Elearning Wins and Obstacles

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The governor extended the stay at home order throughout the month of May. With that order schools are now physically closed for the remainder of the year.  I think most thought this might happen, but it wasn’t confirmed until last week.  Having a sense of closure of what’s expected moving forward was relieving, but at the same time understanding that we won’t be able to meet with the kids again this year is disappointing. It’s bittersweet. When meeting classes through Zoom you can tell that this pandemic and closure is taking a toll on all of us.

With all that being said, we’re trying to push forward.  There are five weeks left on the instructional calendar.  Moving abruptly to emergency eLearning hasn’t been a walk in the park and there has been a lot of anxiety. The increased amount of planning has caused a massive amount of stress, but I believe most teachers in my district feel like their feet are on a bit more solid ground compared to about a month ago.  Professional development is happening more consistently and everyone seems to understand (not accepts) that this new normal is in place for the remainder of the school year.  Coming to terms that the education structure has changed isn’t simple. Through this process of tinkered, tweaked and took some risks in trying to find out what works best with this new medium. Personally, I’ve found some ideas/strategies that have worked well and others that have downright bombed.  I’m keeping a list of the technology tasks here so I can reflect (and hopefully use again!) back on them. Feel free to use and remix as you see fit. Just like in a normal classroom I’ve found certain ideas have worked well with eLearning and other haven’t. I’ll be noting wins (some instruction, some structural) and ideas/platforms that are on the fence below.  Let’s start off with the wins.

Wins

SeeSaw – I’m required to post daily math assignments through SeeSaw and it’s been a great tool so far. I generally post a brief message to the class and a link or a page that the class would normally complete if we were together.  Students will complete the assignment, I review it, offer feedback and send it back to students if they need to redo something.  Right now about half (yes I said half!) of the students redo and resubmit the assignment for a second attempt.  This process has actually been helpful as students use the feedback to make changes.

Desmos – I’ve been using Desmos with all of my classes this year.  More so now then I did when in a physical school. I’ve been borrowing tasks found here and creating my own that match what I’m teaching.  One of the game changers has been the self-checking and feedback slides. Students are able to take as much time as needed to eventually find a solution.  This has been a great way to provide correct/incorrect feedback without being there in person.  Also, really enjoying the “starter” and “checking in” screens.

Google Forms – I use Google Forms for parents to sign up for activities or clubs.  Haven’t really used them beyond that purpose until this week.  I gave a Google Form to my 4th and 5th graders on Monday and we discussed the results when we met live via Zoom. Later in the week I gave my 5th grade group a brief graded quiz on concepts that we’ve been discussing.  I’ve also been able to incorporate spaced practice within the forms. Students were able to see how they performed immediately afterwards, which is a win in my book.

Teams – I feel fortunate to have a supportive teaching team to discuss ideas with.  Moving from a regular classroom to remote learning has been a challenge and my team has been fairly consistent in the process.  It certainly hasn’t been easy, but having a supportive team and new administration that has done a fantastic job with the navigation has helped.

Upper Fence

Zoom – Being able to see your students live is important, especially when there’s been such a change in instruction.  My meetings last around 20-30 minutes and the first few minutes is allocated to seeing how everyone is doing.  The class says good morning and then we settle into a math routine.  Third grade works on an Estimation180 task, fourth with a Who am I, and fifth with SERP’s pre-algebra.  The class then is introduced to a new concept through Google Slides.  Students have opportunities to ask questions and then we say goodbye.  Some students stay longer to ask questions or tell me about something going on in their lives that they’d like to share.  I haven’t had much success with the polling option (it isn’t available) and breakout rooms need to have another adult in the room so that’s not always feasible. The chat is a mixed bag and I feel like I’m policing whenever it’s available. I’m adding an additional Zoom session for my students that might need extra support this week.  I’m anticipating some positive results.

Instructional Videos – I’ve made a few instructional videos over the past couple weeks.  The videos are between 2-5 minutes and discuss particular problems that the class explores during our live sessions.  I think it adds another personal element, which is needed during this time, but I’m not 100% sold on the effectiveness of the videos.

Google Slides – Most of my Zoom meetings include some type of lesson.  I’ve been using Slides for this and am trying to keep the classroom routine similar to our face to face interactions.  I tend to create one deck with all my grade levels.  The first slide includes a title, then the objective and then eventually into the lesson.  The decks are short, usually less than 10 slides.  I try to make them interactive, but there’s a lot of be desired and part of that is due to the time it takes in the creation process.  One of the benefits is that I can send the class the slides after the lesson as a review. Maybe I need to look into more options/templates for this medium.  So far it’s worked ok, but nothing to write home about.

Lower Fence

Quizziz – I use this frequently during face to face instruction (probably more than any), but not as much during remote learning.  There’s some competition involved with Quizziz and it doesn’t work as well if people are using it at different times.  There’s feedback embedded, which makes it a decent option.

Nearpod – Again, I use this in the regular classroom.  I love the draw option where students can show you their work, but students aren’t aware of how well they’re doing and what’s correct or not.

Adopted Text screenshots – By screenshots, I mean taking a workbook/worksheet resource and using it as an assignment that is sent back and forth through SeeSaw.  I think many teachers feel obligated to use the district resource in an effort to stay consistent with the scope and sequence. Also, this falls into the digital worksheet realm, which has pros/cons. I think there’s a lot of potential here, it just hasn’t been collectively used yet

Time – Managing time working from home has its challenges.  I’ve been digging my commute, but haven’t yet settled into the new normal. Since I’m not able to easily check in with students, I’ve been working longer at creating content/finding resources that provide meaningful feedback to students. I’ve attempted to balance the amount of increased screen time with getting outside and enjoying the weather when I can.  I’m making progress and believe other teachers are in similar situations.


I’m certainly not ranking the platforms/ideas, but instead showing what seems to be working well or not so well during this transition to emergency eLearning.  Platforms that provide opportunities to for feedback and multiple attempts are more helpful than others.  I’ve been able to curate many resources because of the fantastic #Mtbos and #iteachmath communities.  I’m looking forward to making the next five weeks memorable and beneficial as we continue to move into uncharted waters.

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