eSchool News Library & Media Technology Guide
Everything You Need to Know. Everyone You Need to Reach.
• Why school librarians are tech integration pioneers
• Librarians are more important than ever—here’s why
• Leveraging a Future Ready Library opportunity
• Helping students build information literacy skills
• Librarians are facilitating learning despite school closures
• Renovating libraries to meet students’ next-generation needs
• 10 reasons admins should collaborate with their librarians
• How librarians can build critical relationships with fellow educators
Grow Your World (GYW) has transitioned its services from in-person to virtual in the midst of social distancing measures required by COVID-19. This virtual transition enables GYW to provide tutoring and mentoring services to middle school students, as well as tutoring to elementary schoolers, throughout the U.S.
Youths participating in GYW can choose any combination of weekly tutoring sessions in standard academic subjects, while also exploring non-traditional programs such as goal management skills, mindfulness and stress reduction skills, community service, arts and crafts, and identity caucuses. All programs are pay-what-you-can and design-your-own-schedule.
GYW has recruited twenty students from UNC Chapel Hill to serve as tutors and mentors for these youths in the areas of their expertise. Services are provided in both English and Spanish. Enrollment is now open.
Grow Your World is a nonprofit organization based in the Triangle of North Carolina. We provide tutoring and mentoring services to elementary and middle school students. All of our programs are youth-led. Our core competencies include resilience, racial equity, teamwork, and self-reflection. Our mission is to create intergenerational connections that benefit people, communities, and the planet. For more information visit http://www.growyourworld.org/onlinegyw.html.
Two months after the COVID-19 crisis forced educators across the United States to leave their classrooms and start teaching online, the scope of the changes and challenges has now become clear, and educational leaders have started to identify what’s working and what still needs improvement.
During a recent edLeader Panel, the superintendent of one of America’s largest school districts spoke with a former state superintendent and other education leaders about key issues affecting students, parents, and educators, including digital access and equity, online privacy, and funding.
Related content: How equity strategies improve student outcomes
Overall, the panelists are optimistic that the transition to online learning will hasten the adaptation of technologies and teaching methods that will better prepare students for 21st century careers. And while initial plans are being developed for students to return to classrooms in the fall, the need for effective online education will not only remain, but will be more important and better integrated going forward.
Changing the timespan from decades to days
The integration of new technologies in schools has been an ongoing process that sometimes seems to take longer than it should. Tom Luna, the former state superintendent of Idaho, remarked that “it took 20 years to get the overhead projector out of the bowling alley and into the classroom,” which makes the quick transition to online learning required in March of this year all the more remarkable.
For much of the past two decades, educators have commonly referred to millennials as “digital natives.” Given that they are the first generation to grow up with access to personal computers, the descriptor seemed apt at the time. But today’s students–the emerging Generation Z–are demonstrating what it really means to be a true digital native.
Not only are these students growing up with widespread access to computers and the internet, they are surrounded by smartphones and other mobile devices with impressive computing power.
Related content: 10 findings about K-12 digital learning
As a history teacher for nearly three decades, I have seen this transformation firsthand. As an AVID staff developer who provides professional learning to other teachers, I have learned that the way we teach students must change with their evolving expectations. Teachers must be prepared to embrace technology in the classroom, not as a shortcut, but as a way of fostering deeper learning among their students through methods that better reflect the world they live in today.
Culturally responsive teaching before COVID-19 and after should focus on keeping students’ cultural norms and beliefs in mind and putting time into relating to students who have different life experiences, languages, and values than your own. Being culturally responsive requires a reflection on your own life experiences and how they’ve impacted your belief systems.
Put simply, once we consider the experiences that have shaped us, we can appreciate that despite our differences, we are more alike than we think.
Tackling the overwhelm
When working with teachers with English-language learners, I find that many of them are overwhelmed by language barriers.
Related content: How we turned around our ELL program
As a result, they have difficulty developing a personal rapport with these students. “I don’t speak their language,” they’ll tell me, or “My ELL students don’t have the English language skills yet to ask me questions or respond during classroom conversations.”
As the COVID-19 crisis has forced schools to close their buildings and move online, inequities in access to technology, books, and even food have become more apparent. Still, there are ways educators can continue to support the learning needs of their full range of students and make the education they provide more equitable.
During a recent edWebinar, Cornelius Minor, a Brooklyn-based educator and staff developer, and Dr. Jennifer Williams, a professor at St. Leo University’s College of Education, identified ways that teachers can increase their understanding of equity issues that may affect learning needs, in order to respond with effective solutions.
