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Necessity, the mother ofinnovation and creativity

Innovative Approaches to Distance Learning

When COVID-19 hit U.S. soil, independent and parochial schools across the country transitioned to eLearning. While the transition wasn’t easy for teachers or students, necessity once again proved that it’s the mother of invention…and creativity! Here are some innovative eLearning approaches implemented by Saint John’s Prep faculty this past semester. 


Mr. Miller

Mr. Miller, science teacher and knowledge bowl coach at Saint John’s Prep, teaches a course called Theory of Knowledge (ToK) in the International Baccalaureate Diploma program every spring semester. For this class, guest speakers typically come into the classroom and discuss theories of knowledge and how claims in their fields are justified. With the sudden shift to distance learning, Mr. Miller questioned whether he could still offer the class the way he did in the past. That’s when he decided to take a different approach.

After soliciting students’ opinions about which topics interested them the most, Mr. Miller approached numerous top professionals from around the world about joining a virtual discussion for ToK, many of whom said yes. What ensued was a series of engaging Zoom discussions on a variety of topics. The students and speakers had a blast!


Mrs. Anderson

Just prior to the implementation of eLearning, Saint John’s 6th-grade language arts, social studies and writer’s workshop teacher, Mrs. Anderson discovered an exciting new platform called Book Creator. During eLearning, Mrs. Anderson implemented the platform in a couple of fun ways.

While reading through Tangerine for class, students were able to create “book snaps” and audibly record their thoughts and feelings on the snapped passages. Mrs. Anderson also teamed up with Saint John’s middle school art teacher, Mr. Dwyer, for a collaborative project. Students took their personal narratives, published them through Book Creator and added artwork to their narratives at the direction of Mr. Dwyer. The collaboration resulted in beautiful, multifaceted masterpieces the students are proud of. 

Another out-of-the-box idea from Mrs. Anderson included participation in Minnesota Public Radio’s book club, “One Book One Minnesota” for the reading and discussion of the book, Because of Winn Dixie by Minnesota author Kate DiCamillo. Mrs. Anderson asked parents to volunteer to facilitate small group Zoom discussions for her 5th and 6th-grade students. The book club was a blast and culminated with an end-of-the-year project based on the book. Learn more about One Book One Minnesota and Because of Winn Dixie here!

Mr. Dwyer

In order to keep students engaged with art, middle school art teacher Mr. Dwyer challenged students to recreate a famous piece of art with people, pets and props from around their houses. The students really enjoyed the challenge and came up with some creative ideas! View the gallery here.

Mrs. Rueter

As the math teacher and math team coach, Mrs. Rueter wanted to find an innovative way for her students to continue to learn the required material. She connected with her classes via Zoom every day to correct homework and field any questions the students had. Then after the Zoom sessions, students would watch a video lesson she created for that day. Here’s an example of one of Mrs. Rueter’s educational videos:

Mrs. Rueter reported that most students’ grades improved throughout this process, a true eLearning success story!




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