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In Case You Missed It – Here’s What Educators are Talking About!
posted by: Tamia | April 02, 2020, 06:39 PM   

AAE held its first Educators Connect virtual gathering via Zoom on Tuesday, March 31. We had more than 30 attendees join for a lively discussion about topics we’re all facing during school closures, virtual instruction, and the general disruption and uncertainty as the Coronavirus pandemic up-ends our sense of normalcy and the education goals we had for the academic year.

Session attendees ranged from their very first day of virtual instruction to those now in their third week of teaching from home. We covered diverse topics in four different break-out rooms. This week’s session titles were, Steal My Idea, Online on my Mind, Stress-busters, and KISS (Keep It Simple for your Students)

The discussions were authentic and collaborative. Here is just a sampling of reflections and highlights from each break-out room.


Stress Busters:


Whether you’re used to working at home or you consider yourself tech-savvy, doing it full-time with the rest of your family at home too can be stressful. Teachers are finding it hard to deal with too many platforms. It's becoming overwhelming.  We all suggested finding one and mastering it instead of trying to learn multiple platforms.


Working from home is very challenging for our members along with having children of their own and operating under this new norm. But fortunately, there were session attendees who were experienced at working from home and shared the following tips when assuming the role of remote employees.


Setting a schedule and routine, such as getting up at the same time every day and getting dressed to show up to your work area.


Setting a flexible schedule for the kids to also help with household chores, etc., throughout the day and learning time will help balance your day too.


Pre-making meals, like lunches and snacks so that it's done for the day means one less thing to think about.


Also staying active like with a walk or dance is important to balance your mood.


Technology and the unknown were some other topics and the group offered some great suggestions.


Attendees all shared some apps that will ease some the functionality issues of working from home, such as HP Smart for scanning


We also discussed being ok with not knowing everything right now and releasing control because we are all facing a degree of uncertainty. Give yourself a break and breathe a little.


On the topic of Keep it Simple for Your Students (KISS), teachers in some states are currently locked out of their schools, and are feeling the pressures of steep learning curves. One question that continued to arise is if Zoom, with major security issues and malfunctions, is the best option to deliver instruction. Teachers in this group report feeling the pressures of needing to respond to students and parents on multiple platforms (email, phone, text, Google Classroom, even social media) for questions about assignments, and streamlining this scenario to create one responsive way to engage with families was discussed. Google classroom seemed to be the most supported idea to share information with students.


Teachers reported that students have access to Chromebooks, but not Wi-Fi in some rural areas, making it challenging to deliver instruction to those students. Dallas ISD has purchased hotspots to offer free services to students without internet access. In rural areas, one teacher noted that getting food and technology to students is an emergency situation. The principal has called every family to identify their situation and offer resources, and teachers are required to continue to attempt contact. Schools additionally seem to be moving expectations and standards at random, and teachers agreed that most districts do not know what to do.


One attendee said that after students heard they were not returning to school, this automatically impacted their desire to participate in digital learning. This teacher has been using social media platforms like TikTok and FlipGrid to communicate with students daily. The major questions teachers had was, “How can we make sure students can connect?”


One private school teacher recommends keeping a simple routine, like weekly communication from the school, branching out into social media, or using a platform like Google Hangouts for “face time” with students. Children need to be connecting and working through feelings and ideas with each other. Ultimately, with legalities and political correctness aside, students need us to focus on what matters right now – their education.


In Online on my Mind – the topic was technology across grade levels.


The Online Technology break-out group had one second-grade teacher, one high school math teacher, and one high school Spanish teacher.  We discussed what everyone is currently using at their school and how they are using it.  Each school was using different platforms including Schoology and Canvas. The big topic is zoom. Teachers had a lot of questions about using zoom--we talked about some issues around FERPA especially if the teachers were recording.  We also talked about using video within zoom and the practicalities of doing that.


The moderator, Dr. Elizabeth Davis is a veteran virtual educator and she shared using tumblebooks as a tool for read-alouds for each of these situations.  Tumblebooks are often available through your local library on the "cybershelf" and can be accessed the same way you access any virtual portions of the library collection. For example, there are easy reader books in Spanish on tumblebooks which can be used for high school Spanish vocabulary and grammar.  We had a really thoughtful conversation--with a lot of great sharing and ideas.


The Steal My Idea session was chock-full of stealable ideas and best practices provided by an incredibly diverse group of educators from public district schools, public charter schools,and private schools serving general education and special education populations. They also offered endorsements of user-friendly tech that in the words of one participant, “If I can do it (use it) anyone can!” The technology she was referring to is Screencastify. Another general recommendation was to realign your percentage of lecture and activities and remember that everything will take longer via distance learning. One participant was happy to report that even with bumps in the road, good days and not-so-good days, learning was taking place and progress was being seen.


Everyone agreed that if there was ever an example of “one-size-doesn’t-fit-all,” virtual instruction aligns well with this model. Adjustments along the way are to be expected. For one thing, the length of the “day.” A four-hour day of distance learning was about what days have been for several attendees. And many others agreed, thattime allotment was working well for them, too.


Even with some issues now in the news about zoom having potential security concerns, most in the room agreed that it was becoming a go-to platform because it’s, “Not too bad or hard to use,” and it’s getting positive feedback from both students and teachers. One participant noted that she, although very new to the platform, received a compliment from a colleague on her mastery of this video conferencing platform.


One participant added that she was pleased with how her children are embracing the home school setting for their learning, and recommended Brainpop Junior, Google Classroom, and Epic Books.


Creating and maintaining consistency and routine for any sized class and for all learners was discussed at length. One virtual schedule was shared on the screen and it quickly received the comment, “I’m absolutely stealing that idea and sharing it with my colleagues!”


Like what you’ve read here? Join the conversation on Tuesdays. Our next webinar is Tuesday, April 7 at 5:00 ET. Register here and share with your colleagues! They’re welcome too!

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