10 Guidelines for CNG's Teachers
The transition to distance learning will not be simple or easy. Teachers will need to think differently about how to communicate, provide instruction, and give feedback. Teachers will need to evaluate how to design lessons and assignments that are authentic and meaningful and how to ensure students continue to collaborate and communicate with others. The ten guidelines provided below are intended to help teachers across all building levels reflect upon challenges of shifting to distance learning.
1—Focus on our core value of caring by first providing social-emotional support: In the event of any type of crisis event that leads to implementation of this DLP, your students may be stressed or worried. Before diving into curriculum, take the time to assess your students’ mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. How are they doing? How are their families? Continue regular check-ins with your students throughout the implementation of our DLP.
2—Evaluate your students’ conditions for distance learning: While most students may have reliable online access at home and the necessary devices to shift to distance learning, you should not make that assumption for everyone. Teachers should remember that each family’s circumstances will vary, and they should avoid assumptions about limitations or restrictions students are facing. Ask your students and/or their parents to confirm their location (possibly not in Colombia) and time zone; whether their online access is reliable; and what devices the student has at their disposal. Open a dialogue with families and avoid presuming that all students’ circumstances are the same.
3—Less is more: If CNG implements this DLP, one of the major challenges confronting teachers will be how to best streamline content and elevate the most essential learning for students. In other words, teachers need to take a less-is-more perspective, including the pacing of lessons and assignments. Circumstances might make it difficult to know exactly how long school closure might last, which makes longer-term planning difficult.
4—Stick with the familiar: Especially in the first week after moving to this DLP, teachers should continue using existing communication channels and learning management systems, which are described in this document. In other words, stick with what’s familiar to your students. Teachers should remember that while many students will thrive with distance learning, others might struggle. In the event that the school remains closed for a longer period of time, you may find it necessary to explore new or different learning platforms that provide different experiences. In the beginning, stick with the familiar.
5—Seize the moment; embrace new opportunities and possibilities for your students: Years or decades from now, how will your students remember the emergency that resulted in school closure? While distance learning should attempt to bring some normalcy and routine to student lives, teachers should not ignore the opportunities resulting from school closure. Teachers might require students to keep a daily journal or diary for the duration of the crisis. Personal journaling and/or other creative writing assignments can help students process their thoughts, worries, and emotions, particularly in times of crisis. Students might use other media as well, including video, drawing, painting, and music. Moreover, the crisis might also provide other real-life opportunities to study scientific phenomena associated with the crisis, how the media is reporting the incident, how governments are responding, and many other opportunities to seize the moment and design new transdisciplinary learning experiences for our students.
6—Provide space for personalized learning: Distance learning can provide opportunities for students to personalize what, how, and when they learn. Students can move more flexibility and freely through content when teachers create nonlinear curricula. Distance learning can also provide students with the opportunity to learn at different paces (e.g., Khan Academy). School closure could also create opportunities for more authentic learning, particularly if students are spread around the world. What museums, galleries, concerts, or memorials might they experience at their specific location? How might they share these alternative experiences with their classmates? How might students be empowered to create their own learning pathways and experiences?
7—Designers of experience; facilitators of learning: In shifting to distance learning, teacher need to think of themselves as designers of experiences and facilitators of learning (as opposed to distributors of knowledge). Distance learning places a premium on a teacher’s ability to think more deeply about how to introduce content, design experiences, and coach students with thoughtful, specific feedback. Teachers need to establish conditions where students have clear learning outcomes, a more specific sense of purpose, opportunities to express themselves, and experiences that allow them to work toward mastery. Taking these steps will help students stay motivated and engaged in learning, even when they are not physically at school.
8—Design asynchronous learning experiences: When school is closed and students are spread across many time zones, teachers can still connect them asynchronously. For example, teachers can use familiar LMS discussion forums or tools like Flipgrid and Padlet, which allow for student responses and dialogue during a set time period, knowing that students might not all be online at the same exact time.
9—Design synchronous learning experiences: When it comes to student engagement and learning, relationships matter as much online as they do in person. In the event of campus closure, students might be able to gather for synchronous learning times via video chat using Google Hangouts (also known as Google Meet). Collaboration remains important, and teachers should look for creative ways foster it through synchronous learning experiences too.
10—Think differently about assessment: Assessment remains one of the most challenging adjustments for teachers to address during distance learning. Distance learning should be seen as an opportunity for students, individually or collaboratively, to complete writing assignments, design infographics, make video presentations, or complete oral assessments via video chat. Teachers are encouraged to think differently about the end goal of student demonstration of learning instead of forcing a traditional assessment method that does not match the distance learning environment. Thinking differently about assessment will positively influence the experience for students, leverage the strengths of distance learning, and prevent frustration on the teacher’s part when traditional methods prove ineffective.
10 Guidelines for CNG’s Parents
The transition to distance learning will be challenging for families. Parents will need to think differently about how to support their children; how to create structures and routines that allow their children to be successful; and how to monitor and support their children’s learning. Some students will thrive with distance learning, while others may struggle. The ten guidelines provided below are intended to help parents think about their role in helping their children find success in a distance-learning environment.
