Krista Walker, Professional Development Program Manager with Boxlight-EOS Education, recently spoke with Larry Jacobs from Equity and Access Pre K-12 (ace-ed.org) about how school closures and the move to remote or hybrid learning due to COVID-19 changed professional development and support. Walker has 25 years of experience in education, including working with education technology, promoting accessibility and inclusive practices, helping educators include social and emotional learning into classroom instruction, encouraging community engagement, and advancing 21st-century enrichment.
Pre-pandemic and school closures, many teachers implemented Google Classroom for efficient and interactive teaching and learning support. Google Classroom made using technology tools manageable and provided a user-friendly alternative to paper and pencil. How? Google Workspace for Education (formerly G Suite for Education) apps and tools help teachers and learners organize lessons, assignments, and resources. Teachers can also save and share content using their Drive folder, collaborating with colleagues at any time and from anywhere.
Implementing social-emotional learning (SEL) skills and strategies have shown to positively impact student learning. Especially with this past year, teachers and students have had to deal with challenges they may not have been prepared for including how COVID-19 our feelings towards learning. Addressing SEL skills is not a new concept and educators have referenced the SEL Framework to meet students’ emotional needs to clear a pathway to learning success.
There is countless research that says an engaging learning environment supports student achievement and success. As a former classroom teacher, my favorite memories are of seeing my students totally into a project, hearing them talk with their classmates about what they were doing, and celebrating their successes when they understood a concept or completed a project they worked so hard on. A classroom should be a place for conversation and collaboration, combined with critical thinking and creativity.
Now more than ever, school and parent/family connection is integral when it comes to supporting students as everyone is working to maneuver learning in various environments and situations. In response to school closures and a move to remote learning, there were districts that provided training to help the adults at home understand how online learning platforms, software programs, and video conferencing tools would be used. Parents and caregivers needed to know the what, when, why, and how of educational technology and how to best support learning at home.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that helps teachers create flexible learning environments that can accommodate students’ unique learning needs. Research shows that when teachers incorporate UDL, they are better able to meet the comprehensive needs of their students, including students with learning disabilities. The goal of UDL is to implement a variety of methods to engage students, represent information, and encourage students to actively participate and express themselves. Essentially, the application of UDL eliminates barriers to learning.
This past year has reinforced the nation’s belief that, even with limited resources, teachers are incredibly resilient and able to meet a broad array of challenges such as school closures, distance teaching, and more.
It is nothing new that teachers juggle multiple resources, tools, and programs with the aim of providing their students with high-quality instruction that is engaging and improves their learning progress. With the move to remote and hybrid learning for many schools, teachers also had to juggle multiple platforms, software, and applications to facilitate synchronous learning sessions that would help students overcome education-related challenges. But does it have to be this way?
Districts and schools across the country are making decisions about how to best utilize federal funding. Regardless of the programs, software, and technology professional development and training plays a critical part in acclimating educators and students to what’s “new” for best integration for teaching and learning.