What Would You Keep?
The BC Calculus exam is next week, so I planned for students to take a practice test this past Wednesday. I spent about an hour preparing all the files and forms and Google assignments so students could take the exam and submit their work for me to review.
The first email came on Sunday night. “I won’t be in class on Wednesday because I’ll be taking the AP US History exam.” As more emails trickled in it became apparent that most of my class was going to be absent for the practice test. I should have paid more attention to the school calendar.
In a normal year I would have been upset wasting so much time preparing something I couldn’t use. But not this year. When Wednesday came I posted the work as planned and simply declared it an asynchronous assignment. Everyone did the practice test just as they would have in class, whenever they had the time. Two days later I had my data and everyone had their feedback.
We’re all looking forward to returning to in-person instruction, but there have definitely been some this-works-better-remotely moments over the past year-plus. As the year winds down, I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to keep from this experience when I return to my classroom. Here are a few things that have been on my mind. Some are wishful thinking, some are within my control
Occasional Asynchronous Instruction
Asynchronous instructions isn’t just for adapting when things go wrong. I’ve heard it over and over again this past year: Students love the ability to do their work on their own schedule. Imagine a weekly asynch day where students get meaningful work but are given the flexibility to do it when it makes the most sense for them. They could work at school in a drop-in environment or at home. A weekly asynch day could also give teachers much needed time and space to plan, grade, and collaborate in course teams.
Untimed Assessments with Resubmissions
When emergency remote learning began last year I switched exclusively to untimed assessments and allowed students to re-submit after feedback. Under those circumstances it seemed like the only reasonable option, but it worked so well I stuck with it as my primary assessment strategy this year. I did give timed quizzes throughout the year, and I do look forward to giving in-class tests again, but I’ll definitely find a way to integrate this into my overall assessment strategy.
Virtual Office Hours
After-school tutoring is great, but this year’s virtual office hours were much more flexible and convenient. It’s been so easy for kids to pop in to ask a quick question, get help on an assessment, or retake a quiz. It’s also made it easy for me to coordinate recommendation writing and even catch up with last year’s students. There’s a reason that parent-teacher conferences in New York City will remain virtual next year even as schools reopen. This model works.
Publishing Class Notes
For the first time in nearly 20 years of classroom teaching I posted my class notes everyday. It hasn’t been feasible before now, because the record didn’t exist, but with everything being digital this year it was a snap. And students loved it: It made reviewing easy and it relieved the anxiety of catching everything on the first pass in class. This came up a lot in end-of-year surveys as something that worked well for them.
I came late to this feature in Zoom, but private chat makes something that is very hard to do very easy: Give every student a chance to answer a question without being influenced or judged by others. I spent a lot of time this year trying to figure out how to use digital tools to recreate what I do well as a teacher, but I’ll be thinking about how I can recreate what this digital tool does in an in-person setting.
So, as we wrap this remote/hybrid year and look forward to an in-person fall, what might you keep?