Using Remote Learning Resources in Hybrid Learning Environments
In this series of blog posts, we highlight educators in the field who are using remote learning resources intentionally to build classroom community, collaboration, and student sense-making.
This year, Bridges educators are adapting instruction to unique situations and varied circumstances. While some Bridges educators are teaching in person (with safety protocols in place) or 100% remotely, many are teaching in mixed, hybrid situations. In these settings, some students attend class in person while others join in “live” using Zoom or Google Meet. In hybrid environments, how can teachers attune to the needs of both groups of learners, all the while managing the technological complexities and building classroom connections?
Cheryl Marinari, a second grade teacher from New Jersey, is one Bridges educator adapting to a hybrid model for learning this year. Half her students engage synchronously via Google Meet while the other half attend the classroom in person. The safety precautions taken in her district mean that even in the classroom, strict social distancing expectations are maintained.
Recently, I watched Cheryl use one of our Grade 2 Tech-Enhanced Activities (TEAs) to facilitate a hybrid Bridges session. To launch this activity, Cheryl used the Jack and the Beanstalk context to draw her students in.
In Part 1 of the TEA, students listen to the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to launch their work with measuring objects and skip-counting by 5s and 10s.
Cheryl facilitated this launch beautifully. I watched as she managed the Google Meet session and the TEA Google Slides while attending to her students online and in person. Most impressively, it was evident all her students—those at home and those in class—felt seen, heard, and connected as learners and individuals. Throughout the session, Cheryl kept her eyes on all and kept her focus on supporting all of her learners. Here are three concrete instructional moves that I witnessed during her facilitation:
Using split-screen to interact with technology and connect with students
Cheryl loves the way that TEAs allow her to launch a session and enable interactivity with the content. As students considered how Jack could use Unifix cubes to estimate and measure his beans, Cheryl used the slides to represent student thinking, recording estimates and reasoning, and modeling measurement by dragging the cubes. At the same time, Cheryl stresses the importance of checking in with her students. “If I don’t see students on the screen as I facilitate, I am missing moments to learn about my kids.” For this reason, Cheryl facilitates with a split screen in order to manage the slides and to see her online students, allowing her to be present and connect with them. This practice also allowed the students in the classroom to see their classmates as home as they were learning, so students could feel more connected as a community.
Using whiteboards to quickly gauge student understanding
Many educators have shared with us how challenging it can be to gauge student understanding during remote learning sessions. Young students like Cheryl’s are still learning how to navigate technology. When students shared their work on paper with Google Meet, Cheryl found it difficult to clearly see their work—and she couldn’t do a quick glance to see where all of them were. As a solution, she sent whiteboards home for all of her students, and they now use them to share their thinking. They also use whiteboards to share with her when they are confused and need help. Since safety precautions also prevent her students in class from coming up to the board, they also use whiteboards to share their thinking. This simple strategy makes it easy for Cheryl to check in and offer help as students work independently or in a follow-up session.
Ensuring equitable participation
Making sure to hear from all students is challenging when managing two groups in different spaces. Cheryl intentionally balanced inviting students to participate—remembering to acknowledge those in her classroom as well as those at home. Since the students on Google Meet could not see students in class, Cheryl intentionally called students by name when they shared their thinking and restated ideas when it was hard to hear. By recording all students' thoughts in the slides, she messaged that she valued all ideas and thinking. After Problems & Investigations, students went off to Work Places (students at home turned off their cameras). After some time, students returned to debrief their experience —another move that gave students separated by distance the opportunity to share their mathematical experiences and thinking and to build connections.
Most of all, Cheryl made math fun. As I watched her class, I wrote in my notebook in large block letters “joy” and “community.” During one moment early in the launch, Cheryl asked students to take a minute to silently think to themselves. “When you think you are ready to share, say ‘Aha!’” She made a hand motion to pair with the word. All of her students happily joined in. I left this session feeling inspired, encouraged that even in hybrid spaces, one can develop a sense of community and cohesiveness. Even though they were physically separated, it was clear that all students felt included and valued in this space as a learner.
Cheryl used digital resources such as the TEAs and physical resources like the cash register paper to engage her learners in the context.
As I shared my many affirmations with Cheryl about her session, she seemed surprised. She assured me that sessions were far from perfect and that she had to start slow with technology and certainly with this new hybrid model. She confessed that she’s had her share of technical mishaps and lessons gone awry. “The biggest lesson I can share is to give yourself grace. No one is perfect. We’re all doing our best.” And she adds, “And you have to show that to your students. You have to show kids you are learning too, you’re learning with them. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Tech-enhanced activities (TEAs) are organized by grade level under the Resources & Support for 2020–21 section of the BES homepage (login required).