When the pandemic rolled across America affecting our everyday lives, it become evident that traditional learning was coming to an end and the school house doors were going to have to be closed for the rest of the year. School districts plunged into uncharted territory, forcing educators to ban together to design a plan for at-home online learning which was solid while being flexible. This closure brought numerous questions and challenges such as: How do you supply technology and internet to students who do not normally have any? What types of learning platforms are most beneficial for online learning? How are we going to be able to quickly train all of the staff with various learning platforms? How are we going to train the students and parents virtually when they struggle using technology in everyday life? Little did educators know that a new way of teaching was about to be born.
Learning Tools that we used: Google Classroom, Google Doc, Google Slides, Google Sheets, Google Meet, Google Sites, Google Forms, Flip Grid, Padlet, See Saw, Power Point, Near Pod, Kahoot, Videvo.net, Didax, Remind, Class Tag
Effective and targeted trainings on numerous learning platforms were essential to minimize the amount of time required to move to an at-home online learning. This still left a large hole in the plan, getting students and parents quickly utilizing these educational tools. In order to fill the void, parent trainings were held in English and Spanish at various times of the day and over a variety of days which taught the parents how to access and use the various technologies. Trainings started with the essential platforms and then expanded to other tools. All of these trainings were recorded and housed on a web page for parents to refer too when they needed clarification. Additionally, it was important for teachers to have set office hours for the students and parents in order to support the at-home learning,. Many parents did not have a comfort level becoming the teacher and would rely of the classroom teacher for support.
Keeping students engaged in learning was an immense goal. Within two weeks, all student’s interests needed to be peaked so they would engage in the online learning continually. To accomplish this goal, hands on learning and programs that challenged the students were incorporated. It was a golden opportunity to grow and develop students educationally at the same time as overlaying technology into the lessons. This also allowed for the assurance of the urban students staying competitive with the neighboring districts and marketplace. This trial was met head on by your teachers, students and parents. Quickly classroom platforms were developed, implemented and partnered with a variety of teaching tools.
Zoom was the first obstacle to overcome and it was accomplished rather quickly enabling meetings to occur with students five days a week. Students would meet with the teacher on a Zoom call and then work on their assignments independently, which were put on the learning platform (most using Google Classroom). This led to bringing in various learning tools coupled with different backgrounds on Zoom to capture the students attention. The backgrounds would be changed to match the lesson for a hook. It was so successful, that students would change their backgrounds to match the class or lesson they were working on. From this initial point, new technology was introduced to the students at least every two weeks. Rolling out additional technology at a slow and controlled pace was critical for everyone’s success. It was amazing to see the students become so proficient with various technology tools in such a quick time. Teachers were astonished at the students success.
Here are a few ways the teachers implemented technology in the classrooms. Teachers would create a Google slide for assignments and each student would be assigned a page within the Slides to complete their work. Within this slide, they were able to create, design and explore how the technology functioned. Students were also able to collaborate with each other during this process. Manipulatives and work mats were developed using PowerPoint then sent to the students to work with using their technology to manipulate the information. Google forms was a great resource for teachers to develop quick quizzes to check for the students understanding. Kahoot has really engaged the students while supplying data to the teacher. Teachers would project the questions through Zoom, students would log on from home and play. Flip Grid provided hours of engaging entertainment for the students. They learned how to video themselves for given assignments which were posted on Google Classroom. In addition, they could leave comments for other students on Flip Grid initiating collaboration and positive peer feedback. What student doesn’t like to see themselves and their friends on videos! Want to change the background of a Zoom call to hook the student into your lesson, use Videovo.net. Students loved to see the video playing the background as the teacher introduced the lesson.
Students have been given an amazing opportunity to learn and work with various learning tools that will develop projects which they never dreamt possible. What a huge success of educators, parents and students banding together and all this was made possible a very uncertain time. Engaging learning can take place in a pandemic, it just takes a change in mindset and confidence to move out of your comfort zone. This virus known as COVID-19 has propelled the education forward and stretched teachers thinking. When it is over, students and educators will be wiser and better equipped for the next challenge.
Trevelyn Everitt-Gyure is an educator who has spent most of her career working in urban school systems. She holds a B.S. from Sam Houston State University, MBA from Amberton University and a M.Ed. from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is the recipient of the Impact on Teaching and Learning Award, presented by Southern Methodist University (SMU) and a committee member of Partners in Practice, Research in Mathematics Education (RME), Southern Methodist. University (SMU). Additionally, she is very committed about working with educators from various areas to improve the way students are taught in all schools. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. You can connect with her at: email@example.com or on twitter at @treveveritt.