Last Week’s Collab Lab gave us a chance to share some updates on two projects we have running with students and the impacts we’ve see running those in a distance learning environment. That set up a longer conversation about what educators need as they look to engage their students in a real-world challenge.
Several of the concerns we talked through were issues prior to the pandemic:
How can I connect and work with local professionals who can offer domain expertise?
How can I figure out who I need to know in Milwaukee (beyond domain experts) to execute the project?
How do I get students to the point of figuring out what they want to explore?
How do I assemble a real audience for students to present to?
How do I get students to recognize that their teacher is not the audience?
How do I give students the experience of doing work in the real world?
Distance learning has imposed new concerns in taking on new challenges. Chief among these is gaining student engagement, but educators also struggle as the find effective ways to use distance learning technology. That this is so new to educators means that everyone is trying to figure things out at the same time. There is no colleague or expert to turn to for a definitive answer.
This, and the conversations that continued after we wrapped up the formal discussion, suggests to us that the key need for educators who want to engage their students in real-world work, particularly in a time of distance learning, is a network of colleagues who can offer support, ideas, and connections.
We kicked off our 5th season of Collab Labs on Zoom last week with a discussion focused on what educators were running into in the early weeks of the school year. We started the conversation by asking about what folks are seeing themselves or hearing from other educators:
Stakeholder involvement pushes teachers and school leadership to learn fast
When we lose control, we latch on to what we can control, e.. following the rules
Star testing on Chromebooks without reliable internet/devices does not work
If students aren’t in synchronous session they miss out
How do you reach the students who don’t come back to engage? Students feel they are so far behind that they can’t catch up.
teachers are overwhelmed, too many subjects to go deep, how do you check for understanding?
One week before start of school, we were told we will be using PBL with our students.
Lack of student perseverance – checking out when it gets to be too difficult
how do you replicate observation in the classroom?
fear of making mistakes?
students go to community centers during the day– how do they help kids when kids have so much work to do. The partners need to understand what is useful to learning.
frustrated trying to get content across, frustrated with attendance. Cuts across city & suburban districts.
kids at same grade level show up at same daycare, all with different assignments.
That prompted some further discussion around getting above a tactical level…
we’re still trying to deliver curriculum rather than learning.
Rethink what is accountability?
how to use tech tools to level the playing field and create empathy among students?
how to use synchronous and a-synchronous teaching in a structured way.
…and what teachers/schools need to make this work:
creating ‘digital citizen culture’ for using technology to learn together
Why is presence needed for learning?
How do we use tools strategically
How does a person demonstrate learning?
How does a person demonstrate learning?
Lots of time up front how to use tools of virtual platform.
We wrapped up with the recognition that post Covid, schools will end up somewhere new:
Systems have been cobbled together overtime. Now we are starting fresh. Can we think about how we ought to fix this?
Can we create a new framework for learning experiences that gives students a choice of opportunities to pursue?
At STEM Forward’s sySTEMnow conference on Thursday October 29th we’ll facilitate a discussion on how to effectively engage students in STEM education under distance learning. At the conference, we’ll run separate breakout groups for elementary, middle, and high school. This follow up session will give us a chance to recap what we heard on Thursday, and explore where collaborative efforts might address some of the issues raised.