October 1, 2020
“We have worked to be incredibly responsive to the needs of educators and school systems. One thing we realized is that there are amazing things that happen every day in physical schools that don’t necessarily translate to remote learning.”
-Gabriela López, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
In the wake of the pandemic, many teachers and school leaders have pivoted to remote learning platforms, but they may not be aware of the most effective strategies and technology options to provide quality remote instruction based on what we know about how people learn. This subject was the point of focus in the latest installment of the Supporting Innovation in Education webinar series. The Hunt Institute sat down with Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (Learning Policy Institute), LaVerne Evans Srinivasan (Carnegie Corporation of New York), and Gabriela López (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative) to discuss innovative strategies to support educators who are navigating these issues.
“We are in a mode now where 90% of students are in online learning. We have a long way to go. There are still big inequities, but we have mobilized many ways to work on addressing them across districts.”
-Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute
Dr. Darling-Hammond opened the webinar with an overview of how the California State Board of Education is addressing remote learning and shared some best practices she has seen in the field since March. Since the pandemic began, California has worked to close the digital divide by more than half and has provided guidance on professional development for districts and teachers. She noted a wide range of innovation across the state. For example, Long Beach opened classes to a virtual audience, giving approximately 2,000 kids the chance to learn from the district’s top educators. Districts have also figured out ways, like virtual home visits, to engage kids to get higher attendance rates, even in high-need communities. There is still a long way to go, and Dr. Darling-Hammond discussed the need to share innovations across teachers and districts so high-quality remote instruction can reach more students in California and across the country.
Our panelists representing two philanthropic organizations – López of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Srinivasan of the Carnegie Corporation of New York – shared how they shifted to support grantees in providing services to families, educators, and students in need. They have worked to be responsive to student virtual learning needs and provided support on technology innovations for distance learning, family engagement, cultural responsiveness, and more.
López addressed the inequitable disparities that exist regarding remote learning and discussed the disproportionate effect disparities have on marginalized students and families. Recent grants they have supported tackle culturally relevant materials in a digital environment, students with special needs, and English language learners, all from an asset-based lens. She highlighted a few grantees working in this space:
Srinivasan offered helpful strategies to address challenges in providing high-quality instruction. She discussed the importance of engaging families, making cultural connections, and using Talking Points to support translation. She also acknowledged that families often feel overwhelmed with resources. One of Carnegie Corporation’s partners, Common Sense Media, launched Wide Open School, which allows parents and educators to identify resources that complement each other. Univision and Khan Academy offer content to support parent learning so they can help their children at home.
“We’ve learned how under-informed parents are about how their kids are really doing — the systems we use to communicate with parents about how their kids are doing, report cards, etc. The pandemic has shown us that parents and teachers have to be partners for learning — this is a collaborative activity.”
-LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, Carnegie Corporation of New York
Dr. Darling-Hammond shared that after looking at research about remote instruction, Learning Policy Institute found that well-designed online or blended instruction can be as or more effective than in-classroom learning alone. She offered seven ways to be effective in the remote learning space, if done the right way:
Remote learning is about more than the teacher. It is recognized that high-quality instructional materials support student learning. López discussed the gap between those who are developing instructional materials and those developing culturally relevant materials, and noted the need for this to be better aligned. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is working with partners who are thinking about how to develop appropriate materials and effective assessment that is culturally responsive. She ended with a note that the assumption that culturally relevant content is not high quality must be addressed.
Families have differing resources available to them to support their children during remote learning. With less financial resources available, low-income families may have a harder time adapting to remote learning. It is important for schools to provide resources to low-income families. Srinivasan noted that it has been clear that schools have struggled, even before the pandemic, in communicating how kids are doing in school. Families need knowledge and agency to advocate for their child, and this disparity for low-income families has been further exacerbated by the pandemic. Supporting educators and leaders to ensure that parent engagement is happening, and parents have access to clear information about where their student is in learning and how parents can specifically support them is necessary.
Teacher leaders provide valuable leadership to educators. Dr. Darling-Hammond shared how important it is to take advantage of their leadership and knowledge to help other teachers grow in their ability to provide high-quality remote instruction. One way that is happening is through micro credentialing — identifying teachers who excel in online learning and acknowledging that expertise. It is important to give teachers release time to support other teachers. In Singapore and Shanghai, mentoring and leadership responsibilities are scheduled into teacher leaders’ daily schedules. She recognized the amount of cooperation going on and hopes that after the pandemic this collaboration is sustained.
The last topic of the webinar was about early childhood education and tips for helping younger children with self-direction while they learn online. Dr. Darling-Hammond shared a resource from Learning Policy Institute, Reinventing Schools, which has a chapter on early childhood and how to support very young learners. López noted the importance of remembering that behavioral expectations for younger children should drive the decisions around instruction – looking at routines, schedules that are put in place, ensuring peer to peer interaction – schedules for a first grader should not look the same as an eighth grader. And Dr. Darling-Hammond closed with a concern about exclusionary discipline happening online and noted self-management and regulation online is not a behavior problem but a teaching problem in a virtual environment, and that we must put resources into training teachers how to do this.
View the complete webinar recording below.