Elearning to In-Person Learning

Four weeks down. That number indicates how many weeks that school has been in session. School didn’t have in-person learning until last week when kindergarten and first grade students came back. Next week second and third will be coming back. Although they are coming back there are still many elearning students that will be zooming into the classrooms. Next week more teachers will transition from teaching solely online to managing an in-person and online classroom simultaneously.

As I reflect on the last four weeks, I’m impressed with how quickly students have transitioned to using Zoom and learning with a completely different model. They had practice with our emergency elearning in the spring, but this is different. There’s more structure and teachers have had more time to plan instruction. There have been hiccups along the way for sure (wifi problems, Zoom settings, talking while on mute, getting materials to students, learning a new LMS, …), but most students are engaging in math and exploring new concepts like they would in a regular classroom. Breakout rooms have allowed math to be more social, digital math routines are becoming consistent, and my document camera has been getting a workout everyday as the class completes problems together.

Next week one of my classes will be coming back for in-person instruction. The entire class won’t be coming back to school as some students will be elearning from home. Those students will log in to Zoom as usual. The group of students that’ll be in-person will need to learn new procedures related to social distancing and mask wearing. This may impact those elearners at home as class might not start at time or be shortened because of dismissal and hallway congestion.

I think there’s a perceived notion that once students are back in school that instruction will shift. The copy machine will be back up running again, the teachers’ lounge will be buzzing and the sounds of kids will once again echo off the walls. We’ll be moving back to business as usual. I’m in the camp that doesn’t necessarily agree with that stance – at least for this year. A question comes to my mind when thinking about this.

How is it equitable to switch your instruction and gear it to in-person students when part of your class is still learning from home?

Now, I’m excited that some of my class will be back in school. There’s a comforting feeling that we’ll at some point get back to normal. There’s a physical social element that’s important in being able to see non-verbals and speak to one another in person. Being able to raise a hand (not digitally) and ask for help or show a model in person has many benefits. I’m looking forward to the time where students can play math cards games with each other, build mathematical models and use manipulatives without worrying about being to close to one another.

With all that being said, I believe students in the classroom will continue to log into Zoom, attend breakout rooms with the entire class and participate along with elearners at home – similar to what we’ve been doing during the past four weeks. As the year progresses, individual students/classes will most likely need to quarantine and they will transition to an elearning only model. Parents might decide to move students from a hybrid to eLearning and vice versa. I believe there won’t be a significant shift in the model that we’ve been using except that some of the students will now be in the classroom. Class time will most likely be shortened and adjustments will need to be made for students to navigate social distancing at school. I understand that aspect and know that it’s necessary to be flexible, but am also aware that it’s not a seamless transition from elearning to in-person learning.

Breakout Rooms and Google Slides

I’ve been teaching remotely for the past two weeks and continue to notice that students aren’t able to work together in groups as much anymore. I’d like to change that. I’m finding that breakout groups are one way in which to do this during Zoom sessions. In order to make them more effective I’ve started to find ways to structure the sessions so students are engaged in mathematics and they need to work with their partners to find solutions. I try to get students in breakout rooms once a day and usually that happens. This past week I used a Google Slides technique that I found on Twitter. I discussed this a bit in my last post, but will go into more detail here.

My first step is to find a math tasks that involves some type of collaboration. One of my classes is exploring data landmarks. The question is placed on a Google slide. There are three examples below.

Depending on the class size, I make 6-8 duplicates of the slide. I add “breakout room # ___” on the top to indicate who’s working on a particular slide. I’ll review the task as a class first and then answer clarifying questions. Students are then off to the groups to work for around 5-10 minutes. They return and each group discusses what they created and the strategy behind their solution. This technique has worked well although my learning curve during the past two weeks has been steep. I’m hoping to put together a few tips or considerationsbefore using breakout rooms and Google Slides.


First of all, make sure to create your Google Slide in Edit Master. The reasoning is that you don’t want students to drag, drop or edit unnecessary items. I learned this as students were changing the size of the text and moving around the question off of the slide. I want students to focus more on the problem than the formatting.

Use fields to show where students should place their work. Again, this is so students don’t feel like they need to put their effort into formatting. Having a place for their names and work lets them concentrate more on the task.

Ensure that permissions are set correctly. I made the mistake of not allowing editing rights and it was a disaster as students were able to view the activity, but not write anything on the slide.

