Teachers have had to navigate extraordinary challenges this past year, forcing schools to reevaluate and reprioritize training programs to include a larger focus on education technology to deliver lessons remotely. As classrooms shift to a hybrid learning environment this focus remains a priority and the need to improve skills and techniques for facilitating lessons in all learning environments is critical. Teachers have certainly amped up their strategies for boosting student engagement and enhancing interactive learning even without the benefit of being in the same classroom at the same time. They have responded, as have educational leaders, together working to provide meaningful, relevant, and job-embedded Professional Development programming for teachers.
We’re approaching the one-year mark of distance teaching and learning for most of our country’s schools. Last spring when schools closed, teachers had to quickly navigate new and unfamiliar technology so that they could maintain some degree of educational normalcy for their students. Many education-focused companies and organizations developed and facilitated a variety of teacher training courses that centered on software and platforms that districts invested in to deliver lessons to the millions of students now having to school remotely. Courses included learning the basic tools of GSuite for Education or Microsoft Office 365, creating and delivering lessons using specific software and applications (think Zoom), and maneuvering the complexity of all these apps, platforms, and software to deliver lessons that would engage students so that they would show up to live lessons when scheduled. Our nation’s teachers handled what they could (with blood, sweat, and tears) and came out of this unprecedented situation with more education technology knowledge than they had before this.
At this point of the year, not only are we appreciating the beauty of leaves changing color, the aroma of a pumpkin spice latte, and cozy sweaters and blankets, we are in a teaching “groove.” Many teachers are getting the hang of facilitating live teaching sessions, engaging their students, and planning blocks of time for small group and one-to-one conversations. But there is quite a learning curve for those not altogether comfortable with ed tech and the virtual classroom — both teacher and student. With this in mind, Boxlight-EOS has designed the Platform Essentials (PE) Course for teachers and students to get acquainted with all that Chromebooks and G Suite, or Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 have to offer. Each course includes seven ready-to-use materials and resources that engage the learner, help them apply necessary skills for distance teaching and learning success, and build the confidence needed to use these tech platforms.
Many of you have tiptoed into the new school year, testing the waters of teaching knowing that things may change as quickly as last spring. You’re building up your confidence with teaching using different tech applications and tools, either because you are facilitating learning using a blended model or are fully engaged in remote learning. You are doing this while getting to know your students, planning and presenting curriculum, and making sure your materials are organized. In the back of your mind, you may be wondering (as most teachers do) — Am I doing all that I can for my students? Are the tools that I have available being used to the extent that they should?
Not to state the obvious, but education is in a time of dynamic change. This change will affect not just this school year, but long into the future of what education may be for our children and grandchildren. It is important, then, to rethink how administrators, teachers, and parents/guardians prepare for each school year so that students can still meet, or exceed, learning goals and objectives. Beyond what can be seen on paper, education also supports a child’s need to experience, explore, and apply learning to real-life now and in the future. To do this successfully, teachers who are now dealing with a virtual classroom environment must adjust their teaching practices. Why? Because remote learning requires specific skills such as conducting classes using video conferencing, sharing content in different ways, and providing feedback on student assignments and projects.
Raise your hand if professional development days before the new school year are your absolute favorite? Hands still wrapped around that cup of coffee? I thought so. Even as one who used to plan and facilitate PD days, motivation for setting up the classroom outweighed the desire to review the previous year’s assessment results and goals for this year. Yes, that should be evaluated and discussed, but the anticipation of having a class full of new learners and personalities is much more exciting! This school year, many teachers are still waiting to find out how teaching and learning will happen – physical classroom, virtual classroom, blend of both? As we wait with bated breath, what teacher PD options are available for online learning?
Once upon a time, in a land not too far away (Los Angeles, CA), I once engaged in, planned and facilitated, and tried to stay awake through quite a few professional development sessions. Most were mandated and scheduled right before school started in the hopes that something would transform our practice so much that 100% of our students mastered all learning objectives in 180 instructional days. After a few weeks of school, many of us were overwhelmed and discouraged that all of those awesome strategies and techniques didn’t work with every situation, every subject, or every student. I do not envy district and school administrators tasked with the responsibility of selecting and organizing PD each year.
There’s a popular idiom that is generally used to describe changes in weather – March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. It seems that no truer words have ever been said. This past month has felt like a roaring lion, the powerful sound vibrating around us in the forms of social distancing, shelter-in-place directives, changes in how we shop and travel, and school closures. It seems unlikely that anyone has escaped the repercussions of COVID-19, and as we attempt to find balance in continuously changing circumstances, our children are also trying to make sense of the world they now live in.
As Georgia’s 5th largest school district, Clayton County Public Schools (CCPS) seeks to lead the way in the 21st century with a complete digital classroom refresh in partnership with Boxlight. Entering their second year, the success of the program has largely been built upon relationships. Upon completion of the first year, key stakeholders met to discuss areas for improvement, resulting in a complete restructuring of the program. New staff members and expectations came as a result. With a new team in place, Boxlight is committed to providing outstanding training and support for all schools in the district.