Renton Prep navigates remote learning during coronavirus

How Renton Prep is Navigating the Remote Learning Landscape

For over a decade, we at Renton Prep Christian School research, prepare and equip ourselves with learning design and technology. Our continuous improvement model enables us to quickly shift to remote learning. However, our school never wants students to learn continually behind a screen. We want students to use technology as they engage in the community, on field trips, hands-on experiences and cross-age mentoring. Completely remote learning changes the way we can introduce those experiences. Social distancing has become a creative constraint. It allows us to re-design our learning to simulate what we offer in person. Maintaining human connection and relationship is still among our top priorities. Even with social distancing in place. We value live calls so that we can dynamically respond to our students.

Since our last message to the community, our world has changed beyond what many imagined. We advanced from needing to reschedule a dance program due to bans for gatherings over 250 people, to an announcement by Gov. Jay Inslee on March 23 to stay home and stay healthy.

Refining our Process

While moving to online remote learning, we are continually refining our process and strategy to move forward as a cohesive team. In a regular classroom, educators maintain their own style of instruction, knowing that they could explain and guide concepts in person. This changes when instruction shifts to home where we cannot be present as students need assistance. Our educators are working to shift their instructional strategies. We are also shifting our curriculum to add all-school experiences and build community.

For example, we enable distance mentoring calls across ages so that older students with more experience can support younger students. We are building virtual field trips, continuing to bring guest speakers, and adapt our project-based learning to continue across distance. If you would like to read more about our choices, please read about Conveyor Belts, Pedagogy and Pandemic.

Our Preparation for Remote Learning

Over time, there are people who question the rigor of our training and high-level expectations for a continuous improvement model for transformation. Renton Prep chooses to constantly make improvements and challenge our team to innovate and stay flexible.

All around Seattle and the globe, schools are now facing the rapid need for change. It’s more than just transferring the learning experience to a computer — it’s an entire mindset shift. In the early phases of this global pandemic, there were thoughts that schools may be closed a few days or weeks. It created the mindset of a pause in learning until we heard an “all clear.” Some suggest following Washington state’s original decision to not continue learning as written in a case for shutting schools down instead of going online. While concerns to move into unplanned learning may be valid, we have provided a response to the suggestion and broader implications to consider. We know that regardless of the duration of social distancing, this is something much larger than a week or two.

The Challenges Ahead

Our previous training and vision allow us to focus on adapting to support new challenges, create a responsive curriculum, and try new approaches to build cohesiveness. We still have a lot of work to do to ensure a consistent experience across classrooms, building relationships, innovation, and creativity across distance. Know that we are here for you through this process as we make this transition as smooth as possible.

Supporting our Students in Remote Learning

At Renton Prep, socio-cultural perspective and human connection are highly valuable. That’s what makes this social distance so difficult for all of us. We miss seeing the expressions on students’ faces, their interactions, giggles, and laughter. We miss the days they challenge us and encourage us, reminding us why we became educators. Although it’s only been two weeks, we miss all the little things about your children that make them so unique.

We know this time is challenging for all of us. While you have your children at home, please don’t miss any opportunities to marvel at the child in your care, just as we marvel at them when we see them at school. Don’t miss a chance to say, “I love you” or “Do you know I’m proud of you?” or “Tell me something you learned.”

In the first two weeks, we have implemented new community-wide engagement strategies. Our first fully remote live event had over 100 unique devices join.

In a historic moment,  5th through 10th grades watched a live-streamed documentary about the Science of Art and the Art of Science together. Rather than sending a link to all the students, each grade had discussion groups and pre-planned moments for teachers to engage students about the film remotely.

View this post on Instagram

This was a historic moment for us on March 20. 6 devices in the control center across 4 teachers and 6 grade levels. It is no simple task to get creative to simulate the kind of learning students experience live at Renton Prep, cross-age and cross-grade collaborations, with real-time discussions. Michelle Zimmerman proposed something they’d never tried. Chris Nearman set up Microsoft Stream and an open source encoder, OBS, to live stream a documentary in real time to students in 5th-10th grade in their homes. Each grade had Teams open, with pre-planned discussion groups, and pre-planned moments we’d stop the documentary for live discussion teachers could join to listen in. We collaborated with four teachers real-time across 3 locations in a separate Teams for teachers to support each other and check on pacing and adjustments or ideas to make the process clearer or easier for students. You can see Ashlin Lee and Michele Cooper on the split screen as we debriefed before going live. When students kept their videos on, we could see expressions and who was engaged, allowing us to type questions in chat along the way for students to respond to, showing engagement and comprehension. Groups could also summarize and document their discussions in their group chat, ask questions, or share information with peers in other locations. This was the second phase of a Design Thinking project that is school wide focusing on the power of creative constraints. Swipe to get a glimpse of what this looked like behind the scenes from the educator’s side. The tools exist. We just need to get creative with our constraints. We go live at 10AM March 23, for our first all-school event though Teams Live. . . . #showcaseschool #microsoftedu #distancelearning #remotelearning #cognia #teachsdgs #education #beboundless #innovation #designthinking #creativeconstraints #creative #socialdistancing #covid_19 #AloneTogether #king5community

A post shared by Renton Prep Christian School (@rentonprep) on

Our 10-year vision plan included training strategies specifically to prepare students for a future with unknowns. We value individual creative thinking. Therefore, these are just the beginning of our strategies to build school-wide remote activities to create positive memories, engineer challenges, and continue social and emotional learning.

The Road Less Traveled

We are never guaranteed anything in life. If this global pandemic teaches us nothing else, I hope we can glean gratitude and an appreciation for what we do have right now. It is easy to take things for granted: to go where we want, buy food and supplies, our health, our jobs, our education. But now, much of this has been taken from our control.

Each member of our team has their own personal challenges to overcome in this new climate, just as your families do. We are working around the clock to research best practices and develop a responsive curriculum for our students.

View this post on Instagram

Renton Prep leadership continue to work around the clock, even in different locations, researching best practices, communicating with global leaders, and developing adaptive strategy for responsive curriculum. If your family chooses to go to the mountains for clean air and distance, students can still join calls from their mobile devices and work with Office 365 on mobile. Just remember to check in for attendance by 10AM every day. Mrs. Huggins is documenting attendance for our records. . King County Public Health Message: Outdoor gatherings are less risky than indoors ones since COVID-19 spreads more easily when people are close together in confined spaces. Plus, it’s important for kids to get active outside time every day. Research shows that daily time for kids outdoors also boosts the health and wellbeing of the adults in their lives. Check kingcounty.gov for steps you can take to keep children and adults safe while knowing social interaction is important to the mental health of young people. Teens that are symptom-free and without underlying health conditions can get together with small groups of friends at a time (again, the lower the number, the lower the risk). Low-contact, outdoor activities, like hiking and bike riding, are great ways for teens to socialize. Teens should avoid spending time in groups larger than 10 and crowded places, like parties, and retail spaces. . . . #ShowcaseSchool #MicrosoftEdu #RemoteLearning #AI #microsoft #alonetogether #nationalforest #freshair #distancelearning #remotework #mobile #mobilelearning #covid_19 #corona #coronavirus #teachsdgs

A post shared by Renton Prep Christian School (@rentonprep) on

Regardless of what is next, we are committed to taking the road less traveled. And that has already made all the difference. Thank you again for trusting your family with us and believing in our vision. As always, contact us today if you have any questions or concerns.