Make sure to duplicate the slide and put the breakout group # somewhere noticeable on the slide. Students should be able to easily navigate to their groups slide to begin work.

Create a plan on how you want students to share out their solutions. This will help eliminate some of the awkward silence that sometimes happens when the teacher asks “so … who wants to discuss how you solved this?” questions. It will also help students create a plan before they exit the breakout room.

Limit the time students spend in the breakout rooms and pop in frequently. I’ve found that spending more than 10 minutes in the rooms isn’t necessarily. It depends on the task though, but for my students 8-10 minutes is the sweet spot. I give a minute warning for students to wrap up what they’re discussing and we had back to the class Zoom session


These are a just a few guidelines that I’ve been following this past week. Similar to the regular classroom, not every breakout room has been a success. I’ve made tweaks over the last few sessions to improve the experience. Overall, I’m seeing progress and students are engaging with each other and the math in positive ways. This may even be something I use as my students start making their way back to an actual face-to-face classroom.

First Week is in the Books

The first week of school is in the books. Just writing that last sentence is comforting. There’s still a lot of anxiety related to this new school year and so many questions are still unanswered. My school started elearning on Monday and it has been a rollercoaster of a week. This is the most different first week in my teaching career and it’s challenging to find the words to describe the situation. While I taught from my kitchen table, students were at home logging into zoom for 40 minute math lessons. Teachers and students dealt with zoom problems, wifi fails, iPad tech issues, doc camera concerns and a variety of other obstacles involved with distance learning. I’m going to detail what seemed to go well and what I need to work on moving forward.

Most teachers like to start the year with some type of routine. In the past, students would come into the classroom, take their individual folder, sit down and work on a bell ringer. Instead of this, I decided to take a few ideas off of Twitter and consulted this amazing document to screen share a countdown timer. This was used to start my Zoom meetings. Once the countdown reaches zero the class starts. I even jazzed it up by adding some music in the background. Students experienced rock, classical and jazz this week.

Once the countdown is up I take quick attendance and then we have a meet and greet. This usually takes place with some type of question that I ask everyone. Thursday’s question was “what’s your favorite number and why?” We then give a virtual fist pump, high five, elbow, or another way to connect in a funny way through the screen.

Then the class moves to a Nearpod activity. I was going to use Edpuzzle, but the idea of not having enough space with the free version scared me. Earlier in the week I recorded myself doing quick mental math practices. I uploaded the videos (all less than a minutes) into Nearpod and pause them at certain points for students to answer questions. I’m able to see the class and individual results as we move to the next question. The questions are mostly review, but I want to ensure that all students were engaged and I can see if they have answered the question or not with this routine. I add a couple more slides to the deck for a matching or fill in the blank game. This takes around 10 minutes to complete.

Then the class moves to guided practice. Thankfully I was able to retrieve my document camera from school and it has been a lifesaver at times. Students have consumable journals at home and we complete a few problems together as a class. This week I spent a good amount of time trying to get the document camera to work and angled right so students could see it on their iPad when I screen share. This was a battle all week – especially with lag times. Students answered the questions as the class completes problems in the journal. This is also time for direct instruction involving new concepts.

Students then move to breakout groups where they have a task to complete. The task might be to work together to complete more of the journal page or work on a Slides presentation/Paldet together (each group gets one slide to work on). I borrowed this idea from Natalie.

I pop in and out of the breakout rooms to see what’s going on and to ask questions. Enjoyed this part of my job this week. Some rooms didn’t need my help while others frequently asked questions. Most of the questions in the breakout rooms were technical issues, like trying to figure out how to share individual screens or iPad issues. Editing a Slides project on an iPad didn’t turn out well as the tools look different on an iPad compared to a computer. I’m including myself in this slow learning process. After around 10 minutes we come back as a class and present the solutions together.

By then there’s just a few minutes left and I review some of the key concepts. I give students a to do list ask if they have questions to stay on, if not wave goodbye and I’ll see you tomorrow. A few kids stick around and the questions are mostly technical at this point.

This process didn’t happen everyday, but it’s becoming more consistent. I’m still figuring out how to use Canvas correctly. Giving assignments and quizzes has been tricky. Navigating a new eschool system has also been a challenge and has taken up quite a bit of time. I’m still not sure how tests will look with this elearning format. I’m going to postpone that decision for now. Curriculum night is next week and I’ve been asked to be at the school to give the presentation so creating that deck is on my to do list.

