A longtime tech-enabled district shares its secrets for hybrid learning success

Flexibility is key when it comes to COVID

A longtime tech-enabled district shares its secrets for hybrid learning success

Joe Kuzo is as ready as he will ever be. As Tech Director for the Quakertown Community School District in suburban Philadelphia (PA), which includes nine schools, he’s been shepherding students, parents, and faculty through the chaos and has his sights set on fall.

In this conversation with eSchool News, Joe lays out some strategies that should help any district get through this madness.

eSN: You’re having a nice, quiet summer right?

JK: <laughing> Yeah, right. I’ve been in meetings since eight o’clock this morning with our cabinet team and our administrative team. And I have a meeting right after this and then we have a board meeting tonight at seven.

Related content: The hidden benefits of a move to online instruction

eSN: What has the pandemic adjustment been like for your district?

JK: So the online learning piece by itself, we’ve done for a while in varying capacity. About 12 years ago, we had started our online cyber school. It was all our teachers, all our students, all our curriculum. We still offer it in some capacity, but not full-blown, like we used to. As far as remote learning, we’ve also had an LMS with curriculum for probably the past 12 or so years. So teachers were familiar with that.

Now, when it comes to the students, who suddenly aren’t in class all the time? I won’t say it was the wild west, but everybody was adapting to what that looked like. Moving into this next year, providing synchronous opportunities for students will be the new part.

eSN: So what does that look like?

JK: In our planning, we’ve always wanted to be fluid in everything we do—not necessarily having one teacher all virtual and one teacher in person. We want one teacher to do both because this way if a teacher has to go out a student isn’t meeting a new teacher, they can continue that education with the same type of instruction. They still know their teacher, they have that relationship, Will it work 100 percent? Probably not, but we’re trying to keep as many norms as we can for our students.

eSN: What about the gear?

JK: So every year we replace some large piece of equipment and it happened to be the teacher refresh here. So I have a warehouse of 500 brand new HP X360 Elite books for them, which is going to prove invaluable cause they’re a full-blown digitizer. So when they fold those over, they have a full digitized tablet—they now have a personal whiteboard. I also purchased web cameras. I was able to find a partner who’s provided them for me. So that was shipped today.

We’ll get those with 30 foot USB cables and telescoping tripods. So if they’re doing instruction in the room, they can set that far away, up to the front of the room and they can still utilize their laptop for instruction. Those also have multidirectional microphones in them, so their voice will pick up through that same web camera and, well, fingers crossed. That’s going to provide us what we need for that synchronous instruction.

eSN: Did you see any positives come out of the spring experiment?

JK: In elementary, we had a lot of good family participation. Students love the Seesaw platform. We saw teachers doing their morning check-ins with students and I was lucky to pop into some of those and see the students’ faces and how excited they were. Although they would rather be in class they’re just excited to see their friends virtually from their home.

We saw that peter out a little bit, you know, towards June, but that’s expected, right? It’s really exciting to see all those things that we’ve always wanted, whether you’re blended classroom flipped, classroom, whatever you want to call it, that we’ve always been pushing for. And now we have to do it. And it’s awesome to see that our teachers can do it. And in many cases, I’ve found that our teachers were already doing amazing things. We just didn’t know about it.

eSN: It sounds like your glass is half full.

JK: Everybody’s willing to take that risk right now before they might’ve been a little hesitant. We’re saying, “Let’s try it.” If it doesn’t work, we’ll try it in a different way. We’re going to evolve and learn from that. It’s a cool time to be in education.

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