My Simplified Approach to an eLearning Station

Our eLearning station takes up a small wall in the dining room, just off of the kitchen and family room. Centrally located if he needs us, but in a low traffic area during the day.

August 2020

Since we decided to keep our son home for eLearning for the first term of 4th grade, I’ve been racking my brain and the internet for how to set up a learning area for him. I work from home already, but we quickly learned during the pandemic closure and 4th quarter of last school year that it is impractical for us to share my office.  Between my phone calls and zoom meetings and his zoom meetings and lessons, we were a constant interruption to each other.  We needed someplace for him. But where? And how? And his school has the students following their school day schedule, meaning he will need to be logged in to a certain place at a certain time for his lessons and for attendance, so we needed it to work with little effort or supervision on our part.

I realized quickly I was not going to be one of those Pinterest or YouTube moms that went all out.  No offense to them, it looks amazing, but that isn’t his learning style, our family’s living style, nor did it fit our budget for what we hope will be a short-term situation.  We needed simple and easy.  I also didn’t want to use the dining room table since that would mean having to put it somewhere when it was mealtime, and he would have to get up to get things when he needed them—way too inefficient for my taste.

I also made sure to include him in the decision-making process—what he wanted and didn’t want in the space, where he wanted to be in the house, decorations, etc.  With his input and my experience as both his mom and a teacher, we were able to come up with a plan.

What resulted was a compact area on a small wall in the dining room that has everything he needs in one location and is organized in a simple to use fashion that already embraced the toy system we use—cubbies that are taken out, used, cleaned up, and put away when finished.  It was also low on budget—including the school supplies he needed, we spent under $100.

Here’s a breakdown of our e-learning center.

DRY ERASE MESSAGE BOARD This will be used to post the date/day of the week, as well as daily quotes and inspirations for him each day. There are all sorts of websites with quotes for kids and we can tailor them to him or to what he has going on for this day. Having the day and date will also replicate the classroom and help him in finding what the online resources and dates are.

DAILY SCHEDULE This schedule came from his school with what time the classes are and where he should be.  It is color-coded to match the bins since he has two academic teachers this year so it will help him keep up with who is when. Our school gave us a general version and the teachers were really awesome and had one ready, so all I really had to do was adapt to fit on a clipboard (their version was landscape layout, I preferred portrait so that it would hang on the clipboard for easy reference.

COMPUTER He is going to be sharing my personal laptop with me, but we created his own profile and have been working with him, so he knows how to access his school’s site and the sites needed for his lessons.

IPAD & STAND The iPad is programmed with alarms for each of the start times for his schedule just in case he gets distracted—he is nine after all!  The stand we already had, but it gives it a home to sit on his workstation and be out of the way, and he has a clock and timer ready, if he needs it.

SUPPLIES CUBBY This is a top shelf for easy access.  He has a cup with pencils, highlighters, and scissors in the bin, as well as his paints, markers, crayons, color pencils, ruler, and whatever other supplies he may end up needing.  We also have a binder with notebook and plain paper for whatever they may need.

CLASS CUBBIES He has one for electives, one for his morning classes and one for his afternoon classes.  The textbooks and other materials will stay in here so he can find it quickly and easily or pull out all materials from it.  We have his notebook and folder for each subject that will be during that part of the day, as well.

LUNCH MENU He will have the same amount of lunch time as the students at school, so we needed a way to eat quickly that would allow him time to relax.  He and I sat down together and decided to create hot and cold options for Monday through Friday, make them slips, and he can fill them out on Fridays so we can grocery shop and restock. Every option can either be prepared in the morning before school or they are thing he has experience making or preparing independently, just in case our work schedules don’t allow us to break away at the same time, although we hope to be able to eat with him and socialize each day.

UNIFORM Yes, we are going to be those parents that make him wear a uniform each day—at least his school shirt.  We want him to keep the routine and have a “work mindset” by being dressed for the role he will be in.  As someone who works from home, I know that this routine and getting ready element helps me to mentally prepare for a workday instead of a personal day, and it makes a difference.

