Distance Learning Tips: Advice From Students Who've Been There
English teacher Jori Krulder shares her students distance learning tips and insights after their experiences with a fire that ravaged their town.
Distance Learning Tips: Students Offer Advice on Acclimating
This year, as school shifted abruptly online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I scrambled like teachers all over the world to figure out how to maintain our learning community. I quickly figured out that online teaching is an enormous learning curve, a realization that came with some déjà vu as this wasn’t the first time our school had been thrown into this situation.
On November 9, 2018, our little town of Paradise, Calif., was ravaged in the Camp Fire wildfire and students worked online for the remainder of that semester. Although many of us tried to extend learning, we acknowledged early on that the priority was connecting with our kids, and supporting them in the midst of uncertainty.
I asked my high school students to share some tips for dealing with this huge pivot in the way we do school. Reading the advice my students offered on how to handle online learning made me laugh and cry and feel so much pride in them and all of us who are doing the best we can in these crazy times.
"Reading the advice my students offered on how to handle online learning made me laugh and cry and feel so much pride in them…"
The brilliance and generosity of these young people makes me confident that together we’ll come out of the other side of this O.K. and ready to handle any challenges the world decides to throw at us next. This is some of their wisdom:
Faith: I think that people who are not used to online learning should just go about their day like a normal school day. The only thing that is different is it’s at home and maybe a bit shorter. I have been getting dressed and ready around 9am and sitting at my table to get all my work done so that I could have the rest of the day free.
Abigail: Online learning can be difficult for me sometimes, but once you get into a routine it’s not too bad. I have a very hard time focusing on a normal day in class, even when I don’t have my phone, or if I’m not near friends. So as you can imagine, being home with plenty of distractions makes it very hard to stay on task. I try to remove anything near me that I know will distract me. I even have to turn the mirror on my desk around because I know I might just randomly start tweezing my eyebrows. If there isn’t any written work, I get rid of pens because I know I’ll doodle on my hands.
"I even have to turn the mirror on my desk around because I know I might just randomly start tweezing my eyebrows."
Also, I make sure to read instructions multiple times. If there is ever an option that reads the lesson aloud to you, I always choose it and follow along; it helps me retain the info better. But I can’t stress having a routine enough. Go to bed at a decent hour, wake up by 8:30am, because you still will have hours of work to do. That’s pretty much it, nice and simple ?
Hunter: The few tips I would give for students new to online learning is to set an alarm to start working at the same time everyday. For example, I wake up at 10:00am and start working at 10:30am. Another tip I would give is to take breaks and to pace yourself. You know what you are capable of. The last tip I would give is to do your work no matter how unmotivated you may feel. It may seem like a lot, but when you start it goes by very quickly.
Tommy: Email your teachers all of your questions to stay ahead of the game.
Amanda: Online is hard for me because I need to be in a class with a teacher who can help me whenever I might need it. It’s a lot depending on a teacher and it gets hard when you don’t have that; that’s why I’ve fallen behind. But a tip that I have learned is to ask questions in Google classroom, if you are confused because even though you aren’t in person, the teacher will still help you.
Jose: Hide your phone so you aren’t distracted or turn off your notifications so you aren’t tempted to look at them.
Dylan: My biggest tip to students is to do homework whenever it feels right. Right now, I’m doing this at 12:48 AM. With online learning, you choose your own hours. You are your own boss. So embrace it. Second, use your resources. Most of us have a phone, ask your friends to help. If you don’t have friends, ask Siri. If you don’t have an iPhone, well I don’t know how to help with that. All jokes aside, your resources are your biggest ally. Most of the time it’s your teachers; if it’s not them it will be your friends.
Loren: Attach your school account to your phone so when your teacher emails you, you can see it.
Luka: Make a separate workspace and use a separate device for online work. Allot certain times to online work, find good music to help you concentrate, and go offline on social media while working. Set reliable and sustainable goals and targets.
Morgan: The most important tip I would give is communication is the key. If you are having issues, talk to your teachers and classmates.
Ignacio: Try and do work in bed. It’s really nice.
Violette: There is a to-do list on Google classroom that will let you know when things are due, and that helps you keep track of your assignments easier! Have a routine throughout your day so when you keep on maintaining that routine, then you can keep on track and keep your grades up.
"Be patient with yourself – getting frustrated will just make you dread your school work even more. Take breaks every now and then and just breathe."
1. Be patient with yourself – getting frustrated will just make you dread your school work even more. Take breaks every now and then and just breathe.
2. Don’t get behind – even though you are doing work at home it doesn’t mean you have unlimited time. Keep on your work. It will be way harder trying to catch up on everything a week before school starts.
3. Ask teachers questions – your teachers are there to help. They want to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are stuck!
Read more about distance learning tips and ideas with this educator’s blog on her experiences on teaching through coronavirus.
1. Keep a schedule like you would have to do for school. Do one class fully, and another, and so on. Doing it in the order you are used to is even better.
2. Take a break for lunch. Take an hour, 45 minutes, something like you would do at school. This will give you time to eat, play on your phone or whatever else you like to do during this time normally.
3. Wake up early. Try to wake up kind of early (ex. I wake up at 8:30am every day) to keep that normalness in your life. You wouldn’t wake up at noon to go to school. This also gives you enough time in the day for you to do your work, take a break, and most likely finish by the normal time we get out of school.
4. Keep your work organized and in a safe place. I do my work while sitting on the couch, so I keep my laptop, notebooks, binder, headphones and calculator all on a side table next to the couch. This allows me to be able to grab it all and not have to worry about getting up and down while I am working.
"Try to wake up kind of early (ex. I wake up at 8:30am every day) to keep that normalness in your life."
5. Have a snack/drink with you. Even though most or some classes don’t allow more than water, since you’re in your own home you most likely will be allowed to. It will keep you from getting hungry or thirsty throughout the day and keep you focused.
Kayla: Remember your teachers are going through this new situation just like you are and are also stressed. The same goes with your friends. Make sure to check up on people.
Arissa: I think the biggest tip I can give, especially to students my age, is to set a schedule, stick to it and complain. Setting a schedule gives a sense of control over your life when you otherwise have none, and sticking to it gives you a sense of pride and productivity. The schedule shouldn’t be too heavy, especially not in the beginning, but it also shouldn’t be too light. Be honest with how much work you can do, and how much of that can be done well.
"You need to learn how to do things without motivation because sometimes (okay, a lot of times) it’s not there, and it’s not going to be there in the next three hours when your assignment is due."
When I say complain, I don’t mean complain instead of doing your schedule. Sometimes that schedule gets boring or overwhelming or just plain stupid, and complaining while you do it may help you vent out any frustrations. Complaining with friends in similar situations also helps with bonding and is another way to vent.
Last but not least, sometimes you can’t just say that you’ll wait until you have the motivation to do something, or force that motivation. You need to learn how to do things without motivation because sometimes (okay, a lot of times) it’s not there, and it’s not going to be there in the next three hours when your assignment is due. So suck it up, shed a few tears, say a few mean words and get on with it.
Jori Krulder has taught for 23 years. She teaches English at Paradise High School in rural Northern California. Her passion for poetry, literature, student learning and improving teacher development has led her to write articles for Edutopia, The Teaching Channel, APLithelp.com, as well as chapters in two of Brian Sztabnik’s The Best Lessons Series books: Literature and Writing – 15 Master Teachers Share What Works. Connect with Jori through Twitter @jorikrulder or email [email protected]