I’m so thankful that the weekend is here and it’s now time to recharge. The weather is supposed to be decent so I’m going to enjoy time away from my computer screen.

We Got This – Part 3

I finished up the book We Got This by Conelius Minor this afternoon. It was a great read and has me thinking about equity as a new school year is around the bend. Here are quotes and my thoughts for chapters 5-6.

Chapter 5

Mrs. Davenport spoke. “This book was given to us, but it wasn’t written for us.p. 104

This quote was taken from the beginning of chapter 5. After reading it I started to think about curriculum guides and publishers. Pacing guides aren’t perfect and teachers should keep that in mind when planning out the year. Teachers should give themselves grace to slow down and modify instruction based on students’ needs. This doesn’t happen enough as state and local testing often regulate pacing. Also, this quote reminds me that the books and materials that teachers use should be inclusive. Do students see themselves in the books that they read? Do the illustrations accurately display our society?

“A positive interaction based on a power imbalance – the powerful interacting with the powerless – is not a positive interaction. It is a colonizing one.” p. 106

I had to read this a couple times before it sunk in. Whether it’s spoken or not, there’s a power imbalance between teachers and students. Developing a classroom community takes time and teachers often engage students in activities that promote a positive and safe environment. Students can pick up on when a teacher is being genuine and when they’re not. I believe this quote also deals with the shift in how school is sometimes designed to colonize and not necessarily embrace differences. Students don’t come to school everyday with a blank slate. They bring their culture, language, norms and so many other characteristics that are part of their individual identity. How often is this discussed and is it celebrated? This quote has me asking more questions.

Chapter 6

“We talk about entrepreneurial spirit while worshiping at the alter of the status quo.” p. 126

Teachers want students to be empowered and take ownership of their learning. It’s a powerful statement, but is it backed up by action? How can a district encourage students to innovate if the organization is quite pleased with how things are currently run? Do school districts fundamentally change when initiatives are activated?

We can certainly cannot change an entire school or even a classroom yet, but we can change how we respond to the things that happen in those places” p. 129

I believe this quote touches on the mindset of teachers. There are some things that I can change and others that I can’t. Many teachers are struggling with this right now as districts come out with elearning and hybrid plans. What’s controllable? Well, I can control how I respond and that’s a start. Realizing this gives me a small sense of calm and it’s a good reminder – especially this time of the year.

“The longer I stay in it, the more I realize that our work is more evolutionary than it is revolutionary” p. 131

I nodded while highlighting this statement. Most teachers have seen new products, resources, testing programs, and manipulatives that have been touted as being “game changers” for students. These fads tend to fade over time or are replaced with something new. Change is always happening in the education field. Teachers that stay in the classroom for years realize what’s important. Strategies or resources that work for last year’s class might not work next year. Teachers mess up, identify how to improve and become better over time. They pivot as needed and develop better practices over time. This is a good reminder that I need to recognize the small wins when they occur.

We Got This – Part 2

This post details my journey with We Got This by Conelius Minor. My school met to discuss the first two chapters earlier this week and it was a productive discussion that could’ve been longer. It was helpful to discuss strategies related to listening and getting to know our students better. This will be especially important as my district will be starting in a face-to-face or hybrid model soon and that’s far removed from the norm.

My highlighter was busy during chapters 3-4.

Chapter 3

We loved talking about giving kids voice while mocking the voices that they brought to school with themp. 48

I highlighted this statement as it resonates. It’s important to give kids a voice, but too often I also hear people in education speak about how that voice needs to change because it’s not “acceptable” compared what’s expected. By taking that stance, teachers take on the role of attempting to change a student’s voice to what’s deemed as more important and in the process they devalue what’s being brought from home. In my mind a student’s voice is part of their identity.

“Creating a change in your classroom impacts your students. Creating a larger change can impact your whole school” p. 65

Teachers want what’s best for their students. Innovation is often evident in schools and it originates (my take here) in individual classrooms. Teachers see the results, get excited (if it’s a positive outcome) and want to spread the news. Finding a way to communicate this to administration is sometimes a barrier as there are other directives and only so much time. I thought Minor was able to carefully articulate a number of ways to showcase why the change is necessary and how it may impact a larger population.

