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A Few Simple Steps To A More Productive Virtual Learning Environment

February 28, 2021

In 2020 while the world was learning how to cope with the pandemic and the impact it made on our everyday lives, teachers went back to work. You learned new ways to engage your students in the classroom that was now digital and forged the way to what is now the new normal for our youth. Keeping students engaged and not just getting by, but thriving, in digital classrooms can be a huge undertaking. Balancing relationships with students and parents, lesson plans and your own personal comfort and health can be daunting. With a few simple tips and tricks, we hope to make that easier.  

  1. Make a concerted effort to REALLY connect with students — fun questions, icebreakers, show and tell and one on one sessions can help build the relationship between student and teacher that would otherwise naturally form in the classroom. Sprinkle them in weekly as an antidote to the otherwise impersonal nature of virtual learning. In the digital learning age, this crucial connection will be harder to form but not impossible.  
  1. Create as many opportunities as possible to be someone, a real person, more than the assigner of work and the giver of grades. Don’t rush to begin the rat race to curriculum completion. Give lots of individual feedback. Ask lots of individual questions. Send lots of individual emails. Make a lot of videos. Include your family in those videos. Show that you are a genuine human being who is interested in young learners as human beings. This will not only help in keeping your students engaged, but it will also keep your overall experience with the process as close to in person learning as possible. This will help you keep in mind what you enjoy about teaching and not so focused on getting through the process and focusing on the difficulties.  
  1. Predictability and cadence is really important. Get down a rhythm to what you want to accomplish each day. Make a schedule and stick to a routine that not only helps you meet your goals but keeps both you and your students engaged and excited about learning 
  1. Make your learning comfortable! Put the same amount of effort if not more into your home learning environment as you normally would into your classroom. Those fun posters and wall hangings aren’t just for your students. They keep your mood elevated and focus high as well.  
  1. Home comfort isn’t just about the “Hang in there” cat poster. Keep in mind that air quality can affect your overall health and mood just as much as anything else. Excessive dust and dry air can lead to allergic reactions, sneezing, coughing and bad hair static! If you notice the air in your home is dry, set up an air purifier with a humidifierIf you’re noticing dust more than usual, your HVAC duct work may need to be cleaned.  
  1. While students are logging in and joining your classroom sessions, have some kind of game or introduction that encourages students to be on time and not want to miss it. You could have a meme, a riddle, a would-you-rather or some kind of guessing game. This strategy is most effective when students can enter their guess or reaction into the chat, or the correct answer will be given at the end of class. Students can win points or small prizes that you can mail to their home with a personalized note.  
  1. Don’t skip the holidays! Holidays are some of the most memorable times for students, especially younger students. Find creative ways to still incorporate the same activities they would normally do in the classroom but with a digital spin. Perhaps having students design digital Valentine’s boxes and then each student can design and pass out digital Valentine’s day cards. Keep it simple and fun.  
  1. At home crafts. The easiest way to keep craft time in the classroom in the digital age is to pick crafts that include household items that most homes have and provide the list of needed supplies to parents in enough time so that they may have them ready for the day they are needed. Each child can do the guided class activity and share their project with others while on the Zoom call.  
  1. Have a backup plan. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Maye you’re not feeling well that day, maybe the lesson you just covered needs more time. Whatever the case may be, have a plan to fill in the day with something fun, engaging and possible on short notice. This will lessen the amount of stress you and your students feel when the unexpected happens.  
  1. Prepare for your return to the classroom. Eventually, digital learning will end, and you will be returning to your classroom. Change can be difficult for anyone. Prepare for the transition for not only your own sanity but for the upheaval your students may feel. Uncertainty can be negatively impactful on students and their ability to learn. Plan some transition days for them, some getting to know you time. Maybe even schedule some one-on-one time with them. Keep in mind your own needs when scheduling in person days again.  

Most importantly keep in mind that change takes time to get used to. Allow yourself and your students to give honest feedback about how things are going and remember tomorrow is another day. You can do anything you set your mind to!