Remote Learning. A term that didn’t exist when we were in school and wasn’t even beginning to take shape when we were studying to be teachers. With the pressures of COVID-19 and the constantly changing directions we receive from our government in order to curb the pandemic, remote learning has become our new normal. Throw in the demands of teaching from home, and finding a new workflow with other family members under the same roof, remote learning has us feeling like...
For some of us, it started with a small taste in the spring that would challenge us to start thinking outside of the box for ways to engage learners who had never before been exposed to remote learning, with some of them sitting in front of a laptop for the very first time. For more than half of our colleagues, it continued into the fall with no end in sight, as there were simply not enough students choosing to travel into the classroom. We were some of the lucky few who were able to remain at school and continue to teach face-to-face for four months. Now in January, online learning has been extended once again for all of us in Ontario and has caused us to do something that us A-type teachers either LOVE or HATE: pivot. Personally, we love it. In the Special Education setting, we thrive on sameness. We find ideas and schedules that work and like our learners with ASD, we continue to do things that work and we don’t stop. Perhaps this is why we welcome change, because we don’t take for granted the opportunity to expand our learner’s horizons and force them into new opportunities to teach them how to navigate this unpredictable world. This is also why we love the start of a new school year - the only time when we can move desks and furniture and anchor charts around and not cause upset or anxiety amongst those who are hard-wired for the same. In business, the act of “pivoting” means to “fundamentally change direction in order to survive.” Young or old, tech savvy or tech-illiterate, enthusiastic or complacent, we as teachers need to pivot in the direction of remote learning in order to stay afloat.
Some subjects are generally easier to teach online than others, and Google Classroom allows learners to work independently, in groups or as a whole class while also allowing some creative ways of bringing them together such as interactive Jamboards where all students can contribute. Learners with disabilities may not have the computer literacy skills to participate fully in lessons with their neurotypical peers, but the standards for accommodating and modifying for these learners should remain as they do in the classroom. So, are they there?
Physical Education and Daily Physical Activity (DPA) begs a lot of questions from educators.
- How do I engage my learners in synchronous learning when so much about physical activity is group-based in a standard face-to-face environment?
- How do we provide activities in small spaces?
- How do I incorporate outdoor activities when learners are at home?
- How will they be properly supervised from a safety perspective?
- How much can learners really do on their own?
- And most of all, how will those with disabilities be able to participate?
The answers to these questions are not simple, but as with other subjects that desire face-to-face learning, remote learning requires creativity, intentional planning and role modelling. Besides, how are students supposed to be motivated to move if they don’t know that you’re doing it too? #TruthBomb
OK, OK, we know we need to be creative and engaging to captivate our audience, but again - how will those with disabilities be able to participate? The answer in theory is simple, but it requires a growth mindset.
Learners can succeed in remote learning, when they are
accommodated and modified for.
In fact, they have to succeed. If you have a student with a disability or a barrier to movement, part of your job as an educator is to create achievable goals based on what they can do, so YES, your learners can achieve. So, how do you do it?
1) Consistency: Don’t let DPA slip. Make the time to embed at least 20 minutes of physical activity throughout your day to not only set a predictable routine for your learners, but to teach them the value of when and why their body needs to move! Ensure that Physical Education is in your schedule and it is followed with intentional planning and similar expectations you would have in the face-to-face classroom.
2) Creativity: You don’t need fancy equipment, or even a ball. Teach learners how to use their bodies as equipment and household objects that everyone has access to, such as using a hamper or basket as a target or rolled up socks instead of a ball.
3) Physically and Emotionally Safe Environment: Physical activity offers a valuable learning opportunity through movement, however it is important for educators to create a safe space for students to discover and take risks. Physical Education is more than catering to the natural athleticism of some of our learners, when for many others it can be the most dreaded time of the school day. Be sensitive to all your learner’s differences.
4) Accommodate: Know your learners and provide accommodations for those who require them. Every activity you present can have an accommodated option, such as an A and B choice. Remember the 3 types of accommodations in the I.E.P.:
- Instructional: Change the way you teach (i.e. different equipment, different activity)
- Environmental: Change the setting (i.e. seated or standing, change the setup)
- Assessment: Multiple assessment techniques (i.e. video, photographs, conferencing)
TBH, accommodations should be given to all your learners with our without disabilities to ensure that everyone can access the curriculum.
5) Assess: But don’t rely on Google Meet footage to do so. Learners can demonstrate learning in a variety of ways, such as oral conferencing, photographs, and journals. If you set the bar high for Health and Physical Education by participating consistently and synchronously with your students, they will learn from you, and may develop the confidence to turn their camera on to be seen when they are ready. Until then, respect their privacy and build rapport by engaging in conversations around their physical activity and how they can move forward in their learning.
To help you get MOVING, we’ve developed an interactive Physical Activity Accessible Choice Board for you to try with your learners during remote learning. We are offering this resource FREE for the first 100 downloads! The choice is yours, so try it out and let us know what you think! Share your feedback and photos on social media, and tag @playbeyondlabel to be featured on our account.
For best user experience with the Physical Activity Accessible Choice Board:
- Download the PPT and click 'File' - 'Save As' - 'Google Slides'. Be patient, this can take a minute.
- When using, ensure that the slides are in 'Present Mode'.