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Digital classrooms ... learning in the fast lane
From our Educator Guest Blogger Series
I do not think I have ever been more proud of the teaching profession than I have in the last week. That is no small statement considering I have been teaching for over 20 years.
We have pulled together in such a way that nobody should doubt that we as professionals put our children first. That being stated, wow, the online learning/teaching that has been happening is intimidating, exhilarating, and outstanding!
I have always wanted to “flip” my classroom but did not think that a pandemic would be the cause for it. I learned a few tricks on the fly and would love to share them. From taking attendance digitally, to live chats, to videos, and answering questions that come from every digital device that I own, I am not even close to being bored in my digital classroom. The great news is I have improved as a teacher and will continue to implement my new “digital knowledge” with students in the classroom when we go back to school!
- Make sure your students have all of their logins with them or you have a way to send them digitally. Students may have to log-in a different way on phones, tablets, laptops, and yes even gaming consoles. My son used his Xbox to log into Google Classrooms and that was an adventure that made my educator’s heart smile!
- Have a Daily Digital Outline and do not expect teaching perfection from yourself or your parents/parent helpers! In my case, the Google Classroom had already been set up and had been running since school started. My parents/parent helpers should only have had to monitor as I was online to answer any questions that their students had. I did not want my parents overwhelmed by the pace, amount, or complexity of what my students were learning. I was hoping that my parents could be the sounding board for discussions and I would take the brunt of the content questions. I am still working on the best way to handle this!
- Use your Photo Booth or Flipgrid to take short videos to communicate with your students/parents. This one turned out to be fun as I shared how working with my own three children and digitally teaching 3rd graders was working for me. Flipgrid was a great way for my students to share short videos within our Google Classroom. This was a chance to show my parents and my teaching colleges that we were ALL on a learning curve!
I am thankful for the programs/companies that have stepped up and offered free online digital programs, training, and guidance to the students/parents. I listed just a few of them below:
Digital guide points to keep in the forefront of your lesson planning
When I started teaching in 1997, technology integration was not even on my radar. I was using a projector and visa-v-markers and I was going to change the world one class at a time. After teaching 4 grade levels, 2 district changes, and tech that makes my mind loop in an endless cycle of “WHAT?”, I have come to realize that my plan of world change has really changed me and mostly for the better of all involved. That one sentence seems simple but those who have worked with or trained me know that it was a rough road. One that I am still learning to navigate daily!
Here are some ground rules that help me narrow down what works and does not work for my students in my Title One classroom:
- How time consuming is it for you and your students?
In my schedule I don’t have a student engaged in any given program for more than 30 mins. If they are engaged for 30 minutes, there has to be some kind of note taking/journaling interaction. Use a timer to keep your schedule running smoothly.
- Does it directly teach/reinforce standards you are responsible for?
If it does not directly relate to or reinforce my state standards, it has no place in my classroom.
- Can you monitor your student’s progress through assignments?
There should always be a way to track your student’s login time, time spent solving a problem, time spent reading, or grading system.
- Is it safe and well vetted for your classroom age group?
SC has Computer Science and Digital Literacy Content Standards for our students. Safety is important, and all of your programs should be a closed forum where your students can interact with you and each other while you monitor the conversations/activities. Common Sense Media has some wonderful resources for how to create responsible digital citizens at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/kids-action.
- Can it be sent through Google Classrooms or a closed digital platform that only you and your students can access?
This one connects to #4 because appropriate digital programs should be reasonably easy to track, monitor, and grade. The following website has directions on how to use PBS LearningMedia with your Google Classroom: https://scetv.pbslearningmedia.org/help/google-classroom/. Other programs have similar directions on their sites and it is worth it to do the research on your digital resources.
- What is mandated by your district and how much input do you have about the program or programs?
If your district has purchased programs for you, chances are they have looked into the research behind them. If they have invested the money, you should invest the time. That does not mean in any way that your opinion/input is not needed. Some of the best improvements to these programs come from the teachers and students who are using the programs.
- Who do you go to for help?
You do not need to know everything about technology but you do need “go to” resources, even if it is the customer service number for that new program you just started. Teach the students the “tricks” to fix everyday problems like how to soft reset, fix a turned screen, reconnect a dropped internet, send shortcuts to their desktop, etc. Use the resources offered by your district, Technology Personnel, Digital Coaches, and fellow teachers with the “Tech Touch”.
Christy Nexsen is a 3rd Grade Gifted/Talented Teacher at Manning Primary School, Manning SC. She’s been spotlighted in Carolina Classrooms, was MPS Teacher of the Year in 2017, and has taught Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, and Third Grade. You can follow her on Twitter at @CNexsen or email her at email@example.com
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