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 as we moved to remote learning. I never imagined the impact that tools like Microsoft Teams and OneNote Class Notebook would have in ensuring 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.
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 and to ensure student access to all live sessions across classes in a single click. This is particularly helpful for my newcomer students, who 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 to facilitate 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. Since my students have various levels of English proficiency, this is a great way for them to practice speaking skills at their own pace.
Expand your classroom: Including realia and manipulatives in your teaching practice is another effective way to engage elementary-age students and increase their content knowledge. With virtual fields using Skype in the Classroom and virtual reality experiences integrated with Nearpod, I am able to provide students with tangible experiences, and in some cases, even more so.
Don’t skimp on the feedback: Consistent and meaningful feedback is one of the most important facets of the learning cycle. Within Microsoft Teams, OneNote Class Notebook and Flipgrid, educators can provide feedback in multiple modalities. I recommend dedicating specific space on the pages in 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 Success Learning has new courses for all grade-bands available in the Microsoft Educator Center.
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.