John Leighton, high school social studies teacher at Franklin High School in Franklin, Mass., recently shared with us his recommendations for how to improve classroom communication and collaboration through online test reviews.
Now he's back with his top recommendations for improving interactions between teachers, students and parents.
Give individualized feedback: John uses his district's learning platform to hold online text-based conferences for test reviews. To encourage participation, he regularly provides comments to his students during the review: "I send a personalized note to encourage a student to ask another question," he says.
Make yourself accessible: "Kids email me at 11:30 at night. Even if I don’t answer, they feel like they have access to me. It’s not just the one hour during the day when they see me. They begin to see learning as an ongoing process."
Keep parents informed: John currently uses e-mail to keep the lines of communication open to parents.
“If we’re starting a project, I copy and paste the project into an email," he says. "It’s important for parents to see that we are using rubrics, and learning frameworks [so that they can understand why the students have been assigned a particular project]. Parents can then get a good sense of what is upcoming with their child – they are not blindsided.”
John notes that this process of copying and pasting project information from the district’s learning platform into a separate email will be greatly simplified once the district begins using the Parent Portal capabilities of their learning platform. Once this happens, parents will be able to log in and click on any of their children’s names to see:
- all upcoming projects
- homework assignments
- student progress report
- important announcements regarding school activities
Use online group strategies: “I’ve done more with discussion boards, group activities, and peer editing, which help with collaboration and communication. A group of students can check in with each other online and peer edit a project. Kids can live hundreds of miles apart, but still be able to share opinion, and add rapport.”
Implement online strategies for teacher collaboration: John says that, although they are in the early stages of implementing online strategies for teacher collaboration, teachers use the district’s online learning platform to share lessons, and for peer-to-peer sharing of ideas in mentoring and recertification programs.
John has set up a course called “Social Studies Teachers” where teachers can share lessons - “take one, leave one.” Having the ability to share online has made the collaboration process much more valuable, he says, because now “you can edit and truly make it your own.”
Teachers are now doing the same with sharing of rubrics and standards.
“There is a lot more collaboration online than you could ever do with paper copy.”
The Move Toward Student-Centered Learning
John credits his district's learning platform for streamlining these interactions and shifting the focus back on the students.
“itslearning works so well with all of the other bits of software out there. We talk a lot about moving from teacher-student to student-centered learning – this is the easiest tool to do that with.”