1—Establish clear routines and expectations: From the first day CNG implements its DLP, parents need to establish routines and expectations. CNG encourages parents to set regular hours for their children’s school work. We suggest students begin their studies at 8:00 a.m. Parents should make every attempt to maintain normal bedtime routines for younger children and expect the same from your MS- and HS-aged students, too. (Don’t let them stay up late and sleep until noon!) Your children should move regularly and take periodic breaks as they study. Parent should set these expectations for how their children will spend their days starting as soon as distance learning is implemented, not several days later after it becomes apparent a child is struggling with the absence of routines.
2—Define the physical space for your child’s study: Your child may have an established place for completing homework under normal circumstances, but this space may or may not be suitable for an extended period of time, as might be the case with DLP implementation. We encourage families to establish a space/location where their children will learn most of the time, ideally, a public/family space not in a child’s bedroom. The setting should be quiet at all times and have a strong wireless internet signal, if possible. Above all, it should be a space where parents are present and supervising their children’s learning.
3—Monitor communications from your children’s teachers: Teachers will communicate with parents through email as necessary. The frequency and detail of these communications will be informed by your children’s ages, maturity level, and the degree of their ability to complete independent work. CNG generally encourages parents to contact their children’s teachers; however, we ask you to remember that teachers will be communicating with dozens if not hundreds of student/parents, so communications should be essential, brief, and self-aware. We also encourage parents to have their children explain the Learning Management Systems (LMS) for PS – Seesaw and for ES, MS, & HS Google Classroom teachers are using.
4—Begin and end each day with a check-in: Parents are encouraged to start and finish each day with a simple check-in time with their child(ren). In the morning, ask about your child’s learning plan today? What are their learning targets or goals? How will they spend their time? What resources do they require? What support do they need? This brief grounding conversation matters because it allows children to process the instructions they have received from their teachers. You can also help them organize themselves and set priorities. Older students may not want to have these check-ins with parents (that’s normal!), but please make this check-in nevertheless. Parents should establish these check-ins as regular parts of each day. Remember that not all students thrive in a distance learning environment; some struggle attempting to manage too much independence or lack of structure. These check-in routines need to be established early, before a student falls behind or begins to struggle.
5—Take an active role in helping your children process and own their learning: In the course of a regular school day at CNG, your son or daughter engages with other students and/or adults dozens if not hundreds of times. These social interactions and opportunities for mediation include turning to a peer to exchange a thought or idea, participating in small or large-group discussions, asking questions for clarification, collaborating on group projects, and countless other moments. While some of these social interactions will be re-created on virtual platforms, others will not. Students often learn best when they have opportunities to process their learning with others. Beyond the check-ins recommended at the start and end of each day, parents should regularly circle back and engage with their children about their daily learning. You should also make sure that your child does his/her own work; refrain from completing assignments for them, even if they are struggling. You should inform the teacher under these circumstances, so extra support can be provided.
6—Establish quiet times for work and reflection: A major challenge for families with multiple children will be how to manage all of their children’s needs, especially when those children are different ages and have uniquely individual needs. You may find times when siblings need to work in different rooms to avoid distractions. Parents might also consider experimenting with noise-cancelling headphones (no music necessary!) to block out distractions.
7—Encourage physical activity and/or exercise: Make sure your children remember to move about the house and exercise. These steps are vitally important to their health and wellbeing as well as to their learning. CNG’s physical education teachers will recommend activities or exercises, and parents should model and encourage exercise for everyone in the family!
8—Remain mindful of your child’s stress or worry: CNG will only implement this DLP if a serious crisis event or emergency has occurred. If this happens, the probability increases for the need of parents to help their children manage the worry, anxiety, and range of emotions they might experience under these circumstances. Although a difficult undertaking, parents should make every attempt not to transfer your own stresses or worries to your children. Students will most likely be impacted by the factors causing a distance-learning context, whether they admit it or not, and they need as much normal routine as parents can possibly provide.
9—Monitor how much time your child is spending online: CNG does not want its students staring at computer screens for 7-8 hours a day. We ask that parents remember most teachers are neither high trained nor experts in distance learning, and the process will require some trial-and-error before everyone finds the right balance between online and offline learning experiences. Building principals and teachers will periodically check in with you to assess what you are seeing at home and what we might need to adjust. We thank you in advance for your patience and partnership during the learning process!
10—Keep your children socially interacting but set rules around their social media use: Students usually feel excited when CNG closes school for a day due to national strikes or other short-term events related to safety. In the event that CNG implements this DLP, the initial excitement of school being closed will fade quickly when students start missing their friends, classmates, and teachers. Parents should help their children maintain contact with friends and see them in person when circumstances permit. While attempting to maintain this connection, you should also monitor your child’s social media use, especially during an extended school closure. In general, older students will rely more on social media to communicate with friends. Social media apps such as SnapChat, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Facebook are not official school channels of communication. CNG recommends that parents monitor their children’s use of social media – remind your children to be polite, respectful, and appropriate in their communications and to represent your family’s values in their interactions with others.