LTHS Remote Learning Approach and Frequently Asked Questions
Before the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year, LTHS began efforts to revise and improve our plan in preparation for the 2020-21 school year. Over the summer, a team of teachers and administrators met to develop a remote learning plan that was grounded in research and focused on delivering courses with fidelity. The LTHS plan certainly won’t replace in-person instruction, but it will ensure students will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities in the courses they signed up for.
Remote instruction is not the same as traditional in-school instruction.
The eight period school day came out of the scientific management of factories¹ in the early 1900’s and divides the day into discrete segments with unrelated classes taught by subject-area experts are monitored by bells. Schools were also set up to have periodic measures of productivity, or tests, which determined whether a student had sufficiently learned the material placed before them. For years, school has been designed to be more about time sitting in a seat rather than ensuring mastery of outcomes.² As we have made changes to our curriculum over the past few years, we have focused more on meeting the needs of every student and ensuring all students meet the expectations of the course.
While many industries continue to use this model, the introduction of laptop computers and interactive educational tools have called the traditional school model into question. Companies such as Google³ have created spaces where workers can interact and collaborate. Not surprisingly, Google has also created digital tools to replicate the physical environment in the digital realm. Every Google application has a component of sharing and collaboration. Work has shifted from a top-down management hierarchy to a flat structure allowing for more ownership in the work.⁴ For schools, this means that students are less passive and more engaged in the work of the class with the teacher as the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage.” LT shifted to Google tools two years ago and ongoing professional development has provided teachers a better understanding of how to address remote learning needs.
In a remote learning environment, the flat model works more effectively than the traditional model, and our Remote Learning plan was designed to take advantage of the tools available to collaborate virtually rather than in real time.
Visible Learning and Remote Learning
We looked for methods and plans that fit a remote model rather than attempting to replicate an eight period day. We designed a schedule that built time for direct instruction, student interaction, independent work, and personalized feedback. We have used John Hattie’s meta-research on student achievement as the backbone for many of our curricular decisions for the past few years and his analysis of school closures from natural disasters shows that students do not experience learning loss when the essentials of a course are kept as the primary focus and teachers work toward student mastery of those essentials.⁵
For the past three years we have been mapping all of our courses to essentials knowing and doing outcomes and aligning them to standards. As we embark on this 2020-21 school year, curriculum maps will be shared with families pointing out what the essentials are for each course and showing the alignment to standards and assessments. To do this, teachers need to provide more than just 5 zoom classes a day and students need to spend less time sitting in front of a screen and more time taking what they have viewed to build their own knowledge.
Faculty Preparation for Remote Learning
We have all experienced the isolation of remote learning and remote living, so we are also training teachers how to connect with students in a remote environment while also addressing belonging and community in a digital space. The five days prior to students “arriving” at school will provide teachers the time to develop a different instructional mindset and clarify the essential outcomes of courses.
We have also changed the expectations of our technology coaches and instructional coaches to provide teachers training on technology tools and lesson plan structure to maximize the effectiveness of learning for our students.
Approach to Instruction and Cognitive Load
Cognitive load⁶ is the amount of information a student can process in working memory before they become frustrated, stressed, or unable to learn additional new things. Online Learning demands more cognitive load from students since they have to learn how to navigate the environment, the content, and the ways to send information back to the instructor while also remaining in a home-environment. Ideally, anything that is delivered as new learning should not exceed 10 minutes without an opportunity for students to process the information and move that information into long term memory. Our A/B schedule divides the day into two four-hour sessions that allow for introduction of new information, synchronous instruction for clarification and coordinated interaction. Time is also available for students to meet with teachers and get clarity on assignments.
How is this remote plan different from the one we used in the spring?
The 2020-21 Remote Learning Plan has changed considerably from the spring. Synchronous sessions are required for each scheduled period. Teachers have been given access to additional technology tools and will receive training on how to facilitate interactive Zoom sessions. Training is also scheduled to coordinate how Canvas is used for ease of access. Since grades will count this fall, we have also put forward clear guidelines on how grading takes place. In electives, unique software, supply kits, and other classrooms materials will be distributed to support remote learning. Computers and internet access will be available to anyone who needs them.
What does synchronous learning look like for students?
Synchronous sessions are live online sessions. Some classes will create additional asynchronous recordings, but those will usually be posted in Canvas and assigned as homework. Teachers are scheduled for hour-long sessions where they have many options that can be tailored to the learning outcomes of the course. Teachers can lecture, provide guided instruction, share powerpoints and documents, set up breakout rooms and chat rooms, provide demonstrations, and check for understanding using technology tools. While teachers will connect with all students synchronously for each scheduled period, how that instruction looks and feels will vary depending on the course.
Why are there only two hours of instruction per class? What are teachers doing to bridge this instructional gap?
The amount of time for direct instruction is less, but in thinking of lessons in two-day “chunks,” teachers can introduce a topic, provide time for practice, reflection and feedback, and then touch base with everyone again on the next synchronous session. Time for teachers to provide individual feedback via email or Canvas chatrooms will round out the rest of the week. The structure of the week will be more like a college classroom than a traditional high school class that meets every day.
