62: Lessons Learned from Remote Learning [interview with Evan Robb]

Access the blog post and show notes here.

Last week we explored the remote learning situation from the student’s perspectives. This week I'm chatting with a highly-respected leader and author. Evan Robb has been a building level principal for over 20 years, and he’s sharing what this time has been like from his perspective, and lessons learned from remote learning.

We all know that our administrators have been working hard to make the remote learning experience as smooth as possible. Now we can hear straight from Evan what it takes to move hundreds of thousands of students to a remote learning model.

Shoutout

Thank you to Kelly Bell from Australia for her wonderful reviews on the Shake Up Learning courses and masterclasses. Follow her on Instagram: @thelearnnet.

This episode is sponsored by Fluency Tutor.

Introducing Fluency Tutor; an App for Google Chrome that helps students improve reading fluency while saving busy teachers valuable time. Fluency Tutor fosters independent reading practice, while helping educators provide personalized instruction and tracking of student progress throughout the school year. And because it's web-based, it's great for remote learning! 

Texthelp, the makers of Fluency Tutor are offering it for free through the end of the school year. 

Visit: text.help/shakeupreading

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Lessons Learned From Remote Learning

Our principals and administrators have been the first line of coordination and strategy when it comes to responding to this pandemic. I have spoken with just about every perspective at this point, and I thought it was time to hear from a leader who is making great strides in remote learning, Principal Evan Robb.

The District Response to Remote Learning

Their first order of business was to figure out exactly what was going on from the state level. Once it was confirmed that schools were closing, they needed to determine how best to close out the third quarter of school. Luckily their schools were already using Chromebooks and Google Classroom very heavily, so they just had to alter their lesson structure. After squaring away the third quarter, they had to work out a plan to get through the fourth quarter while still following state mandates for performance and attendance. There have been so many changes coming so quickly. The most important thing has been staying on top of changes and communicating them to parents, teachers, and staff. 

The Communication Plan

Evan shares that they have been communicating with parents and students through Google Classroom, email, and the phone. They do use Screencastify and Google Hangouts Meet, but no other streaming platforms have made sense to implement at this time. 

He doesn’t want the kids to learn new software remotely. Instead, they have focused on enhancing the use of platforms their kids are already comfortable navigating. There are so many other stressors right now, and his goal is to not add to them.

This is simply not the time for new tools. 

The Remote Learning Plan

As with the thought on which tools to use, they are working on the simplest way to master big concepts. This entire experience is one of learning and growing, so they are focused on providing lessons and information that require thought and growth. 

Evan is concerned that the disparity in the level of knowledge amongst the kids will be higher than ever. Because every child has a different home life, there is no way to confirm that they are exposed to the same level of educational opportunities. 

He is very “anti-busy work.” Especially right now because busy work is just added stress. Kids need to be given lessons that focus on increasing their skills. 

The Assessment Plan

Right now their assessments are formative. Now that the academic year is wrapping up, the administration in his district is working on a plan for assessments at the beginning of the new school year. The concern is the obvious level of disparity between students with engaged family members and those without. While this time has opened many people’s eyes on the benefits of flexibility regarding the school day and how to help students learn, it has also pushed some students farther away from positive school experiences. 

This new mindset of flexible schedules and varying teaching styles will certainly be needed as we prepare to get back into the classroom because some students are simply going to need more help. 

The Opportunity

Evan truly believes that positive changes are going to come out of this. Now that kids aren’t motivated by a number grade and there is no test to teach to, he’s found that more of his students are engaged. 

We’ve all known that the education system is broken. We’ve known that for years and years, and now this new social experiment has been thrust upon us. For so long the psychology has been that the only way to get kids to do school is to mandate it. But what Evan has found is that those students who don’t care to pass also don’t care about school requirements.

Those kids still want to learn, they just don’t want to or can’t learn in a traditional school environment. His hope is that this experiment will change the philosophy of how we teach our youngsters. Even those that have been resistant to change have made great strides. 

Now is the Time to Build Engagement

This is not the time to be assessing teachers’ performance. Evan said that he’d heard of districts where teachers are being graded on their ability to make remote learning work. That is not what this time should be about. Engage with your teachers, engage with your students, build that trust and that bridge for communication, and let’s see where the next few months take us. This is not a competition, we are just trying to get through this with everyone healthy and whole.

Connect with Evan:

Email: robbe@clarke.k12.va.us

Twitter: @ERobbPrincipal

Website: https://robbcommunications.com/ Evan's Blog Evan's Podcast Evan on Premiere Speakers

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