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Best Practices for Remote Learning by Laura Hollis, Director of Technology, Saddle River Day School

Updated: May 7, 2020

Best Practices for Remote Learning by Laura Hollis, Director of Technology at Saddle River Day School, Bergen County Moms

Online education and distance learning is our new normal. Schools are taking advantage of remote learning technology and tele-education and will continue to do so until students are attending the traditional brick-and-mortar schools.

Implementing a remote learning program quickly retains valuable instructional time and reduces makeup days at the end of the school year. Under the new leadership of Head of School, Jalaj Desai, Saddle River Day School began discussing the possibility of remote learning very early on which proved to be very beneficial to the transition.

Laura Hollis, Director of Technology, was the backbone of the remote learning program at SRDS. She did an incredible job coordinating everything within an extremely short time frame to help the faculty pivot quickly and make a highly successful remote learning program for their students and families.

Here are Best Practices that Laura Hollis put in place that have proved to be successful at Saddle River Day School to continue to teach remote classes for the same 8am - 3:15pm school day:

1. Put the Students/Families/Teachers First

The technology has to support the teachers and students, with all they are going through now, we wanted to keep things as familiar and simple as we could. We had Google Apps for Education in place and used Google Meet and Google Classroom as our main communication and content delivery tools. Students in grades 2-12 were already using Google accounts, so we created accounts for PreK-1st and made training and resources available to the teachers and families who were adopting new technology. We looked at what we wanted to accomplish with remote learning, which was basically to come as close as we could to deliver what we do in-person, and then use and build technology and resources that would support that.

2. The Wizard of Oz Approach

As we began to figure out what Remote Learning at SRDS looked like, we asked ourselves what are we doing to support our students in terms of their brains, their hearts and their courage? 

BRAIN - We continue to provide all of their classes, for Middle & Upper School they follow the same schedule online as they did on campus, meeting each teacher face to face online with their peers. Lower school has several daily check-ins with their teachers as well as live classes with specialty teachers like Science, Art & Spanish. We are not conducting any traditional testing during this time, but created a new rubric that focuses on participation and effort. We have also collaborated with other schools to conduct Mystery skypes and have academic support personnel as well as tech support on hand for anyone who needs it.

HEART - We made sure to continue supporting social interactions for students and faculty by setting up Google Meet codes for a Common student space as well as a Faculty Room where kids and teachers can go in between classes to meet. We have families involved by providing tech tutorials for them, daily communication by the academic Deans and an active Parent Guild who continues to support the SRDS community. We have continued  active college counseling for our upper school students as well as mindfulness curriculum and general guidance counseling for all of our students. Deans have also provided students with fun weekly challenges and organized a spirit week. We have provided Cooking instructional videos starring our school chef as well as produced music videos to lift spirits throughout our community.

COURAGEUnderstanding that students have different situations at home, we still hold our expectations for them but are flexible when it comes to various time constraints they are facing, issues with getting materials, etc. We show courage by example, Faculty and Staff were able to rise to the challenge when faced with a very short window to get classes up and running, they had the courage to learn and adopt new ways of teaching and led their students to do the same. As we do on campus, create an environment that allows students to have the courage to be who they are, to ask questions, to ask for help, to share ideas. We also continued our advisory program which gives extra support to a smaller group of kids in MS/US providing them with a cohort of same-age peers.

3. The Value of Balance

We communicate the value of the balance of academics with the advantages that come with being at home to our families. We encourage students to go outside, exercise, cook and eat with their families, explore a new hobby, practice music, create art, do what they can for their communities and although we know our first responsibility is to the academic piece, we see the students as whole people and encourage them to find the right balance for them. We know that everything seems like a test right now, from finding a quiet place in the house to work to getting groceries, and first and foremost, the students and families at SRDS have an extended school family who will support and guide them through remote learning as we take our community online. 

Saddle River Day School

147 Chestnut Ridge Road  •  Saddle River, NJ 07458  •  Tel: 201.327.4050

Saddle River Day School, Saddle River NJ, Bergen County Moms

Watch your child grow from a student into a scholar—and into a lifetime of success.

From exploring Spanish, music and lab-based science beginning in Pre-K to hosting a TEDxYouth Conference in high school … from active play to competing on a championship Rebel Athletics team … inspiring success starts right from the beginning at Saddle River Day School.

Here, learning begins with an intriguing problem to solve, a story that captivates or a question that provokes curiosity—and the personal connection between teachers and students motivates everyone. To develop holistic, “right-brain” thinkers, we integrate science, technology, engineering, art and math, and celebrate different ways to solve real problems.

SRDS graduates from recent years are thriving at top colleges like Boston College, NYU and Stanford. They are creative individuals inspired to think, solve and achieve—in academics and in life.


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