28 Oct Lumity’s Top 5 Strategies for Engaging High Schoolers in Online Learning
Unprecedented. Challenging. Perfect storm.
Whatever we call it, today’s education environment is here for a bit longer. So, how can we, as educators, make remote learning as engaging as possible?
Over the past six months, Lumity led a virtual summer program for our STEM Prep students at Von Steuben High School, along with online career prep sessions for college students. Because we are all in this together, we wanted to share the top 5 strategies we learned for engaging teens and young adults in remote learning, using Google Meets as our platform. Here goes:
Tech access AND tech support!
Stakeholders across Chicagoland are working to ensure our young people have equitable access to laptops and the internet. Let us also remember that, like all of us working virtually, youth experience tech glitches too. This summer, our teens struggled with dropped internet connections, “laggy” service, missing mics, broken cameras—you name it! There isn’t an easy fix to these challenges, but we found two things that helped alleviate these learning disruptions:
Good old-fashion community building.
Our partnering schools are blunt: The interrupted school year had a significant emotional impact on teens. Students who usually did well were struggling; students who excelled were doing ok, and struggling students were not showing up online. We realized that if we told our summer session students, “Here’s what we are doing, go, do it alone and come back,” we would lose them.
Underneath our work was one driving question: How might we create an online community with the relationships and trust emblematic of our past in-person sessions? Ultimately, we took a few key steps to establish a fun, virtual learning community our teens, wanted to be part of. We:
Engage students from where they are.
Although our students are savvy social media users, they were not initially comfortable with the real-time use of a mic and video as their tools for participating in virtual learning. However, they readily used the chat function to answer questions and share ideas. So, we built our engagement strategy from there—tracking who was chatting and intentionally inviting quieter students to participate. For the student teams, we activated JamBoard’s collaborative tools (post-its, colored markers, and content upload), which encouraged teens to contribute ideas through their preferred mode and fun tools. By the end of the session, many of our students even turned on their mics and video!
The Daily 3-M Technique:
Bring in the Experts.
While Lumity’s corporate volunteers are one reason our programs are unique, all educators can use their outside experts to enrich remote classrooms. This past year, one of our highlights was hosting virtual STEM Talks with computer science majors from our partner college, Prairie State College. Jack Shed, the Co-Founder of Mess, and Karriem Shakoor, the CIO of Underwriters Laboratories, shared their STEM journeys through online STEM Talks, and students were as engaged as ever. Our staff noted that some students were even more inclined to ask our STEM volunteers questions online than in person. While volunteers do miss the in-person interaction with students, they benefit from the ease of scheduling and zero travel time. A few reminders and suggestions if you try this out:
Here at Lumity, we can’t wait to be in person with students. Nevertheless, until then, we are working each day to engage better and inspire teens virtually. We still have work to do, particularly in translating our strategies to large groups of students. However, thanks to our dedicated staff, volunteers, and partnering schools, we are forging ahead to turn the remote classroom into a meaningful learning community for teens.