Chapter 4

“Some kids don’t feel like learning is a safe pursuit” p. 81

I cringed as I read this but also know it to be true. This outcome has to do with how/what a student has experienced during their learning journey. There’s a decent amount of pressure in schools. That pressure is different depending on the student and situation. Good grades and peer pressure all play a role. The perceived “mistake free zone” in a school isn’t attainable and therefore students don’t engage as a form of “failure” is guaranteed. Since it’s not safe they might decide it’s not worth the effort. Teachers have to proactively create a classroom community where students feel safe to make mistakes.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give children is the ability to advocate for themselves and for their own education” p. 92

I work with students in grades k-5 and it is a joy to see how students use their voice over time. As students progress through their elementary journey they develop and use their voice to communicate thoughts, ideas and personal reflections. Understanding how to approach and ask teachers about a particular question/topic takes initiative. Students won’t take that leap unless they feel safe. In order to advocate for themselves they need to develop their voice and be able to reflect on their own understanding compared to what’s expected. Student self-reflection plays a role here as well as how receptive a teacher is to the student. Being able to navigate and help a student develop self-advocacy skills is worth the time. I find this especially evident when an upper elementary student transfers those skills to middle school.

We Got This – Part 1

This summer I’m reading through We Got This by Conelius Minor. I’ve heard of the book and another teacher at my school raved about out last year. Based on the preview it looks like it falls in similar lines with two of the books that I read last year: This is Not a Test and White Fragility. I feel like understanding your own bias and privilege are the beginning steps in making actionable change. I’m continuing to read more to find out where I can make lasting impact.

The book is part of an optional study for the summer that was made available by my administrator. With all that has transpired over the last few months (George Floyd’s death, protests, awareness of inequalities … ) the district has taken a stance that equity should be a focus. How that turns out is anyone’s guess right now, but I believe we’re making strides in the right direction. The study group will be reading a couple chapters and then meeting over Zoom throughout the summer. Last week the group initially met to discuss the logistics and decided to read two chapters and meet every two weeks.

I kept my highlighter handy as I went through the first two chapters. I highlighted certain statements that resonated and kept them at limit to focus on particular pieces. I’m writing here to preserve my current thoughts.

Chapter 1

“The true masterminds – the real enemies – in this dystopia are the business-as-usual attitudes ..” p. 10

Over time I’ve realized the business-as-usual tendencies are often rooted in resistance to change. As an organization become larger balancing efficiency with what’s best for students tends to drive decisions at a school level. Being open to modifying or scrapping an idea for something else can be a challenge, especially when the originators of the system are not willing to budge or have been given a directive to stay the course.

“When we are inflexible in our naming, we become inflexible in our thinking” p. 10

Despite our best efforts, fixed labeling is evident in schools. Gifted, resource, special ed, striving, low, high, average, EL, kiddos (okay I threw this in there), are all labels. Once a label is fixed it’s trying to remove it from our fixed perspective. Being more flexible with categorizing can help evolve our viewpoint. Students are changing, growing and developing their own academic identities through experiences at home and school. Why should teachers affix a label that’s attached to a student as the individual learning process evolves.

Chapter 2

“Teaching without this kind of engagement is not teaching at all. It is colonization.” p. 28

The text before this statement mentions the importance of relationships that are grounded in a shared vision and collaboration. The word that bounced off of the page was colonization. When I hear the word I think of establishing control. Is that what school is for? I would assume if you ask teachers, many of them would say that having a classroom community is essential in creating an environment for optional learning. This quote reinforces how important it is to allow (I kind of cringe when writing that word as it assumes that it’s my decision) students to be empowered to be part of a community of learners.

“... Racism, sexism, ableism, and classism are systems”

“The hard part of knowing that oppression lives in systems too is understanding that systems don’t change just because we identify them; they change because we disrupt them.” p. 31

Understanding that racism is a system and not necessarily an act can take time to digest. Being aware that oppression exists within systems takes a critical eye in looking beyond business-as-usual tendencies. Identifying what/how a school culture silences, excludes and/or oppresses students is the first step. Then we move towards the disruption process.

Reflecting on the 19-20 School Year

School officially ended on Monday. It didn’t feel like a typical end of the school year as teachers said goodbye via Zoom and then shut off their computers for a little while. It’s now time to reflect, drink my coffee slowly, work on a few house projects and take some time for self care.

