March 13th, 2020 - That was the day everything changed.
It's funny to look back on this day now as I don't think I fully comprehended the severity of the situation we were facing in Saskatchewan (and around the world). I remember thinking that there was no way we would be out of school for very long and that our worst-case scenario would have the students returning at the end of April. Oh, how naive I was! Here we are, roughly six weeks into supplementary learning - and with the recently announced closure of schools until the end of June, this will be the new normal for my students and me until the end of the year (and most likely next year as well). While this situation is definitely not ideal, I've counted my blessings as my experience in remote teaching has been quite positive. Don't get me wrong, there have been hiccups and opportunities for growth along the way, but I've realized how lucky I am to have such a supportive school team and very understanding parents as we navigate these uncharted waters together.
So...with that being said, what does a day in my life look like?
Rather than chronicle my day hour by hour and waste time telling you all about the awesome Netflix I watch on my lunch breaks and evenings (easily The Last Dance and Brooklyn Nine-Nine), I've instead summarized the Three C's of remote teaching experience: Connection, Content & Collaboration.
When it comes to communicating with my students, email is still one way that many of them choose to communicate with me as it's something that they were familiar with before shifting to this model of education. However, one tool that I've found very helpful for student communication has been Microsoft Teams. While I was hesitant to use this tool in the past, Microsoft has certainly done its part in beefing up this once inferior program to one that I feel confident in using with my students and recommending to other educators. The built-in chat function in Teams has been the primary way (outside of email) that my students and I have been able to communicate regarding questions about their supplemental learning. Typically if a student has a question about an assignment, they send me a quick message and I can provide an answer far quicker than before. I've also found that students respond far quicker than they would through email because many of them already using the app to complete their learning, rather than having to use a separate app to respond to emails. When it comes to face-to-face (well kind of) interaction, my students and I utilize the video chat function in Teams three times a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1:00 - 2:00. The structure of these meetings vary depending on the day, but typically we do the following:
Monday: We usually start our week by sharing the High and Low points from the previous week, which allows students to share what's going on in their lives. After this, I share a brief PowerPoint that highlights previous assignments, reminders, and a brief overview of the key learning for the week. Once we've finished this, I open it up to any questions students may have about past or future assignments before we end our meeting with a trivia game on Quizizz with the theme selected by the winner from the previous week.
Wednesday: This meeting is reserved for Grade 8 Math as I teach all the Grade 8's Math and my fellow 7/8 teacher handles the Grade 7 Math. These meetings are relatively simple as I spend about 5-10 minutes reviewing the Flipped Math lesson for the day before opening it up to questions. Students then spend the rest of the class working on their assignment and I more or less just hang out while students are working and answer questions as they come up.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm very blessed to be a Connected Educator as it has allowed me to teach in a 1-1 environment. This has allowed me to incorporate the use of Microsoft OneNote into my daily instruction and has been a relatively seamless transition into our summative learning as students are already familiar with this program. Lots of the written content and assignments are distributed to students using this tool as it's easily curated in the different sections of their OneNote and students also can complete the assignments right in the OneNote app using the typing tool or draw tool if they have a stylus or a mouse. As Math is one of the main subjects being taught during supplemental learning, OneNote has been the primary tool I've used to provide students with their assignments. Below you can see two examples of how students have used this tool to complete and submit their work:
Speaking of Math, this has also been a relatively seamless transition into remote teaching for my students and thanks a younger version of Dean teaching the rookie version of me the "In's and Out's" of Flipped Math 7 years ago. With Flipped Math being the norm in my class before Covid-19 hit, I was very fortunate, as all of my lessons for Grade 8 Math had already been recorded and posted on my Flipped Math Website. This enabled me to continue teaching in a flipped environment, albeit without the same amount of one-on-one time we would have had in a physical classroom. With the lessons already recorded online, I typically assign two videos for students to watch each week, along with an accompanying assignment that they can work on.
Although I already had lessons created for Math, I had to get a little more creative when it came to other subjects. While tools like Flipgrid, Socrative, and Kidblog have been very helpful in teaching ELA, I wanted to try something a little different as I began branching out to teaching some Science content last week. For these lessons, I decided to create short videos that either taught the content necessary for the lesson, or guided students through labs that they could complete at home. I also dabbled with EdPuzzle, and converted my lesson on Mixtures and Pure Substances into an EdPuzzle interactive video for students to engage in before exploring a short assignment in their OneNote.
If you would like to view the two cringeworthy" videos that I edited using the finest software that my old iMac could offer, here they are for your viewing pleasure:
I'm very fortunate to work at a school with such a supportive and collaborative staff as each week my grade alike PLN meet on Teams and we share our learning experiences. My teaching partner and I also schedule a short meeting after each Wednesday's live Math class to discuss how the meeting went and bounce ideas off each other. I find these short collaboration sessions incredibly helpful as it's evident that no one is in this alone and the ideas and conversations I have with my colleagues are so helpful in planning my future supplemental learning opportunities.
While Remote Teaching or Supplemental Learning is certainly not ideal, they're here (and maybe for a while) whether we like it or not. I've definitely had my fair share of struggles and moments of frustration over the past six weeks, but I finally feel like I'm at a point where I feel comfortable with the routine my students and I are in, and look forward to learning and growing more both professionally and personally as we navigate through the remainder of this school year.