In March 2020, the global pandemic forced the transition of K-12 instruction from physical classrooms into remote settings. For many teachers, this new instructional environment allowed them to leverage EdTech in ways they never had before to teach, interact, and provide support to their students remotely.
Lightspeed Systems® had the opportunity to meet with Lauren Speiser, a National Board-certified kindergarten teacher with a master’s degree in Educational Technology, to learn more about how she successfully overcame the challenges of teaching remotely and implementing new technologies within her virtual classroom during the pandemic. She also shared her plans with us for returning to in-person learning this fall.
The first, and one of the biggest, challenges was making sure that every student had a device for learning. We were not 1:1 when the pandemic caused our school to close, but we did have some devices at our school. We ordered Chromebooks, but we got stuck in line behind every other district needing to purchase devices. We asked students to use their own devices from home, iPads, phones, and laptops until we could get our new devices up and running. Once we had enough devices, every student from Pre-K to grade 12 received a Chromebook.
Although our school was not 1:1, we did have a lot of EdTech resources that everyone was familiar with and had used in previous years. Having those resources available made the transition to online learning more manageable and less stressful for students, families, and teachers.
One other challenge that I had as a teacher this last year was regularly getting in touch with families. During a typical school year, when you see students every day, you can send a note home or catch the parent during pick-up time at the end of the day. This was not an option for most of the last year. For one reason or another, many families were unable to answer their phones or check their email. We know that families struggled to get their children online each day, and as a teacher, you start to worry about them. As the year went on, communication between families and the school improved, and it needs to continue to be a top priority moving forward.
For a classroom to be enriching and well-balanced, every student needs to follow along and be interested in the content. This is a challenge in online learning, especially with young students. I used a few EdTech resources but, with Lightspeed Classroom Management™, I was able to help students with selecting the correct tab, accessing links, and helping troubleshoot errors.
I was able to help each student with their technology and academic needs just as effectively as I would have been able to in a physical classroom. A lot of times, it’s hard to figure out exactly what “glitch” or “error” was happening, especially with younger students who are just learning how to use a computer.
It provided features that a lot of online resources were lacking. With it, I found myself only needing to use four or five different online resources all year, instead of the nine or ten that I may have needed without it. I loved that I could create groups and share links with specific groups, not just the whole class. I could also see if all my students were on the correct webpage or if they were on other sites. I was easily able to see what screen my students were on and help them navigate our class activity. I also enjoyed using the “share link” feature. It made it easier to send a link to students. Otherwise, it took some extra clicks for students to get into the chat box and access our classwork link.
As a kindergartener, learning how to do school online can be overwhelming and challenging. Although, this is all my students knew. By the end of the year, they could navigate to various web pages and complete their independent work without needing help. This gave me more time to work with students individually on curriculum and content.
During the pandemic, my students did a fantastic job learning the kindergarten standards virtually. One of my yearly personal goals is to help my students learn independence. That looked a lot different this year. I felt terrible that I could not be physically next to my students to assist as I usually would in the classroom. However, my students still prevailed through the challenges of online learning and were independent learners by the end of the year.
I plan to continue to use the Classroom Management and the “share link” feature in the upcoming school year. Last year my students had to learn to access activities online, while this year, students will be receiving most of their learning in-person with some integration of technology. But that does not mean I won’t bring last year’s learnings back to the classroom this fall.
With these new COVID variants, we don’t know if an emergency will present itself again this year. The best thing we can do for ourselves, as teachers, and for our students, is to be prepared to go back to full online learning. With the EdTech resources I have, I feel confident in my teaching and the growth that my students will make this year.