9 Ways to Survive and Thrive While Teaching and Learning Remotely

school is closed
(Image credit: Unsplash: Jacqueline Kelly)

As the world attempts to try and contain the spread of the coronavirus, both parents and students are setting up to work and learn at home. Glass half full: No commute, extra time with the family, and increased productivity. But for many people, working from home is a nightmare. Your wifi is slow, the fridge is too close, or you can’t figure out how to send emails offline.

We asked school administrators that are managing these emerging remote learning systems—for their recommendations on making it work. If they can get teenagers to get off Snapchat, they can do anything.

Here are their suggestions.

1. Keep track of your passwords. That sticky note on your corkboard with all of your passwords didn’t make it home? No problem, as long as you use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane.

2. Find the right place to work. Consider lighting, sound, and other interruptions such as a dog who barks when the wind blows. If you’ll be doing videoconferencing, be very intentional about your space—especially the background. If you have roommates, housemates, or children, you might want to put up a “Busy Working” sign.

3. Buy a good headset. If you’re going to be spending so much time online, make sure you will be comfortable. Don’t scrimp on features like noise cancellation. Otherwise, you may have to invest in a masseuse and a chiropractor.

4. Time management is paramount. Build a schedule for the day and hold yourself to it. Make sure to include breaks and time to stand up. This blog from HubSpot reviews the best time-management apps, such as Todoist

5. Have a backup internet plan. Whether it’s a hotspot or phone tether, know what you’ll do when the guy down the street cuts down a tree and hits the telephone pool. (True story!) 

6. Ensure you have access to every resource you need.  Many companies still have internal resources accessible only within the company network. Make sure your laptop has virtual private networking (VPN) software and that you’ve established communication protocol via email, phone, cell phone, and instant messaging. In addition, learn how to use a VPN in case you’ll need to remotely access servers or files while working from home.

7. Understand your home wireless capacity. If you need to engage via Zoom or Google Hangouts, can your in-home wireless support it? 

8. Ask for tutorials and other support. Can your company’s IT director create a webpage with “cheat sheets” and other resources? One K-12 technology director made short instructional videos using Screentastify and put them on a private YouTube channel. Another option is to have training sessions using Google Hangouts Meet

9. Communicate regularly. Use Google Hangouts or other videoconferencing platforms to hold regular meetings. If people are isolated, these will serve as great morale boosters and keep everyone in the loop and on track. 

Tips gathered from the following people: Joe Kuzo, director of technology, Quakertown (PA) Community School District; Andrew P. Marcinek, M.Ed., chief digital officer, Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, MA; Frank Pileiro, MAIT, supervisor of technology, Linwood (NJ) Public Schools; and Dr. Hank Thiele, superintendent, (IL) Community High School District 99.