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In a Nutshell: Explore ways to create a dedicated work space that is designed to promote success with remote learning.
Supporting Article(s): COMING SOON!
Keep reading to learn more!
I like that stock image above. The office space is simple. It's clean. There isn't much going on. There certainly aren't toys everywhere and it seems like it would be quiet enough, at least quieter than here!
That is a place where I want to be. I imagine it is a place where I could be really productive.
My goal in this article is to help you think about what goes into making a good home learning space and tackle some of the "whys"-why does it have to be done this way and why does it even matter?
Much research has gone into designing productive work spaces. So much so, that large companies have really revolutionized how their offices look and function. Cheers to Google for popularizing creative office space and the trickle-down effect it has had for other organizations!
Schools, in particular, have long researched and brainstormed effective learning spaces. Teachers problem-solve tirelessly over everything from seating arrangements and desk setups to what goes up on the walls and where it is placed.
Our reality in this pandemic is that we are not in a Google office, and we are no longer in schools, most of us are at home. So, what can we do to make our home environment an optimal learning space?
For our family, remote learning is not tucked away in a nice, clean room, thought it is now a lot cleaner and organized than it was pre-pandemic. We don't have the space or the resources to create a home office just for remote learning. It's a guest bedroom, it is a storage spot, it is my makeshift office, it is my makeshift home gym, and now it is my oldest son's makeshift classroom. And I must say, I feel pretty darn lucky we even have a separate space to use, because our first go with remote learning back in April, at the kitchen table with toddler twins running around, was a complete learning moment.
I am sure this is the reality for a lot of you out there too, with the added layer of not just remote learning, but working remotely as well. Or perhaps not working remotely, but needing to somehow be at work and have your child in remote school.
Oh 2020, you have taught us so much about creative problem solving! That's phrasing it positively...
Priority number one for any family preparing for remote learning should be to create some sort of dedicated work space.
Keep in mind these are tips learned from my years in the classroom, merged with our home experiences with remote learning. Some background context: I have taught grades 3-12, with the bulk of my career in the secondary classroom, and my remote learning support has revolved around a first grader who is now a second grader, and has limited ability to work independently on a computer (while also somehow entertaining and working with my 2.5 year-old-twins).
Here are 5 Easy Ways to Create a Space Designed for Remote Learning Success:
1. Kids Thrive on Structure and Routine
How do we create structure and routine during remote learning? Many schools and teachers are doing an excellent job providing a remote learning schedule that remains consistent and constant. At home it is important that you help support this structure and routine by making sure "school" happens in the same place every day.
Schools have long provided structure and routine throughout the week and the year. Within the school day teachers stick to a consistent structure and routine so students always know what to expect. When things constantly change it becomes a distraction to learning. Students need predictability and the security of knowing everything will be the same, or at least very similar, day after day.
Think about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The theory is that students cannot learn optimally unless their basic needs are met first. So if a student is sitting on his or her bed one day, at the kitchen table another, on the couch another, laying on the floor another, it creates a certain amount of chaos that could potentially distract from the learning.
There are people who might do well with the freedom to move to different places and settings, but to have one dedicated space to always go back to when needed, should always be an option.
2. Spaces Designed for Learning Will Condition Students to Learn
As mentioned above, employers like Google have spent a lot of time and put a lot of resources into creating optimal working conditions. This is nothing new for teachers and schools. It's almost a part-time job trying to maintain an optimal classroom space, and there is a reason teachers need to spend a long time setting up and dismantling their rooms at the beginning and end of each school year!
I want you to think for a moment about what we learned from Pavlov. He discovered with his dogs that objects or events could trigger a response. Well, the same is true for learning. When a student enters school, sits down at a desk, has a pencil, for example, in theory that student is primed for learning (we know it's a lot more complicated than that, bear with me for the example).
So when we are asking our children to learn at home, we need to create a space that will prime them for learning. At the very least there should be a desk or table, a place to sit, and hopefully, minimal distractions. You are going to have to work with what you have, but please be mindful of creating a space conditioned for success.
Here are some additional ideas on creating a learning space:
Make sure the space is near a power outlet or a surge protector with chargers at the ready to avoid power failure.
Make sure there is good lighting.