Related content: Did you know online learning can lead to equity?
Progressing to a “better normal”
Acknowledging the widespread desire to “return to normal,” Minor pointed out that would also result in the continuation of recent trends such as the underrepresentation of females in science and technology, and the high rate of school suspensions for students of color. He then explained specific techniques that educators can use now to improve outcomes for students who are at disadvantages due to factors such as race, economic class, and language proficiency.
Most schools across the country are still operating remotely, and as the days tick by, it’s easy for students and teachers to feel as if they’ll never return to the physical classroom. Teachers and parents looking for engaging learning resources might find TED-Ed Lessons helpful while schools are still virtual.
The TED-Ed platform is especially cool because educators can build lessons around any TED-Ed Original, TED Talk, or YouTube video.
Related content: 8 STEM learning challenges students can do from home
Once you find the video you want to use, you can use the TED-Ed Lessons editor to add questions, discussion prompts, and additional resources.
Here are a handful of TED-Ed Lessons covering plant life, crazy sea creatures, bodily functions, and more.
1. Why is my leg asleep? Have you ever had an arm or leg fall asleep and then experience that poking feeling when you moved? This lesson will explore why we experience these feelings. Watch the video by SciShowKids and then complete the lesson.
As a fifth grade teacher, I used to spend hours hunting for math materials and exercises. If I had to teach my math class a standard skill, like adding fractions with different denominators, I would flip through thick binders of exercises, maybe printing up a few. Then I’d search online, where I’d inevitably find an avalanche of teaching resources, including loads of useless resources. It took hours to winnow the mathematical wheat from the chaff.
Like most elementary teachers I know, I’m responsible for teaching all subject areas. That means more lesson prep work to prepare for each class. The work to prepare high-quality lessons day-in and day-out for all classes has only grown more challenging in recent years, particularly in English (ELA) and math. Most teachers nationwide now teach to Common Core standards.
Related content: How a productive struggle motivates students in math
In Connecticut, where I teach in a public grade school, we’ve had Common Core since 2011. This gives teachers a daunting to-do list for their math classes. For each standard, whether forming algebraic expressions or classifying two-dimensional shapes, we must find reliable teaching resources. To check out each offering, and vet its viability, a teacher often goes through the search results one by one. It’s a painstaking process, especially for a single subject that takes only one period of the crowded day.
The nation’s abrupt shift to remote learning in the wake of COVID-19 has left teachers, students, and parents scrambling to find balance in their daily lives. And while maintaining academic learning is important, it’s just as important to focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) skills to help students maintain their mental and emotional well-being.
SEL skills are among the top priorities at the St. Thomas School, a PreK-8 Seattle-area school that went virtual the first week of March. Head of School Dr. Kirk Wheeler champions the importance of SEL skills, community, and a sense of belonging to unite the school, both in person and when the school suddenly went virtual.
St. Thomas School already had a one-to-one K-8 Microsoft Surface laptop program in place, ensuring all students had a device when learning went remote. Teachers use Microsoft OneNote to tailor students’ learning experiences and push out readings, tests, worksheets, and videos directly to students. Middle and high school students also use the tool to submit homework. St. Thomas School uses Microsoft Sway in its early learning center to deliver links, videos, and updates to parents.
Related content: 6 ways to choose the best digital content–without stress
“I’m a big community culture person–it’s such a powerful human need,” Wheeler says. “One of my big concerns when we went remote was that we’d lose community and our sense of belonging. I didn’t want students, faculty, and parents just floating out there.”
The school’s teachers, specialists, and staff employ a number of strategies to keep developing students’ SEL skills and to continue cultivating a sense of belonging–even while students are learning from home.
Educators, practitioners, and administrators should identify the what, the why, and the how of essential social and emotional learning (SEL) skills when implementing these strategies in an effective manner, according to SEL advocates.
In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Stephanie Jones, director of the Ecological Approaches to Social-Emotional Learning (EASEL) Lab, explained that there are six SEL domains studied and documented by researchers.
Related content: 5 benefits of SEL in classrooms
The first three domains are skills and competencies: cognitive, emotional, and social. The next three are belief ecologies: attitudes, habits of mind, and ways of thinking about the world. One way to think about how these two sets go together is that one is a set of things you learn and know how to do, and the other is a set of internal guideposts that tell you to use those skills when it’s essential and when it matters.
Regardless of setting or age, the goal of SEL is for students to engage in classroom learning activities, and four key components must be in place for this to happen.