Before leaving for the summer I asked students to fill out a Desmos survey that I found online. It was originally created by Rachael Degnan and I edited it to reflect my students’ situation. The survey asked students about eLearning, their effort and a number of other questions related to this school year. I was able to get 44 responses in total. I’ll post the slide question and observations in the captions.

The first question asked students about elearning and instruction. In my case students primarily use the SeeSaw platform. Teachers were expected to post daily assignments in SeeSaw for students to complete. The assignments were posted by 9 am and Zoom sessions were scheduled throughout the week – some by the homeroom teacher and others by specialists. Sometimes the Zoom session related to the daily assignments other times that wasn’t the case. It was up to the teacher to decide what to assign and how to use the time during the Zoom sessions.

Most teacher assignments included some type of instruction (possibly pre-closure) or during a Zoom session/teacher instruction video. The most helpful, according to the students was trying a problem and then getting sometime of feedback from the teacher. I’d say approximately 60-70% of the assignments required a student to review the teacher feedback and make a second attempt. Some students required additional attempts. If students were still having difficulty after multiple attempts the teacher would sometimes create a brief instruction video or screencast to help.

The second question related to effort. Most students felt as though they tended to put in a good amount of effort during class. I think if I excluded it to just eLearning the results might be slightly skewed lower. Some students mentioned in the comments that they didn’t try as hard during eLearning because there wasn’t as much work expected. That’s true because the work required decreased during emergency eLearning.

Students tended to skew more positive on the improvement as a student/learner compared to the personal level. This was given to students in grades 3-5 so that’s also something to keep in mind when analyzing the results. Many students related to personal growth to making new friend and helping others in need. I saw responses like this in the student explanations. I thought that was interesting as it wasn’t something that the class discussed much in detail.

This question had responses across the entire grid. Students generally completed the math work in the morning after a homeroom class Zoom session. If a students was having trouble with a concept it was challenging to address it without seeing the student work first. I think this was tough for some students as they were able to ask for help from a parent and others were not. Some students mentioned in the comments that they couldn’t work through problems with a partner or group and that negatively impacted how they felt about eLearning. Other students were nervous and weren’t quite sure how to work their question so they gave up or left question fields blank.

A couple things stood out to me with this question. Most of the students liked completing tasks at their own pace. This doesn’t happen as much as I’d like it to in the regular classroom as schedules often limit timing. Many students mentioned they learn best in-person. This isn’t surprising and highlights the importance of being able to see a student, their work, non-verbals and use those to connect and give feedback. I believe students missed those connections.

The top vote was “getting good grades” and part of me feels sad about this. I try to devalue points/grades as much as possible and focus on the math journey instead. There’s quite a bit of pressure for these students to do well. I was glad to see maintaining friendships and building new friendships to be in the upper half of the priority list. I loop with most of my students so it’ll be interesting to see how students react when I show them this data in the fall.

Each student filled this out and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Most students gave themselves between 5-10. Concepts that haven’t been discussed as much were in the 5 range. Again, I’ll be reviewing this with the students that I loop with in the fall.

I was initially teetering on whether to give this feedback survey. I’m glad I decided to try it out and will be parsing out more details as I dig into the data a bit more over the summer.

Now, summer officially begins.

One Week Left

It’s official. There’s only one week left of the school year. It’s been a trial-and-error emergency elearning adventure for the past couple months and we’ve almost made it. The last couple months have been challenging and there has been plenty of anxiety to go around. Fortunately, I’ve also seen grace in supply as parents and educators tread through these uncharted waters. This year has been far from normal and I’m currently planning out my last week with students.

I have one more Zoom session with each class next week. Each class will discuss the results of a cumulative quiz, review the year, take a polygraph and end with a closing message. I’m hoping to end with some closure as we prepare for a different summer and unusual fall when school starts up again.

Cumulative

Last week I gave one final cumulative quiz over the past 1-2 months of learning through a Google Form. The quiz was only around 15-20 questions, but covered content related to the last unit. I’m required to give a grade for the final trimester and this quiz was influential in reporting math progress. Some of the questions were multiple choice, while other were open response. I realize I need to up my Google Quiz game. Hoping to work on that over the summer.

I’ll be using the quiz results to discuss particular concepts that might need strengthening and to highlight areas of strengths. I’ll most likely use some type of graph that summarizes problems that were correct/incorrect. Trends will be discussed and possible opportunities for summer learning will be brought to the forefront. Usually teachers give sometime of summer work near this time of the year, but I’m going to pass this year unless otherwise directed.