PRIZE BOX This was a must—he is in elementary school, and our school is a part of the PBS (positive behavior system) so we wanted to continue promoting that at home, again trying to maintain and simulate the routine for him. He isn’t much on toys, but he can get a piece of candy or a Molly Moo-lah at the end of a good day.

our Store inventory

MOLLY MOO-LAH This is our version of school bucks that our school also uses for PBS.  The students can earn them for various actions of responsibility and good behavior.  Our dog’s name is Molly, nicknamed Molly MooMoo, so she became our mascot.  We then created a list of items he can redeem them for.  At school, they can use them at the Bucks Store for various items or even dress down days.  We created ours to include dress down days, as well as prizes we can easily give including ice cream dates, dinner and a movie night, an extra week of allowance (he is saving for some bigger items) or an extra piece of candy from his daily prize box (we don’t do a lot of candy in our home, so this is a treat).

our Molly Moo-Lah!

It isn’t a perfect plan, and it may adapt as we go and find flaws or at least adaptations.  But he is set up to be independently successful in his day. If I happen to be busy and can’t break away or dad is working outside of the house that day, he is set up for self-guided success.  He may miss something or be late sometimes, and we will figure out why and it will be okay.  Our goal is for him to learn to take responsibility for his learning and to be a part of his routine and actively contributing to his own success.

I hope this helped inspire you for your e-learning station and helped you realize it doesn’t have to be fancy or take up a huge amount of space. Good luck in your project!

Simplify your E-learning Classroom Experience

Sonya Barnes                     3/26/2020

With the current situation, many educators are being forced into e-learning platforms, whether it is wanted or not.  It can be a challenging endeavor to take on, especially with the rapid transition to get there and finish up the school year.  I started as virtual teacher in August and have gained a few insights and helpful tools from colleagues and experience, as well as listened to parents of my own students and friends and realized that it is an overwhelming place to be.  I created a video using Zoom to navigate you through some features in Google using voice, classrooms, slides, docs and forms, as well as a few things to make life easier such as tracking logs and tiny URLs for sharing sources.  Check out this link for the tutorial—and forgive the poor quality, it was via Zoom on a laptop camera, not a professional camera or studio J  Below is a brief description of each of the features I cover in the video.

Zoom link to e-learning using Google tools

Zoom

I don’t go into a lot of detail about using Zoom, but I am recording in it!  You can use it for live interaction or prerecord lessons.  I do suggest using presets for live interactions to lock out video, audio, chat, and annotation features without you granting permission and I would also let the students know that you can boot them from the lesson and not let them back in, then set up an alternative option with parents, if needed.

User-friendly Homepage

My school offers a website with the ability to add links and embed codes, but Google Classrooms is a pretty basic alternative that can meet most needs. However, you can create a customizable image using Google Slides that includes a photo, your contact info, a link to resources, office hours—anything you want or think your students may need.

Google Voice

This free feature allows you to have a phone number for work use, set do not disturb hours, send texts, make calls, have a voicemail greeting and even has an app so you can use it via your phone if you don’t want to use your computer.  I use it daily and love it.

Teacher contact info

Having this in your display just makes life easier for students and parents. Include your email, phone number, working hours, open office hours in Zoom for lessons or tutoring, or a link to resources (using a google doc you share the link of and then convert to something easy using tinyurl.com) The easier to find, the higher the likelihood of successful student engagement.

Gathering student contact info

Using a Google Form, you can gather updated contact information from your students and parents, then view it in a spreadsheet for easy sorting.

Tracking Contacts

Some schools may require this, but even if they don’t, this helpful tool can be created in Google Sheets and used to track calls, texts, emails, etc.

Netiquette training for kids

If your kids aren’t used to online learning, they may need to be shown the rules. BrainPOP has a great one that is a 5-minute video and includes a quiz that they can then screenshot their score and submit to you. This way, you can at least know you showed them the right way. I am sure there are others, but BrainPOP has never let me down with their resources before.  Here’s the link: https://www.brainpop.com/technology/digitalcitizenship/digitaletiquette/

Calendar app through setmore.com

I have tried lots of apps, including Google Calendar, which is great, but I love this one since I can share a URL and my kids can book an appointment with me without a lot of back and forth.  With the app downloaded, it even sends reminders of appointments to my phone, in  case I am away from my computer.  If you are using it solo, it is free indefinitely, not just for a trial period.  I’ve used it for a week now and love it.  I tried Calendly before and it works well, but this one just has a few features I love that make it more of what I was looking for.

I am sure there are so many more tech savvy ways of doing this, but for the short term, this will take you less than an hour to set up a streamlined digital classroom that will run efficiently, whether you use it until we are back in classrooms, or you continue to use it as a tool along with being in brick and mortar.

If you have questions, please join our community on Facebook in the Group Addicted to Teaching or follow me on Twitter at AddictedtoTeac1.

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