Appendix: Adopting Technology and Emergency Remote Teaching

It is unlikely that emergency remote teaching (ERT) will be a flash in the pan approach, an artifact of a single global crisis; instead it is likely to recur one or more times in the life of everyone reading this guide. It may last weeks, or — as we have all experienced — it may last a year or more. It is only practical to study and plan for those eventualities.

In terms of what may look different, it’s helpful to remember that ERT should, first and foremost, be support-based teaching.  In its simplest form, supporting each other is about just showing up during the hard times, and a crucial element of ERT is creating opportunities for instructor and student presence (see “Design for Instructor Presence” and “Design for Student Presence” earlier in the guide for more about creating presence with your educational technology). As much as possible, leverage your digital tool to build a sense of community and to reduce stress related to your course. If possible, use the technology to provide alternative approaches to assignments or to build in flexibility on due dates. While you want students to continue to learn and grow in your subject area, they will benefit from having options and backups available.  For more on this, see “Disaster-Proofing.”

If the simplest form of support in ERT is presence, the other end of the spectrum might be trauma-informed pedagogy.  While this is an entire emerging and complex field of scholarship that is well-worth exploring, it can be productively oversimplified as a means of informing ERT and engaging with trauma specifically in the context of emergency situations.

To support your ERT efforts, Table 1 summarizes some of the key principles of trauma-informed pedagogy that can support you and your students in getting through the term.

Table 1: Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for Emergency Remote Teaching

Flexibility. Offer flexibility wherever you can, so that students know that they have options and can engage with the course material in ways that feel manageable to their particular situation. This may include providing multiple ways to engage with a specific activity (hybrid, synchronous, asynchronous, etc.) or employing flexible attendance policies to allow learners to miss some class without being penalized (Trauma-informed, 2021).
Variety. Utilize an array of active learning strategies to support a variety of learning styles in engaging in course activities. These may include think-pair-share, offering individualized writing prompts, using polling instead of traditional hand-raising or synchronous comments  (Active Learning, 2021), and generally organizing course assignments so that points are earned across a variety of activities. Communicate clearly about assignment directions and expectations for whatever approach you choose.
Empathy. You likely already do this as an instructor, but it’s important to approach all of your learners with empathy and to check in with them on a regular basis. Checking in should not be a simple matter of following up on an assignment or a lack of attendance, but also creating opportunities for students to confide in you and to feel supported as individuals, outside of their relationship to the classroom.
Resources. It’s important to be aware of the existing resources at your institution because even the best of trauma-informed pedagogies is no replacement for actual mental health support. Naik (2019) noted the urgent need for better mental-health resources within our schools, an observation that is equally applicable to K-12 and college-level education.  We recommend trauma-informed pedagogy as a way of providing support for students, but it’s important to acknowledge that they – and you – will likely need other resources as well, including financial, academic, and physical and mental health resources.

A consideration of the resources available at and through your institution leads to another useful reminder about support-based teaching. The support should not be unidirectional. Teachers are often in the habit of sacrificing their personal time and personal resources for their classes, and there can even be an institutional expectation that you will do so.

There are times when that may be manageable, even sustainable. With ERT, however, it’s important to remember that you are likely experiencing the same emergency — and the same associated trauma — as your students. Your normal support is not present. In addition, there will be an enormous amount demanded of you immediately following the emergency to adapt your course and ease students through the initial transition. It will be tempting to expend all your energy up front, but sustaining is just as critical as making the migration in the first place. As much as possible, take care of yourself as a whole person, even as you try to be a guide and resource for your students. Set specific boundaries on your time and energy so that you can give your all in the moments when it matters the most.

Finally, remember that digital tools are just that — technologies designed to make your life easier. In an ERT situation, use them to the extent that they are helpful and don’t stress about setting them aside if they are not the solution you need.


The Change Management Guide to Incorporating Educational Technology Copyright © by Sherry Mooney. All Rights Reserved.

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