Make sure seating is comfortable and supports good posture.
Make sure the space is as organized as possible with needed materials. (see #3)
Make sure there is a way to create learning walls.
3. Dedicated Spaces Need Certain Materials
Offices and schools have supplies. Teachers are accustomed to giving out ten thousand pencils a day and supplying their students with whatever they can to make sure everything goes according to plan. With remote learning there might be less "paper" involved, but nonetheless there are still resources your child will probably need at the ready. It is a good idea to have all of these supplies in some sort of a box, bag, or container so they are always available when needed and finding things does not become a barrier or a distraction.
Here are some ideas of materials you might need:
Pencil(s), Pencil Sharpener, Eraser(s)
White Board and Dry-Erase Markers
Markers, Crayons, Colored Pencils
Additionally, for students with lots of screen time: Blue Light Blocking Glasses! These are no joke, they really work! As someone who has suffered several TBIs and still, to this day, has issues with light sensitivity, adding blue light blocking lenses has helped incredibly with fatigue from screens! My oldest wears his on long Zoom days and he says they really help him too.
4. Minimize Distractions
"Doing" remote school in front of a TV shouldn't be happening unless you're in a film studies class or somehow using the television in class, and if that is happening, your teacher is probably streaming the video on screen share. As tempting as it might be, playing on your phone or using the messaging app on your remote learning platform, should probably be a no-no. Some of these distractions, especially for older students, might simply require self-discipline and if not adhered to, consequences from the home side. I'm saying it so teachers don't have to, parents, please help with this!
Like in 1 and 2, minimizing distractions sort of comes with the design of the space, but what about things that we can control that are beyond the space?
For instance, try to keep other children away from each other as much as possible. My oldest absolutely cannot focus with the chaos of toddler twins. When we tried remote schooling at the dining table last spring it was a real struggle. But with a kid that could not yet read independently and never really used a computer before, he needed to be with me, and I needed to keep an eye on my one-year-olds so they didn't do things like swing on chandeliers (yes, they really did do that). Now he is in a space where we can "shut out" the terrible twos squared and we have a system in place, that largely involves me running up and down stairs all day long while monitoring all three kiddos.
Lots of other families, or those in learning pods have figured out using headphones helps.
Another great tool is to create a cubicle of sorts like the "Learning Wall" my son uses. Read more about learning walls in the post COMING SOON!
Staying organized will help (more below).
Whatever distractions you can control, try your best! My biggest suggestion to you is to have an open conversation with your children about what is working and what is not working and problem-solve together! This will help you help them, and it will also help them become more independently proactive with their learning needs.
5. Keep it Clean and Organized
Shuffling to different online meetings, looking for materials needed, looking for a pencil...this is a good lesson on organization. Covered in 1, 2, and 3, don't let organization become a distraction, as mentioned in 4.
Figure out a way to organize what your learner needs so they always know where it is when they need it and looking for something does not become a distraction or a barrier.
My son still packs his backpack. All books and printed work is organized into a binder and stored there. It helps because the backpack travels back and forth to dad's house, but also because he knows exactly where to find those materials every time. His computer, materials box, and learning wall, can all be packaged, put away, and moved if needed, but they are always set up BEFORE school starts. Teachers spend countless hours preparing for school after the day ends and often arriving WELL before school starts to set everything up, we need to make sure our children are prepared and ready to go the moment that first meeting starts; it is our responsibility at home to make sure we are prepared for school before school starts!
Another reason why to keep it clean and organized, quite frankly, is because a decluttered space helps declutter your mind and create an optimal space for productivity.
So there you have it, five simple suggestions on how to create a learning environment at home that supports remote learning. Hopefully you are already doing this and this list is a nice reminder or a pat on the back for how you are supporting your child. And if any of this is new to you, please do not worry, take these as suggestions on how to improve your child's learning environment.
I would love to hear what is working/not working for you in your home learning areas. Please share and comment on social media (@hungryforbooksdotnet) or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, these are unprecedented times. We are all learning and adjusting together!
I hope this makes your child HUNGRY for learning and books!
Comment and share your creations on social media! I'd love to know how it went and any modifications you might have made. We're all here to learn from each other, not reinvent the wheel!
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