eSchool News: Not that this has been easy though, right?
PS: Our teachers are so ingrained in a brick and mortar environment, an online environment for an extended period of time like this requires more professional development. It’s just a different shift. You can’t do exactly what you’ve done in your classroom before.There now has to be that blend of online instruction, with those modules that come in those Zoom office hours, and with those emails. It’s just a different environment that some teachers really adapted to and other teachers are just still struggling.
eSchool News: It seems this transition has been particularly hard on lower grades, especially when it comes to aspects of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). How have you handled this?
PS: One thing we did is establish online recess time, just because the kids want to get together and see each other as a class and they can just socialize. A lot of these kids have been isolated in their houses with no communication with their teachers, their neighbors, with anyone depending on where you live. So when they get online, let them have recess first! Let everybody bring a snack with a snack buddy. Once you get that out of the way, then kids are able to focus more.
eSchool News: Talk about any silver linings that you discovered in this process, where you have said, “Oh, you know what, okay, we could have been doing this all along.”
PS: Getting devices and internet connection into the hands of every student. It was huge. When we put out a call to see who needed devices, we ended up giving out over 800 Chromebooks. Some of the reasons were, “I only have two devices at home,” or “I only have an iPad and a phone that works. Now I need a device to use for instruction,” or “I have five kids.”
It was huge in regards to really getting people connected. We have some students in low income housing. Some are in trailer parks that don’t have internet at all. Before they were using the free wifi at school or going to the library, which isn’t an option now. So we worked with Comcast and other vendors in our area to open up hotspots and we gave hotspots to families. We also begged neighbors to give passwords out to their wifi. Those were the kinds of things we didn’t realize that, well, you just go out and do it.
eSchool News: So the million dollar question: What happens next?
PS: We can’t go backwards. This has proven the role that technology plays in a lot of things. I don’t care what district you’re in, you didn’t have a hundred percent participation with people using technology to this degree before. And now we do. So when we go back to the brick and mortar and we say, “Okay, we’re just going to go back to this instruction of just lecture and maybe using technology here and there?” It’s not going to happen. I think they’re going to blend in the future and we’re going to see a lot of more innovative, creative ideas come out of instruction.
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