How will the LT plan meet the remote learning expectations put forth by the Illinois State Board of Education?⁷
The ISBE guidelines recommend 2.5 hours of synchronous remote instruction daily, or the equivalent of 12.5 hours a week. Our A/B schedule provides 14 hours of synchronous remote instruction weekly for a student who takes 7 classes. Other guidance emphasizes flexibility and use of technology which is embedded in our plan.
What will happen on Wednesdays?
Eight Wednesdays during the first semester are reserved for teacher planning in the morning and office hours in the afternoon. Any week with 4 days is devoted only to the A/B schedule. We also have two Wednesdays built in for all classes to meet synchronously in 30 minute sessions.
While there is no synchronous direct instruction on eight Wednesdays, there is time for teachers to reach out to students and for students to reach out to teachers during afternoon office hours. Teachers are also meeting to ensure the essential outcomes are the focus of their planning and developing activities, pre-recorded demonstrations, or other components unique to their content for students to participate in and complete.
How will students get help when they only see their teacher twice a week?
In a traditional eight period day, students had the opportunity to drop by a classroom before school, after school, or during a lunch study hall. In a remote learning context, students have the ability to reach out more frequently. Teachers still work a full day, are available before and after scheduled courses and will also be available for office hours on Wednesday afternoons designated as feedback. For students that previously were assigned to support rooms during lunch study hall, they will still be given the opportunity to work with teachers during their 4th or 5th (unscheduled) lunch period.
How are lab courses going to be completed remotely?
Science labs, food labs, woodworking, driver education, automotive classes, SCUBA, and really any course that is heavily dependent on hands-on experience will be approached with specialized software that can replicate some of the activities. Teachers may also demonstrate a lab during a synchronous session with students collecting data during the demonstration. We are also working to determine how to get students into the school in small groups to have a chance to use our facilities in Phase IV and Phase III since, unlike the spring, we can have students in the building. Driver Education behind-the-wheel can also be made available.
How are teachers going to provide fair assessments and curb cheating?
Assessments, like the delivery model, will have to change. Multiple choice and true/false tests are easily cheated on in a traditional environment with a benefit to the students who take the class later in the day under an in-person model. Shifting more to performance assessments, using the assessment tools in Zoom and Canvas, and focusing more on process and feedback rather than a single hour long test will all minimize cheating.
How are teachers going to personalize their instruction to keep students engaged?
We purchased a professional Zoom account that allows for break-out rooms. Canvas has tools for monitored chat rooms. Additional software we are purchasing provides interactivity that will make a synchronous session more than just a teacher providing a PowerPoint and provide students virtual spaces to collaborate in-between synchronous sessions.
How will the social and emotional needs of students be addressed?
We understand that beginning the year in a remote learning environment is difficult for many students who miss socializing with their peers and participating in activities at school. Our remote learning plan incorporates many more synchronous learning experiences than it did in the spring and teachers have been participating in trainings to increase social connections in a virtual environment; we are hopeful that these improvements will help students feel more connected to one another and to their teachers. As a district our prevention and mental health education work will continue in the remote environment with monthly topics, such as managing stress, grief and loss, substance abuse prevention, and healthy relationships, addressed by our Student Support Counselors. School counselors and social workers will continue to work with students via Zoom appointments to address social emotional concerns and to provide strategies and tools for recognizing and managing feelings of depression and anxiety – students are encouraged to reach out to their school counselor, grade-level social worker, or any trusted adult at LT if they are feeling overwhelmed with feelings of depression or anxiety so that support can be provided. The Speak Up Line will continue to be monitored for any student to anonymously report unsafe behaviors or concerns (708-588-7326 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Student Services Division will continue to provide resources for all students and families on the website. As a district, we are committed to learning more about meeting our students’ social and emotional needs and we will continue to learn through our partnerships with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the IncludED Dignity Framework.
Will dual credit opportunities be honored?
We have been in touch with all of our dual credit college and university partners. They are working with hundreds of schools going through the same issues of remote learning. Teachers have been provided the support they need to deliver the course content. Keep in mind that college courses usually only meet 2-3 times per week, so a remote schedule is something that can easily fit college expectations of content delivery and student independent work.
What do I do if my student needs a computer?
If families indicated during online registration that they needed a computer, it can be picked up when they get their books.
Students who did not indicate a need for a computer during online registration should alert the staff member checking them in at Book Pick-Up that they need to borrow a laptop.
If you did not get one during your scheduled book pickup time; simply return to your campus during a book pickup time and tell them you need to borrow a laptop.
For specific technology or access issues, please call or email our Technology Department Help Desk: 708-579-6559, HelpDesk@d204.lths.net.
Please remember anyone entering LTHS campus must wear a face mask and properly social distance themselves from others.
Aug 4-12: Book Pick-up
Aug 10: Seniors, Transition Students, 5th Year Seniors only: Proof of meningitis vaccination due