This is a blog post by our Assistant Head Charles Franklin, who describes how distance learning has evolved from spring 2020 to fall 2020 incorporating community feedback and best practices for online instruction.
After a successful roll out of our Distance Learning Plan in the spring of 2020, we wanted to gather as much information as possible about best practices for distance learning and have ready an improved and refined Distance Learning Plan for the 2020-21 school year should we need it.
This process of continual analysis and improvement began in the spring, with surveys that went out to our faculty, our families, and our boys. This feedback was combined with the information faculty and staff gained from countless online summer professional development opportunities. Landon identified the Global Online Academy (GOA), a leader for nearly a decade in the online learning world, as a strong partner in this work, and faculty and staff were able to learn philosophies, approaches, and activities that are being put into practice already this year.
In taking this information from the surveys and the online professional development experiences of faculty over the summer, we consulted with our department chairs, grade deans, learning specialists, educational technology staff, and divisional leadership to create a set of guiding principles for our distance learning 2.0 efforts. Here are a few of those principles:
- Commitment to synchronous classes, with an emphasis on beginning each class with relationship-building time
- Reduction of cumulative screen time for boys
- Use of BearNet for posting all assignments
- Student centered lesson design
Two ways we are approaching reducing the cumulative screen time for boys is by placing a 30-minute limit for on screen time in the Middle and Upper schools in our 45-minute classes and by designing projects, activities, and assignments that allow boys to think and create away from their screens.
The improvements to Distance Learning policies and lesson planning have already been well received by boys and faculty, and I have been so impressed with the effort our faculty have put in over the summer to prepare for Distance Learning 2.0.
Finally, I want to highlight the incredible effort of our technology staff (Neil Magsino, Jun Choi, Erik Herring, and Larry Franklin) over the summer to prepare our boys, faculty, and campus for this year, and our educational technology staff (Laurie Sears, Tara Northcott, and Kim Coletta) for all of their work, including their countless hours of professional development training they provided our faculty over the summer.
This community-wide approach to improving our online experience for our boys has set us up well for utilizing distance learning in the 2020-21 school year.