It’s Time for Virtual Learning

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February 2, 2019 by Dr. Robbie Barber


Polar Vortex from National Science Foundation

As the polar vortex brought unbelievably cold temperatures, school systems across the U.S. attempted to use virtual learning exercises for students to prevent an interruption of their schooling. Some systems are practiced and quite capable and many others are not. Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that teachers are often required to produce virtual learning activities well in advance. Then the teachers can assign something – even if it doesn’t directly relate to what you are doing in the classroom RIGHT NOW. And, if that happens, neither the students, the parents or the teachers value the virtual assignment. So what is the best solution?

Regardless of the software tool, my suggestion is to have some activities handy that will help students (or teachers) expand their skill set.  Create a challenge and allow students to explore new tools and bring results.  Shake up the assignment – do not view this opportunity as an electronic babysitter.  Maybe your virtual assignment requires taking pictures of the snow, running an experiment at home, or reading and writing up a summary.  This works for students and teachers.

Last week, the school district informed us on Monday that we would be out on Tuesday.  On Tuesdays, I provide teachers with short, quick technology hints for their classrooms, complete with sweet treats as bribes. (I’m not proud – I’m determined.)  Since we would be out, I proposed this lesson:

Because I know how much you would miss it 😏, our virtual Tickling Tech day is all about Wakelet.  This is an easy to use, easy to share way of combining internet articles, blogs, images, video links into one collection.  Give it a try and then show me when we’re back at school.  (I’ll bring treats!)  Wakelet handout

The results included teachers sending me links to their collections, others stopping by to get the printed handouts and one bringing her phone with the app to get help.  While I’m always available in person on Tuesdays for teachers, this was one example of shaking up the lessons and getting a positive response.

Be aware of your community’s situation, because virtual learning days do not require computers and internet (and power!).  They can be all sorts of challenges.  Challenge yourself to come up with a great virtual assignment!

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