Digital Learning: Best Practices for Educators
Follow these tips to set up an effective, equitable digital learning plan for your school or district.
As schools around the country shift to digital learning to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) offers the following recommendations for creating a digital learning plan that maintains a high quality of public education for all students.
Take time to prepare
Allocate at least one day to allow educators to familiarize themselves with digital learning formats, test functionality, and troubleshoot issues.
Focus on accessibility
Accessibility for all students and stakeholders is critical:. The needs of English-language learners, students with disabilities, and families must be considered, and efforts made to provide instruction and critical information in the languages that students and families speak at home.
Protect your students’ privacy
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) dictates the kinds of information that educational agencies and institutions can collect, maintain, and disclose with permission. Safeguarding personal data of students and educators must be a top priority, and data privacy must be of paramount concern. Educators should not publicize identifiable information of students and should take care to comply with FERPA in addition to state and district policies. For more, check out our deep dive on digital learning privacy issues.
Ensure digital equity & design independent learning
Equity is an important obstacle to consider in preparing for digital learning. Not all students and their families have sufficient internet access at home, so you may have to make alternative arrangements. Ensure that your plan considers both family access to technology and Wi-Fi and capacity for families to be involved in the digital learning process.
Communicate daily schedules & set clear expectations with students and families
Consistent and clear communication between administrators, staff, parents, and students is crucial throughout digital learning. Ensure that frequently asked questions have answers so that everyone is on the same page, and be prepared to provide extra support so that students know when to be online and everyone involved knows how to ask for help.
Provide robust learning
Break learning up into small chunks. Be clear about online expectations and participation, and provide prompt and frequent feedback to students using online knowledge checks and comments. Be sure to include virtual meetings, live chats, and video tutorials as much as possible.
Choose the right tools and stick with them
There are a variety of free apps and digital resources available to keep students as engaged as possible. But rather than trying to use all tools available, stick to a few so that families and students aren’t overwhelmed.
Address the emotional toll
It’s important to check in with students and colleagues, especially those who are less comfortable with digital tools and digital learning. While there is a convenience to working from home, it can be challenging to keep to a regular schedule. Some things that can help include taking regular breaks, making time to exercise and move, keeping a regular sleep schedule, limiting distractions when possible (e.g., social media), setting daily goals, and being sure to take time to socialize (at a safe distance) and decompress.
Make it official
Create your Digital Learning Plan—incorporating the above guidelines—as a living document that’s shared, constantly reviewed, and adapted as changing circumstances require, but always focused on student learning.
- Free Tools for Schools Dealing with Corona—This Google Doc has compiled companies that have announced enhanced or free services to schools as they deal with COVID-19-related closures.
- COVID-19 Resource List—The National Network of State Teachers of the Year created this Google Sheet, which encompasses online resources, relevant strategies and articles, considerations for educators, and a list of what conversations are looking like in schools and districts across the country.
- Amazing Educational Resources website—Educators and companies are sharing resources, searchable by subject and grade level, to help during school closures.
- Navigating Uncertain Times: How Schools Can Cope with Coronavirus—ISTE and EdSurge published this set of tools—including articles, podcasts, webinars, and community resources—for helping schools navigate the difficulty of dealing with coronavirus.
- “6 Lessons Learned About Remote Learning During the Coronavirus Outbreak”—This article provides best practices related to digital learning to ensure quality and engaging instruction during the suspension of face-to-face learning during the COVID-10 pandemic.
- “A Coronavirus Outreach Plan: 5 Steps for District Leaders”—Included in this article are five action steps to help school leaders craft an effective outreach plan for dealing with COVID-19.
- “10 Strategies for Online Learning During a Coronavirus Outbreak”—This article includes best ideas from educators from around the world, many of whom have already been teaching during coronavirus closures.
- Common Sense Education EdTech Tools—This robust library of more than 3,500 tools encompasses all P-12 grade levels and a variety of subject areas.
- Top 25 Learning Tools for When School is Closed—Tech & Learning compiled this list of sites, platforms, and online resources that support remote learning when school is closed.
- 105 Tools for Distance Learning & Strategies for Student Engagement—The Albert team provides a comprehensive list of helpful learning tools, information on common benefits and drawbacks of remote learning, and a few strategies for keeping students engaged while remote.
- Tech Against Coronavirus—This list encompasses a wide variety of software solutions to maintain collaboration and work remotely with your team.
- Understanding the Impact of Coronavirus on K-12 Education—This series, hosted by ISTE and EdSurge, will focus on how K-12 schools are coping with coronavirus and the move to remote learning and how students and educators are being impacted. 2-3pm EST, Fridays starting March 13.