Supporting Equitable Learning Opportunities

So what does it mean to teach remotely and how do we make sure that we are providing opportunities that are culturally relevant and equitable? For this module I decided to focus on indicator 3b of the ISTE Collaborator Coaching Standard.

Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.

As I read over this indicator I began to think about what it means to me and how as a coach I might work with educators around this. Some of the questions I was really curious to explore were;

How can coaches support educators in providing learning opportunities to students that are developmentally appropriate and engaging? How can educators make sure that students and families have the resources needed in order to fully participate and engage in virtual learning? What resources and supports are currently out there that can be used in a virtual setting to provide equitable learning opportunities?

Through my research I came across several different articles and resources that talked about different strategies for making distance learning equitable and engaging for students and families. One thing that stood out in all of the resources was the need for people to feel connected. No matter who we are students,  families, educators we all want to feel connected to what we’re doing in the classroom. So it’s important as a coach and an educator to work together to figure out how we can keep students and families feeling connected to learning and how we support that. Some ways that are suggested for keeping students and families connected is to check in regularly with students and families. We may need to think though about how we’re doing this. It can’t be the same ways that we did it when we were in person and in the classroom. We might have to take time to reach out individually one-on-one with each family call them, text them use other means besides just email to get in touch with families. We also don’t have to do this alone. It’s important to work together as a school community and partner up to work together with our student’s other teachers to maybe share the responsibility of reaching out to families. Maybe one week Teacher A reaches out and the next week it’s Teacher B that reaches out, or jump on a call together but we should always have that consistent weekly interaction with our students and our families.

Something else that stood out to me was how we assess the resources that we are providing students and families. We must make sure that we provide students and families resources that actually allow for students to fully participate and engage. That means we should be assessing and making sure that the tool we are suggesting can be used on a variety of platforms. It’s important to really look at the tool and decide if this is something that my student could use on a mobile device, can it be used offline or is it only able to be used on one particular platform. It’s important that the resources we are providing can be used in multiple different ways. If we want students to be able to engage, then we need to make sure that they can no matter what it is they’re engaging on, whether that’s on a phone or a laptop or a tablet or if Wi-Fi is unpredictable maybe they need paper packets. That might also mean that we as teachers or a district need to provide those materials either by mailing it to families or having it somewhere where families can come and pick it up during a set time.

Is also important as a coach that I support educators in thinking flexibly about their instruction. I need to be able to support those that I work with in delivering instructional lessons that are flexible in how students engage with them, how students showcase their understanding and even in the ways that educators deliver the content. Three things that Snelling (2020) mentions in her blog post, 7 ways to make remote learning accessible to all students are;

  1. There needs to be multiple means of representation. Students need to be given flexibility in how they consume the information. Lessons need to provide for opportunities for students to not just read a text, but also watch a video, listen to audio or even take a virtual tour. Older students could even be given the opportunity to decide how they want to consume the information and then can go out on their own to find it. 
  2. There should also be multiple means of engagement for students. We have all heard that too much screen time is bad for students and just because we are teaching remotely that doesn’t change. So we need to provide students with opportunities to engage with learning in ways that may not always rely heavily on technology. Choice boards are a great opportunity to provide this as it allows for students to decide how they want to engage. They could do something more hands on or they could simply do something using paper and pencil. The idea is to be flexible in order to support student needs. Snelling (2020) states that “Activities can be as simple as allowing students to use a parent’s cell phone to take pictures of shapes around the house and email them to the teacher.”
  3. There should be multiple means of action and expression. This provides an opportunity for educators to design activities for students that are open-ended and provided for creativity in how students express themselves. When activities are designed with this sort of flexibility and freedom it allows for students to take more ownership of their learning and to feel more invested. 

There are so many great resources out there right now that have strategies for engaging students remotely. However I was struck with how as a coach to support educators in doing this and also what tools were out there. This is when I came across two resources that for me are game changes.

