Shakopee experienced our very first...and second and third... Connected Learning (CoLD) Days of the winter! Our trial by fire (brought on by a polar vortex) allowed us to see how e-learning could work to extend learning opportunities and supplement face-to-face instructional time with students. The goal of utilizing CoLD is to continue the learning happening in our classrooms even when the weather doesn't cooperate. This also allows us to avoid losing vacation days or adding class days in June.

For our very first attempt, it went well!

At the elementary level, students completed SABERS Boards at home. While students have iPads to use at school, these activities were tech-free as we cannot guarantee equitable access to technology when students are at home. Teachers provided options for students to showcase learning across all curricular areas. Students could complete activities independently or work together as a family.

At the secondary level, starting the semester out with Connected Learning Days brought unique challenges to teachers and students. Many students had not met their teachers and were unfamiliar with expectations in their courses. Due to schedule changes, courses in Canvas were not always accurate creating some confusion for students about which courses to participate in. While the timing was out of our control, we know this is likely not to happen in the future and students and teachers responded well to the challenge.

To learn more about the experience, we have summarized parent feedback and lessons learned. Keep reading to read about some inspirational CoLD ideas!

Parent and Student Feedback

Many parents reached out via email, social media, and phone to share feedback about how CoLD went from their perspective. We heard many parents appreciated the structure and purpose that CoLD assignments brought to their homes as they knew to expect that their students had something to work on. They appreciated that while students could not go outside due to the extreme temperatures, they had productive learning activities to keep them from wasting the day away. One parent, while generally supportive of everything her students were asked to complete, was concerned that her daughter had a three page paper to submit that was due the next day. Upon further investigation, she realized that the two paragraph assignment her teacher gave her was so fun and engaging, the student chose to write that much!

Many curious parents expressed a desire to follow along with the assignments in Canvas to see what was expected of their children. Here are directions for parents to sign up as Observers of their children in Canvas.

Another critically important piece of feedback we received from parents and students was that some of the directions in Canvas were difficult to follow. And sometimes there were no directions about what (if anything) should be electronically submitted. Creating a CoLD module with a small list of assignments or quizzes is a great way to organize CoLD activities for students. Be sure to link activities directly from your Home Page so students know exactly what to do and where to go. While it’s not likely that we will experience three CoLD days in a row again soon, we do want to ensure that students see clearly delineated directions for each CoLD assignment. Be sure to provide a location for students to submit work if necessary. Check out this very simple yet effective CoLD Home Page. Remember that the goal is to keep students in Canvas and reduce the number of clicks they need to make to find an assignment.

Inspirational CoLD Lesson Ideas

While supporting secondary teachers remotely, DLCs got a glimpse into some really creative and meaningful assignments across a broad range of subject areas and courses. Here is a list of a some activities we thought were pretty neat that may provide some inspiration!

  • Many teachers provided menus of options so student could choose activities they prefer. This definitely increased their engagement in the tasks.

  • Teachers created Canvas discussions or Flipgrid topics so students could introduce themselves and build community before they met face-to-face for the first time.

  • To start the semester, teachers created digital quizzes, assignments, or reflections around the course syllabus - activities that they normally would have done in class.

  • Students created video submissions through Flipgrid based on prompts provided by teachers. Teachers can set up Flipgrid in Canvas and adjust the topic/prompt when the time comes!

  • Teachers used screencasting tools (such as QuickTime or Loom) to simulate face-to-face interactions and provide direct instruction or visual/verbal directions.

  • Teachers used Edpuzzle to turn short videos or screencasts into interactive formative assessments or flipped lessons using video instructions and formative quizzes in Canvas.

  • Students went on virtual field trips to museums using Google Arts & Culture

  • Students completed activities focused on the 6Cs: Creativity, Collaboration, Cultural Responsiveness, Communication, Character, and Critical Thinking. Examples: Use critical thinking to evaluate bias in a favorite TV show, movie, or video game. Use pictures, clipart, and online resources to draw or create a symbolic representation of learning from a past unit.

  • Students performed exercises or fitness tests and worked on goal-setting in PE.

  • Students wrote narratives about the polar vortex in English.

  • Science experiments utilized the extremely cold temperatures.

  • Band students found a video featuring their instrument that featured a new technique, amazing performance, or inspiration then shared their video and reasoning in a Canvas discussion.

  • Social Studies students created timelines using Sutori.

  • Psychology students examined the stress of a CoLD day using course vocabulary to explain how stress levels change in different ways as a result of the same event. They posted video responses in Flipgrid.

  • Art students watched videos of MN artists then reflected on what inspires the artist to create, observations about how they work, and how successful their work is.

  • Math students completed an assignment in Desmos - they viewed slides explaining quadratics then analyzed trajectories of basketball shots: Will it hit the hoop? Students made predictions, manipulated graphic overlays to see exactly where each shot would land, and analyzed class results.

  • Many teachers included extensions to their assignments for students who wanted to learn more!

Some teachers created multiple-day assignments.

  • English students watched a TED Talk and wrote a reflection in a Canvas discussion, then returned to read and reply to fellow students the next day.

  • FACS students took an interest inventory, researched a related career, located a virtual tour of that profession, then submitted a link to the virtual tour with a summary of their learning based on provided prompts.               

  • Criminal Justice students looked at capital punishment and historical punishments and then completed a Canvas discussion one day and a discussion via Flipgrid the next.

Next time inclement weather hits, parents will be connected, teachers will feel prepared to provide clear directions to engaging activities, and students will keep on learning!

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