Get ready to flex your distance learning muscles.
It's natural to feel some discomfort when you try something new, and distance learning is no different. Remaining positive, taking care of yourself, adopting a structured approach to your studies, and asking for help when you need it will help you thrive in this new learning environment.
Generally, student and faculty responsibilities in an online or blended course parallel those encountered in the traditional classroom, with some variations given the nature of the course environment. Whether you are the student or the instructor, following these responsibilities will help make you more successful.
- Dedicate appropriate time to learning, comparable to a school day and/or as guided by your teachers.
- Check appropriate online platforms (Sundial for sure at 10:30 AM Eastern time) for information on courses, assignments and resources a few times per day.
- “Attend” Class. Students must “attend” the online components of a course just as they would a traditional course. Class participation is essential to course success. In a distance learning course, student attendance is defined as logging into Sundial regularly and participating in all academic activities required by your teacher. Attend, as much as possible, any synchronous (live) engagements offered by each of your teachers using Zoom.
- Identify a comfortable (but not your bed) and quiet space to study/learn.
- Engage all learning and generate academic work products with academic honesty and personal integrity (remember the Griffin Guide?).
- If you make an office hours or individual help appointment with a teacher or adviser, don't miss it.
- Submit all assignments in accordance with provided timelines and/or due dates.
- Ensure your own social and emotional balance by keeping healthy habits.
The week (and each day) will begin with students taking some time for their own health and wellness - a time for exercise, mindfulness, and orientation to the demands of the day. Students may also use this morning period to wrap up work from the previous day or to review.
On Mondays, each class/teacher will share a short introduction, likely in the form of a video, that outlines the week ahead. These "Wayfinding Instructions" will support students as they navigate the complexities of the course and that week's learning objectives. Monday's material might include some resources to begin reading or researching, but it should not require a great deal of time to consume. Mondays will also offer time for advisor check-ins and a community meeting. Office hours are offered each day, Monday through Friday, and students will be able to make appointments with teachers for Zoom calls and extra help sessions. Each day concludes with an evening study hours period.
Establishing a positive routine will be critical to your success. Pomfret's distance learning schedule permits students to focus on a limited number of classes each day. By 10:30 AM, Monday through Friday, teachers will post to Sundial specific learning targets, lessons and materials in support of that day's instruction and learning. Teachers who teach A, B, C and M block courses will post additional learning materials to Sundial on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Wednesdays and Fridays are reserved for D, E, F and G block courses.
The total time for engagement and learning for each class, including reading, homework and work towards long-term assignments, should not exceed 4.5 hours per week. Students will be assessed in each class on their digital citizenship and engagement.
Your teachers will offer office hours blocks twice per week during the school day. These can be booked using Google Calendar appointment slots, and the appointments are facilitated using Zoom. Teachers will also offer individual office hours appointments two evenings per week to accommodate students in vastly different time zones. Students should contact their individual teacher to schedule these appointments in Google Calendar.
These complicated times call on us to be flexible and forward thinking in our decision making. As we strive to put the health and wellbeing of our students at the forefront of everything we do, Pomfret has decided to adopt the following policy with respect to grades during the current spring term:
Student progress will be reflected through "traditional" letter grades during the course of the spring. Grade books will remain open and we will continue to be transparent about student progress. In order to provide students with some measure of comfort, each student will have the option to keep the passing grade that they have earned or to change that grade to a Pass. Students will make this choice for each of their six courses at the end of the spring term.
To support distance learning, Pomfret School is incorporating two additional assessment strategies into every class and grade book.
Students will complete a Learning Journal that chronicles their distance-learning journey and accomplishments. Importantly, Learning Journals ask students to reflect and set goals. The Learning Journal will be shared with the advisor and each of the student's teachers. It is a place to reflect on learning and chart progress. In a learning journal, students might
1. document the course objectives and learning outcomes identified for the week, and
2. describe the state of their personal understanding, identifying key questions that need to be resolved and celebrating areas of strength/learning.
Students and advisors will review Learning Journals during 1:1 check-ins and converse about triumphs and struggles with distance learning. These conversations will reveal how specific courses are going and what steps that student and his/her teachers can take to support success. We see Learning Journals as an important (but low stakes) way to chronicle a student’s academic journey and growth while away from campus.
DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP & ENGAGEMENT:
Every class will record a Digital Citizenship & Engagement grade for the week. This distance learning participation is 10% of the spring term grade. Students will be assessed on the same five-point scale (1 – 5) used during Project: Pomfret: 1 – Detractor, 2 – Observer, 3 – Participant, 4 – Contributor, 5 – Leader. Students will receive weekly feedback, in Sundial, and are evaluated according to the following four areas of digital citizenship and engagement:
|1. Faithful to deadlines and deliverables||1. Leverages digital tools responsibly|
|2. Consumes/produces materials as intended||2. Uses appropriate tone and models civility|
|3. Meets expectations of self and others||3. Applies focus and discipline to distance learning events|
|4. Communicates challenges and setbacks|
|Collaboration||Pursuit of Learning|
|1. Partners effectively with peers and teacher||
1. Completes learning journals to describe growth and reveal uncertainty
|2. Contributes consistently and in good faith||2. Schedules appointments for coaching and feedback|
|3. Uses tech tool to connect and deepen engagement with classmates and the material||3. Uses asynchronous and synchronous events to question, reflect, comment and grow|
Establish a Positive routine
The Pomfret Distance Learning Schedule provides time each day for exercise, mindfulness, and study, and courses will retain their letter block designations so that your class responsibilities can be equitably distributed across the week. Building a positive routine and sticking with it will help you to find success and engage your learning in full. This includes getting up at a regular time, eating breakfast, dressing for success (get out of those PJs!), and being ready to go by 10:30 AM each day. Check out this blog entry entitled: 3 Ways High Schoolers Can Infuse Positivity and Productivity Into Their Morning Routines
The most successful distance learners create effective organizational systems that keep them on track and fully aware of their responsibilities. We will use Sundial as an organizational hub. What will work best for you? Here is an article for students and parents called Organization Skills for Students: 10 Ideas that Really Work.
Create A GOOD STUDY ENVIRONMENT
Another critical component of academic success is a good study environment. The tips shown below come from Minnesota Online High School and the Minnesota Department of Education.
- Get some peace and quiet. You will need a quiet place to work without distractions from things like television, family, or roommates.
- Avoid games. Consider uninstalling any computer games to avoid temptation. Or keep the games on a different computer in the house.
- Turn off your cell phone. Let friends and family members know the hours that you will be "at" school.
- Beware surfing the black hole of the Internet. It is easy to lose track of the time as you wander from site to site.
- Consider ergonomics. Adjust the height of your chair, keyboard, and screen so that you are comfortable. Forearms and thighs should be level and parallel to the floor. Wrists should not be bent while typing.
- Set up good lighting and comfortable seating. Lighting in the room should be at least as bright as the computer screen to avoid eye strain.