The first resource that I came across is from Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization whose vision is for everyone no matter where they are in their learning journey, the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed in order to thrive. You can read more about Digital Promise and who they are here. Through their work Digital Promise has developed a free online tool called the Learner Variability Navigator, that allows the user to target specific factors and map them to strategies that can be used to create lessons. While the tool was designed for in person classroom instruction, many of the resources can be adapted for remote learning. I found the tool easy to use and appreciated how they provide steps for each process along the way. The factors they use represent 4 main buckets; the model (math or literacy), cognition, social emotional learning, and student background. I love that you can hover over one factor and see which other factors closely connect to it. You can then look closer at different factors in order to see strategies that support that chosen factor and get ideas for implementing it in your classroom. Check out the video below to take a tour of the Learning Variability Navigator.

(Digital Promise Global, 2019)

The other resource that I came across is from Common Sense Media and is a guide for supporting learning differences and special needs in the classroom. The guide is designed to provide recommended apps or media in order to support students. The guide is broken down into 6 categories; communication, social interaction, organization, reading & writing, math, and motor skills. Once the user clicks on the skill that they want to focus on they are directed to a page with a variety of apps and media that are categorized by difficulty level. Just like with any digital tool you will want to check the privacy policy and make sure that the app or tool meets your districts requirements before recommending it to parents. I just love that it is a place to start and gather ideas for resources that are out there that can support students. It is up to me as the educator to continue the research to make sure that it is the right fit for my student. You can check out Common Sense Media’s Learning Differences & Special Needs Guide here

In the end I think as a coach it comes down to making sure that I am fully listening to the needs of those that I work with and helping them feel connected just like we want students to feel connected. I can help by offering to be a thought partner as we plan for what remote learning will look like in the fall. I want to build relationships so that educators feel comfortable reaching out and requesting help when they need it. I plan on doing my part by communicating with educators and building up that connection, acknowledging their frustrations and supporting them so that they feel equipped to support their students and families.

Resources

Apps for Kids with Special Needs and Learning Disabilities | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/guide/special-needs

Conroy, A. (n.d.). 8 Strategies for Building Belonging With Students and Families Virtually. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.panoramaed.com/blog/8-strategies-sense-of-belonging-virtually

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kirkland, D. D. E. (n.d.). Centering Equity, Access, and Educational Justice. 7.

Learner Variability Navigator | Learner Variability Project. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://lvp.digitalpromiseglobal.org/

Remote Learning. (n.d.). Culturally Responsive Education Hub. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://crehub.org/remote-learning

Saylor, V. (2020, April 9). 7 Ways to Make Distance Learning More Equitable. Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/7-ways-to-make-distance-learning-more-equitable

Snelling, J. (2020, March 23). 7 ways to make remote learning accessible to all students | ISTE. https://www.iste.org/explore/learning-during-covid-19/7-ways-make-remote-learning-accessible-all-students

Stembridge, A. (2020). Culturally responsive education in the classroom: An equity framework for pedagogy. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

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4 Responses to Supporting Equitable Learning Opportunities

  1. Jessica says:

    Hello,
    Thank you for sharing your insights into coaching (either as a teachers or coach) and identifying particular components that are important/essential. I agree that “connection” is so important to nurture, build, and establish with one another. I’ve been looking at the Learning Variability Navigator and am interested in learning how to use this tool.

  2. Rachel says:

    Thank you for sharing! As my district just made the call to go remote in the fall, I have been thinking about how remote teaching will be different this time around and how I can make it more equitable for all students. I appreciate the resources that you shared, along with some examples of ways that teachers can make things more than just reading a text. I think that we have an opportunity here that if used correctly will help students see that there is learning that can happen all around you and does not require a desk.

  3. Doug says:

    So true about feeling connected! I’m finding that through all of the oneline/remote professional learning experiences that I’m currently leading. Appreciate the emphasis on multiple means of representation, engagement, expression and action. Allowing all of those different on-ramps for learners is great. I like the Learner Variability Navigator as well. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Cory Cummings says:

    Megan,

    Thanks so much for your insightful post about remote learning and how coaches can support educators. The “7 ways to make remote learning accessible to all students” was really helpful in providing examples around how to make remote learning accessible. This will certainly be something I reflect on as we head into learning in the fall. Additionally, the Learner Variability Navigator by Digital Promise was really neat to explore. What an awesome resource! I agree, it’s extremely useful to be able to over a specific factor and see others that are connected to it. Thanks for sharing all those great resources!!

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