Distance Learning - Engagement

We talk about perspective taking a lot in school, "put yourself in their shoes" etc. Usually this to help teach empathy and other key comps, as well certain critical literacy skills. However I found myself really needing to think about this for distance learning.

Without having the students seated in front of me, how could I entice them to 'come to school'?
> Certainly a percentage of my learners had whanau who engaged with the online learning, and 'assisted the engagement' (in fact this was really cool to see our whanau making these connections to school, and is a great conversation starter for what we could do to keep this going).
> But there was a whole other percentage who managed themselves. They got themselves up in the morning, got out their chromebooks and engaged with the learning and online meets that I provided.

I found that my learners were unintentionally brutally honest about the learning I provided. If they didn't like it, they simply didn't do it.
I had to put myself in their shoes.  I am competing for their attention with Fortnite and Tik tok.
Once I had this realisation, I started trying to make my learning more interesting, and more engaging. The type of learning that kept bringing the students back to the site each day to find out "whats next?".

We found that chunking learning into mini inquiry topics that spread over a week worked really well for us. The first day of the week would set the topic or theme, then the subsequent days explored ideas within that theme. The students wanted to learn 'the next thing' each day.

90's example
Our 90's week was fun (or as the students referred to it "the olden days"). We started looking at technology, then toys, then music, and cartoons. The kids wanted to find out what the next thing we were going to study was, and each day added to their overall understanding of the "olden days" haha.

Meet Marcus
Another week we did "Fashion design" which was a neat mask to place over a New Zealand celebrity study. Each day we looked at a different New Zealand celebrity, and designed an item of clothing for them.
The week was glued together by my fictional cousin 'Marcus'. Marcus happened to know all these celebrities personally, and was offloading the task of designing for them to the class.
The effort and enthusiasm that I demonstrated as 'Marcus' was appreciated by the students. Although they knew deep down, he wasn't real, they played along because it was 'fun'. We even saw students who missed days, going back and interacting with the content because they were missing jokes and felt left out.
While 'Marcus' was quite extreme, the concept of an immersion week is something we have discussed taking forward. It inspires the students to build on their knowledge, and seek further understanding on their own. Which is not something we have easily achieved in other instances.

Part 1 - Designing for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Part 2 - Designing for Jacinda Ardern
Part 3 - Designing for William Wairua
Part 4 - Designing for Julian Dennison


  1. So so good Mr Goodwin and your cousin! It was easy to see how much your students loved to engage with their learning during Bubble School too. Thanks for sharing what you have here AND the massive work in preparing a plan for Manaiakalani to support teachers with your draft site and google meet guidelines. Perfect timing!


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