Archambault tells Discover K–12 teachers are doing the best they can online

By

Erik Ketcherside
Associate Professor

Leanna Archambault

For an April 16 article in Discover magazine, writer Leslie Nemo asked MLFTC Associate Professor of Learning Design and Technology Leanna Archambault to discuss how teachers are managing to continue working with their students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Archambault’s answer: “They’re doing the best they can.”

Archambault says online classes are ideally suited for some class formats — particularly when the classes are created with an online option from the start. But most K–12 class design in the U.S. doesn’t take online into account, and few colleges and universities incorporate technology integration into their teacher preparation programs. Archambault, who helps MLFTC teacher candidates fully integrate online technology, told Discover, “That’s an area for growth, and researchers like myself have been calling for this.” Read the article in Discover.

Tips for teachers

Archambault knows schoolteachers are dealing with the unexpected challenges of suddenly, only online classes right now, so she offers these suggestions. Some may surprise you, and all are available for teachers to use without training or experience.

  • Focus on students' mental health and well-being first and foremost. Check in with them via synchronous (live) communication tools to see how they are doing. Everything right now is a bit unsettling to say the least, and hearing from teachers can be reassuring to students. Communicate caring and kindness to families — that’s the most important thing right now. Grades are secondary.
  • Establish a clear communication plan for connecting with students and families. Use the tools you and your students already know. It might be that using the phone works best for a quick check-in. That’s completely fine. Don’t stress about learning new tools right now. Use what you know and are comfortable with.
  • Home in on core subjects and content right now and focus on what are learning priorities. You’re not going to be able to recreate the school day remotely via Zoom, and that’s OK. It might mean cutting some optional or elective content. Now is the time to concentrate on top priorities. Focus on learning goals first. Next, think about the activities that will achieve those goals. And then consider the best use of technology.
  • As wonderful as you are as a lecturer, live video conferencing all day every day is going to burn everyone out. Explore ways you can use asynchronous communication tools. You might want to record a mini-lesson using free screencasting software like Screencast-o-matic, or maybe even hold a discussion using responses via Flipgrid. Keep things short to maintain interest and engagement.
  • Check in with parents frequently. Email them, send them a short check-in survey via Google forms, or even hold a weekly online session to get their feedback. They are your partners, but they are also stressed. See where adjustments might need to be made, and be flexible. Everyone is in this together, and we are all learning what works and what doesn’t. Not every approach is going to be the same for each student, nor is everything going to go as planned. It’s OK to fail, make adjustments, and move forward.
  • Remember to take care of your own well-being. Breathe, and reflect on the purpose that teaching brings to your life. Your relationship with students may have changed format, but it’s still very important, perhaps even more so now. Know that your students are thankful to have you as part of their lives, and take pride in the reassurance you are able to provide during this difficult time.

View more resources from MLFTC faculty members for K–12 educators and families.