K-12 Distance Learning: What I Learned

Informal learning occurs in K-12 Distance Learning and in the Classroom. "Informal Learning - SHRM april 2016" by BhaduriAbhijit is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Informal Learning occurs in K-12 in Distance Learning and in the Classroom

In the first two articles of this series, I discussed the opportunities and the challenges K-12 teachers faced transitioning from traditional classroom learning to distance learning. I also mentioned my personal opportunities and challenges making the transition to distance learning with my colleagues. In this article, I conclude with what I learned adapting distance learning to the K-12 school environment. Let’s look at what the kids missed from classroom learning during distance learning.

Kids Missed Social Interactive Learning

Keeping kids motivated can be a challenge, especially for those with special needs. Kids already have short attention spans. Micro learning techniques for designing lessons was a key factor to help them stay focused. Gamification is another technique.

I did not realize how important gamification was until the kids had to move from Minecraft projects to more traditional school projects in the tech exploration classes. The same sentiment was echoed by my colleagues in the social studies and language arts departments. What I learned about K-12 distance learning students was just how difficult it was to peel the students off of Minecraft . It’s fair to say they’re almost addicted to interactive video games.

Kids missed interacting with their peers doing labs in the classroom. Whether it’s a math or science lab, the interaction from doing real labs is important to their social and emotional well being. The tactile kinesthetic learners need this kind of activity to keep them motivated and maximize their learning. They missed face-to-face discussions in class, but adapted quite well to having discussions as a class using Google Meet.

What Worked Well with K-12 Distance Learning

I learned that kids like short show and tell style videos for learning new concepts. Even though they had print and online copies of their textbooks, their primary go to on the Google Classroom LMS were the videos I produced for each lesson showing the concepts. The video lessons prepared them for their learning activities for the lesson and for live discussion session.

Asynchronous discussion boards were helpful. I modeled how to use the discussion boards for discussing one question per board. Most students enjoyed using the board once they got the hang of it. When I started using the boards, I had some issues getting the configuration correct so the board behaved in the way I expected. Once I got over the configuration and learning hurdles, I found them to be very effective alternatives that worked well for students working asynchronously.

Group projects worked well for the tech exploration classes. Many of the students produced videos, slide decks (some with stunning graphics and animation!), and Minecraft simulations of what they learned. Many of the students interacted on their own using their personal Google accounts to hold team meetings and work on their projects. Project-based learning is popular with the kids and has withstood the test of time in the classroom for effectiveness in learning and providing formative assessment of student knowledge.

Using Your K-12 LMS Effectively

Most adult learning separates out each activity as a line item in the LMS. Here is an example:

Activities set up one item per line. This casued confusion for some K-12 students.

Most adults do not have issues going through the items in sequence. What I learned is that K-12 distance learning students, on the other hand, often turned in assignments in the wrong place, making it hard to find and grade them. One important lesson was putting everything inside one container. Instructions on how and in what order to complete each item in the lesson. I found that changing the LMS listing of each lesson to the following style worked best:

A better way to structure lesson content in your LMS to minimize confusion for K-12 students.

The students were able to follow this style best. If you want the assignment turned in as a Google assignment, I found creating the assignment with the same title as the lesson was helpful. I changed the assignment submission instruction to remind students to upload to the correct assignment in Google Classroom. Making these simple changes reduced confusion by almost 82%. The methods for Google Classroom shown here work well for most LMS systems. If you are using a different LMS, check with your IT department or consult you LMS documentation.

How to Add Social Interactive Learning Online

In addition to what I did with instructional video, discussion boards, and using the LMS more effectively, I would create some lesson material that helps increase attention span and appeals more to K-12 learners:

  • Interactive online lessons
  • Gamified lessons

PowerPoint is a good tool for building interactive lessons. You can create branching lessons and make them more student-driven. Then convert them to e-learning modules using a PowerPoint add-in. I use iSpring Free. You can also use an e-learning authoring tool, such as:

  • Adobe Captivate
  • Articulate StoryLine
  • iSpring Pro

Making the interactive lessons usable by teams of students working together would also be a plus. You can easily incorporate gamification in the lessons by having badges. Students earn badges after completing a certain number of lessons. You can award points for completing each lesson based on a formative assessment score. You can take the best of three attempts at the assessment. Making courses fun helps increase attention span and motivation for all students, including those with special needs and/or learning disabilities.


C/Net (n.d.). K-12 online classes and activities to continue school at home during coronavirus.

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