Two weeks in…

We are 2 weeks into virtual learning. Whew- what a whirlwind!

I love technology, and I love teaching virtually… BUT there have certainly been more frustrations than successes so far. So, I’m going to complain a little. First: no breakout rooms. I understand the reasoning on both sides of the argument, and it seems valid. BUT. Why did we wait until the first day of school to say so? Isn’t that capability one major reason why the platform we’re using was purchased? So… my curriculum for my Intro students has to change completely. Since that is the bulk of my teaching load, that is frustrating and exhausting- mainly because I am now flying by the seat of my pants creating new materials that I would have created over the summer when I had the time. Also. being the camera police is exhausting. But I’m making some headway, and they’re starting to get into it.

A few tools that have helped:

OMG. Pear Deck is amazing, and not for all of the reasons that it is amazing in terms of student engagement (those blew me away, too). My singular and strong crush on Pear Deck was solidified by the fact that when I click on a video to play during a presentation, it plays. Every time. Our district has purchased premium accounts for us, so I haven’t experienced the free version in my classroom, but this one thing is a lifesaver when presenting via teleconferencing platforms.

The class Google Site and Blog has proved to be incredibly helpful, along with figuring out a system for assignments in Google Classroom. I’ve said before that I don’t love Google Classroom, but this week, I was able to better articulate why. In education, we do things the way we’ve always done them, without asking “why?” and Classroom is set up for this. I don’t believe in “homework.” That’s a whole separate blog post, but it boils down to honoring students’ family time, and providing them with equal guidance and assistance with learning (and being realistic about the fact that not every parent is able to do this for various reasons). Anyway… I still need to communicate with students what they need to do/know by the next class. In the regular classroom, that would mean posting it on the white board. They know what to do/bring to class, and what is a graded assignment based on the way that I post it. The problem I have with Classroom is that it doesn’t put it on kids’ to-do lists unless there is a due date on it, which makes them thing that everything is due at a specific time and graded. So, I had to hack the system to work for my style of teaching- I told the students yesterday that if an assignment was in GC and “ungraded,” it was just material that needed to be covered by the due date. If it was marked with a number of points, it would be graded, though not in GC (it’s not our official gradebook, and I don’t want to open the can of worms that would come with discrepancies). Voila! The kids were relieved, and now they know how I’m communicating. But, I will repeat this in the blog/website over the weekend, so that everyone is clear.

My big win:

Having the kids in my upper level classes create their own portfolio websites was a complete success – thank you to the genius that visited me with that idea! I learned more about their personalities from their landing pages than I had even learned in personal interactions with them over the previous three years, in the case of most of my seniors. They were also quite grateful for a way to put their college portfolios together that would work in light of life being digital these days. They are going to prove incredibly useful for showing their creative processes as the year goes on. The next question I must now ask is whether I want to do that with my Intro students… it will be great for those that plan to continue on, but I’m not sure it is worth the headache for those that don’t and will struggle. We shall see…

Takeaways:

Normally, I use the physical warmup to handle paperwork like attendance and answering questions while a student runs it with their classmates. I am going to fully participate this year, and leave the attendance taking up to Zoom reports. Getting a stretch at the beginning of every class is the best physical self-care thing I can do while we are in front of a computer all day, and more importantly, I am modeling it for my students! It is also time for a new chair. My pretty one isn’t cutting it. It will be worth the money spent not to be stiff at the end of the day. A second monitor is also a must. One just isn’t cutting it. There may be a lot that I can’t control that makes this stressful, but getting those two things is something I can control, so I will!


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