Tuesday, March 24, 2020

8 Non-Digital Remote Learning Ideas

Before our eyes, we are watching districts and schools valiantly roll out remote learning plans to support all students during extended closures. Equally as important have been the many innovative ways to make food available to our most disadvantaged children.  I cannot commend their efforts enough.  Throughout this ordeal, we must be patient, understanding, and flexible as teachers and administrators, with little to no training in this area, do their best to provide an education to students.

Even with all the progress being made and practical innovations taking place, COVID-19 has unearthed on a global scale the inequity that persists when it comes to access to high-speed WIFI and technology.  Even though many of us have been beating the drum for years regarding this issue, there is such a long way to go when it comes to closing the digital divide. Even in more affluent areas, one cannot assume equitable access. As such, educators are in need of ideas that can be implemented without the use of technology.  

Here are a few that I have been sharing with districts and schools where I have served as a coach throughout the year:
  • Modeling through written explanations: Even though efforts should be made to avoid piling on new content, learning can only progress if new material is presented. Think of this as direct instruction on paper. For example, in math, a teacher would typically write out the steps to solve a problem on the board.  In this case, he/or she would just do it on a piece of paper that the student could refer to before moving on. It’s not the best option, but it is a realistic one.
  • Scaffolded questions and tasks: Piling on low-level questions that are recall and knowledge-based don’t constitute learning. It’s what a student does with this information to construct new knowledge or apply it that matters. Consider using the Rigor Relevance Framework as a tool to accomplish both of these preferred outcomes through scaffolding
  • Guided and independent practice: Considering the two items previously addressed, practice can be chunked (guided) in ways that steps are followed until students are asked to do it on their own (independent).
  • Authentic challenge problems: Knowing that digital resources are limited, reference materials can be provided for kids to engage in inquiry-based learning.  As you structure lessons and or extended projects, contemplate about how you will get students to think at the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy while solving unpredictable real-world problems, also referred to as Quad D learning.
  • Independent reading and reflective questions: To assist students who are at a lower reading level, consider providing suggestions.
  • Playlists and choice boards: These powerful blended learning strategies can easily be converted to non-digital options to keep students engaged for days to even a week. Choice leads to more empowerment. With a playlist students choose the order they want to complete all the activities. With choice boards, students choose to complete a set number of activities but don’t do all of them. No matter what you decide, you can incorporate all of the strategies addressed above. Below you can see an SEL choice board shared by Keri Powers Pye.

  • Movement: Any type of remote learning tends to be sedentary.  Think about activities that get the blood pumping, which will help students maintain focus while providing needed brain breaks. Movement matters more than ever if learning is the goal. Below is a great fitness activity shared by M. Robinson PE using the game Uno.
  • Reflective writing journals: No matter the strategies employed, getting kids to reflect on their learning each day can empower them to make connections between concepts and content areas as well as identify what they need to work on going forward. It can also function as a form of closure.

With everything listed above, there has to be a way to disseminate lessons and materials as well as review them to provide feedback.  As part of your remote learning plan, think about the best way to accomplish this that minimizes contact.  Maybe it is at the district or school office or perhaps a collection bin of some sort. Chad Miller's school district in Ohio are running bus routes to deliver food and learning materials to their kids. Regardless of what you decide, parents will need to be fully aware of where to pick up and drop off learning materials.   

Also, don't forget that accommodations have to be made for special education students as per IDEA.

By no means are these the only ideas that can be used to support students with limited or no digital resources available. My hope is that the greater educational community will continue to share what they have found to be successful with #remotelearning.


  1. Thank you for this!! I have been looking for a way to reach our students without digital access. You gave me a lot to think about and consider. I’m sharing with staff tomorrow over Zoom.

  2. Well written Eric! Will share out w PJ!

  3. This is super valuable support. Here’s hoping it finds the eyes of those who need it, as well as those with the influence to expand net access.

  4. Awesome, known as Quad D Learning...similar to when we met in Hawaii and I introduced you to Quad D Robotics Innovative Inventions Curriculum... glad you gained something from our meeting Eric. Also, Unpredictable and Unscripted Outcomes from Quad D Robotics As well... I truly admire your work, and how you are able to tie it all together. Update, I have taking this curriculum to many schools, nationwide, and soon to other countries.
    Best Wishes! Robert

  5. I look forward to having more time to truly read and reflect on all the books you have authored. Sincerest Eric, keep changing instructional practices to the better. I hope to attend your upcoming Hawaii presentation, later this year.
    Again, Best Wishes! Robert

  6. Love the choice boards. Thanks you for the great resources.

  7. I’m thinking you could load mp3 devices with the teacher recording lessons and podcasts explaining the procedures. As students work on assignments at home they can listen to their device. No internet access needed. What are your thoughts?

  8. We know students love playlist and getting up to move so I'm loving the movement idea and playlist I think the students will love it too. Thanks Eric

  9. Very useful information for a new and different approach to learnig.