Because of coronavirus, school systems in Minnesota and around the world are obviously facing unprecedented challenges. Parents, teachers and students have had to scramble amid the spreading pandemic in order to lessen the blow to the 2019-20 school year, which the virus has already brought about as schools shutter in outbreak areas. The list of cancellations and delays grow daily. For example, the April 4th ACT has been postponed until June 13th.
Schools all over are transitioning to different forms of online schooling to salvage the balance of this year's curriculum and make it to summer break. Some districts are more prepared than others. Minnesota schools are, perhaps, a little bit better off than warmer regions since many area schools already have some capacity to do distance learning in order to carry on course work during snow days. But even in the best prepared schools and communities the disruption to education--alongside the potentially devastating health and economic impacts--may be profound.
While some degree of online schooling and learning is not a new thing for many students, few students have had to solely rely on it to deliver their entire course load and instruction. This situation is clearly uncharted territory for schools and students and it will be a trying time.
The good news is that an outline of a plan is in now place. In general, schools in Minnesota seem to be shooting for the beginning of April to transition out of spring break to full-time online schooling.
To try and help transition to the new situation, here is a set of ABC's for getting started if you are looking for tutoring services to assist students adjusting to full-time online school.
Work with your tutoring service to find an app that works for your tutoring needs. One app may accommodate different learning styles, course subjects and assignments better than others.
Common app choices include FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype. Not all apps are the same in terms of meeting individual educational needs. For example, if you need to be able to share screens and see your tutor work out problems by hand, Zoom is a solid choice. It has user-friendly controls to engage a screen sharing tool that includes a 'white board' feature for conducting hand written communication during sessions.
However, Zoom is in some ways less user-friendly than FaceTime in terms of how much work it takes to set up meetings. While FaceTime meetings can be set up by simply dialing a phone number, Zoom requires one of the users to learn how to use its controls for hosting meetings and sending out links to meeting participants. Google Hangouts also has a convenient screen sharing feature.
Bottom line, have a discussion with an online tutor about what you need done in a session and then choose the most appropriate app. Be creative with the apps! Many students and their tutors have found nifty ways of combining different apps, their phones and email exchanges all in one session to make the most of online learning opportunities
Initial online sessions between a new student and a tutor will go smoother if technical questions concerning app downloads as well as doing phone numbers and email exchanges can be worked out beforehand. But patience will often be required by everyone during sessions themselves as issues like poor connectivity and the limitations of online teaching come into play. These obstacles can be overcome, however, with again, a patient approach. Tutors, students and parents alike should use initial sessions to gauge what are reasonable expectations for the sessions in terms of the amount of work that can be completed and what kinds of school support can be facilitated through online sessions.
Students and parents may need to supplement their online sessions with other kinds of communications and document exchanges beforehand in order to make the tutoring effective. Emails, texts and phone calls before and after sessions may be needed to clarify lessons and to plan for further meetings. For example, many a student can increase the efficiency of a session by emailing or texting relevant assignment documents to tutors before sessions, so they are more prepared for the student's needs. Tutors can likewise augment learning by forwarding study aids and notes.
One good thing is that FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype are all free in most instances, so one can try them all out and mix and match their functionalities as needed.
By working creatively together with these online tools, students, families, and educators can practice safe physical distancing without eliminating crucial educational and social interactions!
Hope you are all safe and healthy and please support all the working people at the front lines of this pandemic!