Review the year

The class will then review the year. I have a class Twitter feed that I’ll take pictures from and create some type of brief slide show for the students. I also asked the students for classroom experience/memories during the last class session. I’d like to have each student talk a bit about their math experience this year (if they’d like) and then finish by introducing the class polygraph (Thanks Cathy for the idea!). Each slide has an experience or class event. Students will spend around 10-20 minutes on the polygraph. There won’t be any looking over the shoulder during this as everyone is remote. During the last couple minutes I’ll reveal the names of the partners and then we’ll come back as a group.

Closing Message

Completing this in a digital form will be new. In a normal setting I’d tell the students how proud I am to be their teacher and that I’m looking forward to hearing about all the great things that they’ll accomplish in middle and high school. I then give them a high-five or fist pump and I say a quick goodbye and keep my composure (some of these kids I’ve seen for multiple years). Obviously this year is different. I’m preparing a slide that I’ll be showing them of of how proud I am during this strange and unique time of eLearning. I still have more work to do on this slide, but I want to make it meaningful and memorable for the students.


I hope I’m able to see all of my students face-to-face next year. I’m not sure that’s going to happen and only time will tell. I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not really the end of the year. Every year in school impacts the next to a certain degree. This school year seems different and its ripples will impact next fall in ways that we’re not used to as schools scramble to figure out how to safely operate.

I hope you all have a safe end to the school year and a restful summer.

Finishing the Year with Elearning

Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 10.31.13 AM
School to eLearning

The calendar shows we have about three weeks of school left.  At this time during a normal school year I’d be looking at my unit sequence and schedule my final unit assessments.  I’d also be organizing how I want to end the school year.  I’d usually have a final exam about a week before the end of the year then have a decent amount of time for student reflection and plan a few fun end of the year activities. The last day of the year is always field day and where the school claps out the fifth graders as they prepare for middle school. During that day teachers wave to the busses as students adventure onwards towards their summer.  We wish the students well and tell them we look forward to seeing them in the fall.

Obviously this year is different. With three weeks left I’m looking at an unrealistic pacing guide, have decided to consolidate lessons and am making a priority to check in with students more often. I’ve had to change my own expectations in a realization that emergency eLearning isn’t the same as being in school.  Not even close.  I’ve had to become even more flexible with my own expectations regarding student participation nd missing work. Tracking down missing work digitally isn’t ideal. Students are turning in assignments between 8:30 (when they’re posted) all the way until 9:00 that night or later. Students have been fairly receptive to feedback as around 60% of students need to resubmit an assignment for a second attempt.  This doesn’t happen in the regular classroom.  Because we have less assignments there’s more of an emphasis on completing quality work.  That’s a win in my book.  Students have been consistent with attending Zoom meetings during the last few weeks.  I’ve added more interactive pieces to these sessions as reading off slides for 10-20 minutes is ineffective.  I’ve had more success with using Padlet, Quizziz, interactive sites and question/answer sessions with Zoom.  Referencing other assignments and reviewing the work completed during the week in Zoom sessions has been helpful to some students.  Keeping with similar school routines with questions via a Google Form have helped keep some of the normalities of my class during the past month.  The class then reviews the questions and answers during the Zoom meeting.

I’m in the process of planning out the next three weeks. I want to continue to provide quality experiences for kids, but also realize the limitations of teaching remotely.  Those experiences look different depending on the grade level.  I’ve been attempting to have a variety of assignments throughout the week.  I’ve been picking and/or creating assignments that relate to the lesson from the resources below.

Some of these are used more often than others. The adopted text sheets are used more than others. I try to use 1-2 days of the week for a Google From quiz or Desmos activity.  Those days are designed to review concepts and provide more direct feedback.  When students complete the quiz they receive a score and get to review the results.  Same with Desmos as students can self-check.  The starter slides are also great to check in with students.

Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 10.24.04 AM

I have a few ideas to think about for the the last few days of school. Last year I used a Desmos polygraph to reflect on our math experiences and am thinking about doing something similar.  I want to close out the year with students feeling like they belong and have made positive progress during their elearning math adventure.

Didn’t think I’d say this last year, but I’m now off to plan digital math experiences for my students.

Elearning Wins and Obstacles

Screen Shot 2020-04-25 at 10.30.34 AM

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.