Focus on Five: Teaching Parents and Students to Use Online Programs

There are a huge variety of online, remote learning resources.  While this is great, it can be overwhelming for parents, students and teachers (including this one!).  Right now, I have a lot of families who are still working during this pandemic, either as essential workers or remotely. These families need simple, straightforward activities that their child can complete semi-independently.  Since I do have access to some online curriculum (some from my school, some that is free), I decided to use this as the anchor for my students’ remote learning because it is individualized, designed for students to do independently and they can do it any time. The only issue is, I have to teach parents and students how to log into these sites remotely for the first time. Here are five things I am doing to teach parents and students how to log into online learning platforms…

1. Create a Sample Student and Go Through a Session​

The two online curriculum photographed are RAZ-Kids (paid for by my school) and Xtra Math (free online program). It is important to go through a session so you are able to explain to  students and parents how it works, and to help anticipate any issues that may arise as parents and students are using it for the first time. When I am going to introduce a learning site for the first time, I create a sample student as part of my class (usually called “Sally Sample”) to have a login where I can experiment and try out the program. While I go through a session, I check questions or problems in different levels to help me gauge what levels I should assign to individual students (if the site does not have a placement test). I also like to take a few screenshots while I go through a session, so I can make a guide for students and parents later. Another key thing to pay attention to is how long the session lasts or if the student needs to stay in a session until they are prompted to log out. This is another piece of information that would be helpful to include in a how-to guide for parents and students.

2. Keep It Simple

Less is more, especially when teaching parents and students for how to log into education sites remotely.  While I never want to limit students, introducing a little bit at a time is key. For example, on RAZ-Kids there are a lot of choices including a reading comprehension component where students can level up, a book room where students can choose books to read and a science component. Since my goal is to get students and families on the program and make it as clear as possible, getting them logged on and having just one option is going to make it easier until they are used to the program. This is why I went into the settings and turned off the book room and science component (at least for now).  I can always add it later once parents and students are more comfortable with the program.

3. Write a Clear How-To Guide 

Writing a clear, simple guide is essential in communicating to parents and students how to log into a site for the first time. I decided my audience was my students because this year, for the most part, my students are at a higher academic level and most are able to read. I made the how-to guide something that many of them could understand. Since I focused on having my instructions be simple, straightforward and included pictures (screen shots), it was also an easy guide for both students and parents to follow. I made my how-to guide in Google Slides because it makes it easier for page layouts and so I can include it easily in my Google Classroom.

4. Make a Username & Password Reference Sheet

Since I have a few online programs I would like my students to eventually have access to, I created a Google Slides username and password reference sheet for each one of my students, leaving space to put in more online curriculum/learning sites as students learn to use them.  On Google Classroom, I can assign this reference sheet to the individual student, so passwords are protected. This will also be a nice resource to have when students return to school and I can continue to teach students about how to use technology, usernames and passwords. I would also recommend making a username/password Google Sheets or Excel for your class that has all of the learning sites, usernames and passwords for all your students.

5. Take Your Time

 If the expectations are simple and attainable, parents and students will feel successful and not overwhelmed by remote learning. My school started remote learning officially this week and the only “assignment” I had parents and students complete was logging into RAZ-Kids for 20 minutes each day.  I did this to help students and parents get used to using Google Classroom and logging on to RAZ-Kids. My goal is that by the end of the week, students are able to access Google Classroom and log into RAZ-Kids independently or with minimal supports. Next week, I will have them log into Xtra Math for the first time and have them do that every day for the whole week. The week after, I will have a schedule where students do both RAZ-Kids and Xtra Math each day.  As students get more comfortable with logging into new online learning, I will continue to slowly introduce more sites that will be included with students schedules and login information on their username and password reference sheets. Just like any academic skill, giving students multiple practice opportunities to log onto a learning website or using Google Classroom, the more independent they will be in the future. While this is a difficult time to teach the way we were used to in the classroom, it is a great opportunity to teach students more technology based functional skills.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to teach parents and students to log in to online learning platforms during this time. Check out Xtra Math and BrainPOP Jr. as online curriculum that could be helpful in keeping your students learning. Share below if you have any free online learning sites you enjoy using with your students or ways you help parents and students log on to learning sites remotely. Stay safe and healthy!

Holly Bueb
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