STS Blog

The Nuts & Bolts of STS' Remote Learning Program
The Nuts & Bolts of STS' Remote Learning Program
Kirk Wheeler, Head of School

We are ramping up efforts to prepare for the various scenarios the 2020-2021 school year may bring. We recognize that expectations are high for the fall re-opening, no matter what those conditions might be. While it is my sincere hope that we can be completely back to on-campus learning, I think the most likely scenario is a blended approach that combines on-campus and remote learning. To that end, we've continued to refine our Remote Learning program.

As promised, this is the first of our blog posts devoted to sharing the details of our Remote Learning program. In today's post, we'll start with the what: the components and structure of our Remote Learning program. In the next post, we will get into the nitty gritty of the why. In that post, I'll take you through a more in-depth rationale for the design of the program. These posts will be followed by more information on how remote learning will be blended with on-campus learning.

Despite the challenges we've faced this school year, it has been an honor to see the STS community work hard collectively to problem solve, continue building relationships, and celebrate learning. I am looking forward to celebrating our students' accomplishments in our first virtual graduation and "Moving Up" ceremonies next week.

Before I dive into the structure of our Remote Learning program, I want to emphasize that every decision we've made and will make in our ongoing response to COVID-19 is grounded in the St. Thomas School mission, vision, and guiding principles. Our Remote Learning program is designed and taught with the same commitment to the principles of childhood development that we deliver in-person and in each classroom. I'll go into more depth in our next post, but I feel it is worth starting with these principles in mind.

Remote Learning Program: Components and Structure

We offer two types of remote instruction: synchronous and asynchronous. As you will see in the diagram below, we utilize a variety of techniques and approaches in each method. Today, I'd like to focus on both types of remote instruction and talk a little bit about what each looks like.

Synchronous Live Lessons For our purposes, synchronous means that the class, group, or individual is working on the same lesson at the same time with their classmates and the instructor. In these settings, students are interactive in real time with adults and usually each other. We offer the following four types of synchronous lessons, which we deliver using the Microsoft Teams platform. I've also listed the frequency of which we offer synchronous lessons for each grade level.

  1. Whole Class – The whole class is present along with a teacher. Because only one student can speak at a time, this model limits student-to-student interaction. A child's stamina for focus in these meetings is very low. This model is best when a teacher wants to share information with all the students at once.
  2. Small Group – Students meet with a teacher in curated groups to address specific topics. This model allows for responsive, differentiated instruction with high levels of student-to-teacher and student-to-student interaction. This model is highly effective for student learning.
  3. Individual – A student and a teacher meet one-on-one for a brief, specific conversation. These meetings are particularly useful for students needing extra support from time to time.
  4. Chapel and Other Social Gatherings – Maintaining a strong sense of community is an essential component of learning, especially in the Remote Learning environment. These may be gatherings of any size. Academic lessons are not usually the core intention of these gatherings.

Minimum Synchronous Times by Grade:

  • 2- and 3-Day Preschool – 45 Minutes per week
  • 5- Day Preschool – 60 Minutes per week
  • PreKindergarten – 30 minutes per day
  • Kindergarten - 60 Minutes per day
  • 1st Grade – 75 Minutes per day
  • 2nd Grade- 75 Minutes per day
  • 3rd Grade – 90 Minutes per day
  • 4th Grade – 120 Minutes per Day
  • Middle School – 280 Minutes of scheduled class time per day with fluidity between synchronous and asynchronous instruction

Asynchronous On-Demand Lessons – When we say that a lesson is asynchronous, we mean that it's a lesson that can be completed by students on their own, without a teacher or other students present. Students interact with the content at any time and with the level of independence their development allows. Asynchronous lessons provide families with flexibility because they do not require students or parents to tune into a lesson at a set time. We offer four types of synchronous lessons that are delivered and completed in a variety of formats.

  1. Teacher Recorded Video Lessons – These are short, concise lessons recorded by a teacher to share information about a specific skill. They are most often embedded in a OneNote notebook page and used to introduce an assignment or concept.
  2. Teacher Curated Video Lessons – These are short videos on a specific topic that contribute to the learning objectives. Most often, they are embedded in a OneNote notebook page or linked from an external website.
  3. Adaptive Computer Programs – These are resources such as RazKids, Dreambox, or Lexia that provide content to students. Teachers can respond to student work on these platforms and assign tasks to specific students.
  4. Assignments – These are the tasks teachers assign to students in the various subject areas. They most often require students to submit work that is then reviewed by the teacher.

I hope that this information is helpful. As always, we are here for your questions, insights, and ideas. We want to hear from you. Communication is one of the most important building blocks of our STS village!

In that spirit, we will continue to share our plans and approaches in a variety of forums including Coffee with Kirk Town Hall every Tuesday at 4 p.m.

In my next post, I will provide more detail about the pedagogy and beliefs that guide not only our Remote Learning program, but also our on-campus learning. Until then, take good care.