Engaging Educational Apps + Best Online Instructional Practices-Effective Distance Learning Programs

Stefanie Dreizen is an educator with 26 years of experience as a middle and high school English teacher throughout the United States. Currently she is in her fourth year as an instructional coach for D.C. Public Schools. As an instructional coach for Social Studies and English, she provides individual instructional support and leads professional development for teachers and administrators on high impact instructional strategies and current educational technology. She is also co-founder of Bridge to Fall, a personalized virtual summer enrichment program.


We are living through an extraordinary moment in time. The unprecedented events due to the Covid-19 pandemic demanded teachers make exceptional adjustments in how they deliver academic instruction to meet the needs diverse learners. In a very brief time, teachers across the country were asked to make the shift from brick-and-mortar to online learning with varying degrees of experience with educational technology and virtual instruction. As a result, experienced teachers did not have the time to modify their curriculum and instructional practices with engaging online learners. I started teaching in 1994 when my tools were limited to chalk, overhead machines and books. In 2001, I started using the LCD projector and I thought that I was Bill Gates. And then almost daily new educational applications came out. Although I was always anxious to try new resources and strategies, I soon became overwhelmed with every new educational tool. One day it was Nearpod, the next day Padlet. Finally I realized that I did not have to entirely throw out best instructional practices that did not involve technology, but I could actually develop an engaging lesson with books, paper and pens. I soon learned that I needed to choose the high impact tools for my content. It was not as much that I liked them, but they needed to increase student engagement and achievement. Now as an instructional coach at an alternative high school in Washington D.C, I have to regularly to remind myself to be intentional with the type and amount of current technology applications that I introduce to teachers. This has become more relevant as teachers are being inundated with new distance learning resources. The old adage still applies: the best technology enhances instruction, but it doesn't replace the teachers.


Michael Ralph's article "Teaching Strategies of Award-Winning Online Instructors highlights a recent study in the journal Online Learning in which 8 award winning online professors who had a combined 109 years of experience teaching online university courses were interviewed about best online learning practices. Michael Wrath shares how these best practices can apply to K-12 students as well. It is a belief that I share as teachers transition to a full or hybrid distance learning model. As districts begin planning for summer and fall professional development, they must be careful to balance training on educational tools and virtual learning platforms with best online instructional practices.


Based on the study, Michael Ralph shares the five insights of how the instructors approached their award-winning class designs.

  1. AUTHENTIC AND RELEVANT COURSE MATERIAL

  2. A VARIETY OF MULTIMEDIA RESOURCES

  3. STUDENT CREATION OF CONTENT—INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLABORATIVELY

  4. STUDENT REFLECTION ON LEARNING

  5. EXPLANATION OF PURPOSE

Read the rest of Michel Ralph's article