Last school year I was serving as an EdTech Specialist for D.C Public Schools (DCPS). The Covid-19 pandemic struck, and my role became more important than ever. We moved to and worked for successful remote learning. I never imagined the impact that tools like Microsoft Teams and OneNote Class Notebook would have. These ensured students continued to learn at home, during a pandemic. As I wrote content for the Hybrid Learning Strategies for Success course, I drew on the countless hours I spent working with resilient and passionate DCPS educators and the innovative ways they used Microsoft Education tools to transform their classrooms while physically separated from their students.

“I never imagined the impact that tools like Microsoft Teams and OneNote Class Notebook would have. These ensured students continued to learn at home, during a pandemic.”

This year, I transitioned back to an instructional role in an elementary school working with students acquiring English. Accessibility is paramount and I find myself using Microsoft tools in new and incredibly helpful ways. With a month of 2020-2021 school year underway, here are my five key takeaways to making remote learning a success:

Visualize the school day

The calendar feature within Teams is a great way to visually display the week. This ensures student access to all live sessions across classes in a single click. This is particularly helpful for my newcomer students. Those that are participating in an American school experience for the very first time and are enrolled in multiple classes.

Explicitly teach tech tools as a routine

I have found Nearpod and Flipgrid, which are fully integrated into Teams and have Immersive Reader, to be essential tools for successful remote learning. Take time to teach the specific components of these tools to students. It’s okay to teach a mini-lesson on a single feature, like Immersive Reader. Taking the time in the moment will pay off in the coming weeks by building student independence.

Create opportunities for student discussion

In my district, students cannot be in breakrooms without a certified teacher present. This makes facilitating conversations difficult. I use Flipgrid to spark student conversations and I embed the links directly within the Nearpod lessons. My students have various levels of English skills. Flipgrid is a great way for them to practice speaking skills at their own pace.

OneNote and Teams view

Expand your classroom

Including real-life experiences in your teaching is another effective way to engage elementary-age students and increase their content knowledge. Including virtual field trips using Skype in the Classroom (Update: Now in Flipgrid as Gridpals) and virtual reality activities integrated with Nearpod, I am able to provide students with real experiences, and in some cases, even more so.

Don’t skimp on the feedback 

Consistent and meaningful feedback is one of the most important aspects of the learning cycle. Within Microsoft Teams, OneNote Class Notebook, and Flipgrid, educators can provide feedback in multiple ways. I recommend dedicating specific space on the pages in the Class Notebook to record written, audio, or visual feedback. With Flipgrid, my students have the additional benefit of seeing my face and gestures when I provide recorded video feedback.

Want to learn more about using Microsoft tools to support hybrid learning? Hybrid Learning Strategies for Successful Learning has new courses for all grade-bands available in the Microsoft Educator Center.

Liz Pandaya bitmoji

Liz Pandya is a Professional Learning Specialist at i2e and a M.Ed. candidate for TESOL at the University of Maryland. Stay connected with Liz via Twitter: @Pandya_Express.

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