It’s likely that some learning will continue to take place virtually in the coming school year. What should families consider now to optimize their education time?
As summer marches on to September, many parents here in Massachusetts are facing up to the reality that our students will likely continue to learn remotely this fall, at least part of the time. State and local school officials continue to put together schedules that will allow children to be in school on a rotating basis in the continued effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. The hope is that schools will be able to craft arrangements that will have them attend in-person classes for some portion of the week or month.
Several school districts, including Oxford, Springfield and Newton, have already informed their communities that classes this coming school year will likely be a hybrid model of remote learning and on-campus classes. Others as of this writing have not yet issued any formal notification on school year arrangements, opting to continue to wait and see how virus levels might impact plans that ensure compliance with state recommendations.
The continued need to support students learning from home is at the very least inconvenient for some families and downright distressing for others as it can throw work and childcare arrangements into chaos. While not ideal, at least it is not completely new territory. Here are five suggestions to make the most of remote learning as we kick off a new school year.
Take heart that you’ve tackled this before
While it may be a very frustrating prospect to face having many more months of remote learning ahead, at least there is some comfort in knowing the territory this time around. For most of us, it is not completely new ground. And even if last year’s months of remote learning were not ideal, this is a good time to take stock of what didn’t work so well while you were navigating remote learning, and make a plan for how you and your student can collaborate to ensure things go smoothly this year. What technology issues were stumbling blocks? How can you get in front of those now for maximum success this time?
Understand new challenges will arise
While the uncertainty of pivoting to an online learning environment last March was anxiety-provoking for many, there were some advantages to the arrangement. Specifically, that existing classroom rhythms and expectations were already in place. Students switched over to learning from afar after spending several months with teachers; in classes and with classmates. Without this context at the outset, getting into a groove with assignments and learning may take longer. However, with the widespread expectation that at least some class time will occur in person, students will at least have a chance to experience some normalcy when it comes to learning this fall.
Relationships will need special attention this year
Jumping off of the last point, getting to know teachers and their personalities may take more time too. Patience will be key. While students had months to get to know teachers last year before switching to remote arrangements, this year, expect that pace to move a bit slower. Help your student to understand that educators are doing their best to get to know them under different circumstances and advocating for themselves in order to forge a relationship is important, but might take some time.
Structure is still key
Ensuring kids keep set hours each day to complete work will continue to be critical. Consistency and scheduling will be important not only to keeping them on task and on time with work, but also for you if you are a working parent juggling professional commitments and supporting your student. At the outset of the academic year, once you know the school schedule, sit down and write out how the day will be structured so both you and your child know what will be expected daily.
Continue to keep safety in mind
Unfortunately, cybercriminals have shown no mercy when it comes to taking advantage of the pandemic and the need for remote work arrangements. Last year, news headlines were filled with security events tied to remote learning, including Zoom bombing of classroom sessions, as well as a warning from the FBI about an increase in ransomware attacks targeting K-12 schools.
A report from the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) on the top five cybersecurity threats for schools finds more than 90 percent of cyberattacks start with phishing emails, in which criminals send malicious links and fool unsuspecting users into clicking. In fact, when a public school district in Mississippi sent fake phishing emails to district teachers in an experiment, results were not good. Of the 572 who received the email, 474 were opened, and 272 people clicked a survey link in the email. It’s clear awareness around this issue is key for educators. The same goes for students.
This fall, cyber criminals can be expected to be back with even more scams and cons targeting educators and students. As a preventive measure, ensure you’re regularly reviewing safe online practices with your students and warn them about how to be on guard.
While things continue to look different in our lives, it’s important to lead with a positive attitude heading into this new academic calendar. Please reach out with any questions. Here’s to a productive and enjoyable school year.
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