In skills classes, or straightforward content classes. One or two questions per quiz. Pass the quiz. Good. Don’t pass it, study, and come do it again, when you are ready. As a twist, I made passing 80% – you had to actually know it. Eventually, in theory, everyone passed everything.

      2. Graded assignments. In one class I would announce a week in advance, “Wednesday you will have a graded assignment” – I varied the numbers to make the assignments individual, but asked the same question. Allowed them to solicit help, but in the end they had to do their own work. That worked fine.

      3. Projects.

      4. Graded papers. This was cool. Like math lab reports, with a definite structure. I’ve gotten some great work. I made them revisable for increased grade (did this in an elective)

      • merlinthevillageidiot permalink
        July 14, 2020 pm31 6:19 pm 6:19 pm

        I’m looking for ideas to improve my algebra 2 class

  2. Arthur Goldstein permalink
    July 14, 2020 am31 8:25 am 8:25 am

    Thanks for writing this Jonathan. I’m not sure how many people are reading this, but you’ve become a very important voice. I’ll post it on social media.

  3. Stephen Lazar permalink
    July 16, 2020 am31 10:48 am 10:48 am

    All very good and important questions. These are the ones I’m looking forward to talking about and thinking more about. I don’t have answers. But for the first one, I would add a precursor question: should we group based on need/ability. Generally, I answer a strong no on that one (with the possible exception of math/language), but I’m not confident of anything I usually think I know in this situation.

    • July 17, 2020 am31 9:46 am 9:46 am

      Instead they have us scrambling in an exercise that ought to fall apart.

      We could instead be doing useful work that helps our students.

  4. Stephen Lazar permalink
    July 16, 2020 am31 10:50 am 10:50 am

    These are all great questions. I don’t have any good answers, but am looking forward to these discussions. I do have one more question to add as a precursor to your first question on groupings: should we be grouping students based on ability? Generally, my answer is a hard “no” (with the possible exception of math/language), but I’m not confident in anything I normally think I know in this new situation.


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