Though School is Closed, Learning is Open

Where are you at in the process of designing remote, eLearning for students at home?  Many schools and districts may already have well-formed plans.  Some might be silently preparing still.  Or, maybe you are a parent wondering how any of this could possibly work?

Our school is opening on Monday ‘for learning’ following our two-week spring break.  While schools are closed, we are certain we can ‘open’ learning for students during this time.

Here is how our powerful journey has unfolded in the past two weeks.

On March 17 we were notified of the “indefinite suspension of in-class instruction.”

Then, on March 18 we reaffirmed our commitment to the “continuity of learning” and continuing to support our students in their quest to become powerful learners.

On March 19, we began our design process based on our Learn Forward philosophy, steeped in the thinking of the Reggio pedagogy, and trusting the students to lead us.

I’m grateful for my thought partner, Dr. Susan Crichton, Professor Emeritus, UBC Faculty of Education.

Throughout the process, I was especially inspired by Seth Godin, altMBA, and The Conversation: “we can make it even better.”

Here are four powerful innovations from our eLearning process:

1.  Structure

We can use our Provincial curriculum’s Big Ideas and Core Competencies to situate learning for each week.  These ideas will help give teachers and parents something to focus on throughout the activities of the day.

One of our guiding questions is how to transform activities into learning?

The Reggio approach is guiding our thinking.  Because children are active collaborators in their learning, during this season they will direct their own learning in new ways.  Parents and teachers are guides on the side.  This crisis is forcing teachers, literally, to be “more remote.”  And, I believe, for many students, the freedom will result in new creativity, motivation, and engagement.

Our teachers are providing Daily eLearning Plans in three big buckets:

  • Literacy and Numeracy Workshop – 90min
    • Foundational skills for powerful learners
  • Living Learning Lab  – 90min
    • What age-appropriate and practical life skills, numeracy, nutrition, geography, biology, making, systems-thinking can be incorporated into learning here?
  • Explore Our World – 90min
    • Our Middle Years students will be following Dr. Kieran Egan and Dr. Gillian Judson’s work from Learning in Depth.  Check out this introductory video.
    • Educators will be providing provocations for being outside, connecting with nature, and being intentional with learning.

Of course, students will not be working this entire time, but rather have space for play, personal exploration, projects, hobbies, and taking responsibility to support around the house.  It is flexible and we’re certain children will create in those empty spaces.

While classroom teachers will be virtually checking in at the beginning and end of each day, along with flexible groupings and specialty workshops throughout the week, this is NOT education in front of a screen.  Again, children will be invited to create, make, be outside, move, and connect with nature.

2.  Expertise

Our teachers will bridge from the curriculum to the learning for the students and parents.  They will expertly provide provocations, coaching, and personalized skills practice.  This can all happen remotely if students have connectivity.

Then, as children and parents begin to provide evidence of learning via our digital portfolio software, FreshGrade, our teachers will ensure students/parents are resourced, have “just-in-time, just-for-me” learning, along with feedback, assessment, and formal reporting.

3.  Mentoring

Along with my team leads, we are providing parents and teachers with mentoring during this pivot.  High emotional support is our goal.  We want to reassure everyone this is a ‘learning’ experience.

In order to maximize support in the time available, we only had one large group teacher meeting.  From there, we met exclusively in small groups.  The teachers collaborated and iterated as their thinking unfolded.

We believe coming together creates health, both now and in the future.

4.  Community

Our community will continue to connect for thriving.

We realize parents are squeezed by both extraordinary demands in work and parenting.  The uncertainty for employment, finances, and the economy is unnerving.  Everyone feels it.

Therefore, to support our parents, we are intentionally communicating.  We are consistently being as transparent as possible.  Plus, we are making ourselves available.  Teachers are hosting office hours.  I am offering 1:1 coaching calls for parents.  Finally, we are gathering parents for weekly virtual support circles.

In addition to the Daily eLearning Plan, we are providing libraries of online resources on a variety of Pinterest boards, school supplies, tech kits on-loan, good fit books, and various coaching videos.  Plus, all of our learning videos will be recorded on Zoom and available for access at the family’s convenience.

We want parents to know that we are virtually right there with them.

Final thoughts…

I’m grateful for the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit emerging from our community.  Additionally, I feel buoyed by our students and their competency.  Above all, I am cheering for the heroic work of teachers who are making this learning come to life.

I’ve posted this one in the past, but here, on the eve of term 3, March 30, it seems especially poignant.

For the sake of the children,


P.S.  By the way, I’d love to hear your story of transitioning to eLearning!  How are you making it “even better?”