Week 8 #8Weeks of Summer

This post is week 8 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

How is your school/district stating your start of school is going to be different this year?

In June we had three plans ready to go:

  1. School as regular – Of course, that one is easy. Just like a regular school year, we would have been ready for this, but that is not going to happen for sure.
  2. School online – As we have done since 1 March 2020. We are ready for 100% remote learning. We have been tweaking it and improving it since we started. Building the plane in the air, so to speak, as our principal would remind us often.
  3. Blended learning – We also have a plan for having half the children in the school at one time. We helped and the administration spent much time during the summer weeks getting ready for this scenario.

Now, this week we got the word from the Ministry of Education that schools will be required to offer both remote and in-school learning. So, we had a meeting with parents on Wednesday. They had so many good questions! They have a hard decision to make now–whether to send their children to school two days a week and three online or keep them home for five days of remote learning from home.

We still have a few weeks for things to change due to the country’s COVID-19 status. I’ll update this post as needed. Wish us well!

Week 7 #8WeeksofSummer

This post is week 7 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

Describe the mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities you provided during #RemoteLearning?

We used asynchronous learning activities last spring for KG-grade 5. I tried only one Zoom meeting the first week of online school. That was when we were all trying to find our way and figure out how to “be creative,” as we were directed. It was also before the mandate came from our administration telling us we would not be using live meetings any longer for the lower grades. The synchronous learning meetings would be for only those in grades 6-12. That was disappointing for me, as I greatly enjoyed seeing them.

In our one Zoom meeting we played Kahoot! I did advertise it as optional because this was in early March and so many of my grade 5 students were not tech-independent and a lot of the parents hadn’t even figured out how to use Zoom yet. Later I used the Kathoot! asynchronous version of the games and that was fun too.

Toward the end of the year, my department took permission to hold “open hours” for students, optional drop-in times for those who needed it. I enjoyed seeing my students for writing conferences, question answering, and just everyday, anything check-ins and show-and-tell.

I figure the way I did the lessons asynchronously was easier than doing live classes each day, but I’m not sure about that, to be honest. I made instructional videos posted on YouTube, and students created responses on Flipgrid and Padlet and created and shared work on Google Drive.

Now this coming year I’m nervous to see the plan is to go back, using a blended schedule. Half the kids will come on Sunday and Tuesday and the other half will come on Monday and Wednesday. On their at-home days, students will complete online lessons. So, it looks like we get to do both–in-person and online. Thursdays will be a catch up day for the students, and hopefully the teachers.

So many questions and concerns, so many details still up in the air. Then in today’s news, this headline: “How the U.S. Compares With the World’s Worst Coronavirus Hot Spots” There was Bahrain, looming high above the U.S. in daily cases per capita.

This is not an easy time on our mental health, is it? (I pray it won’t also affect our physical health.)

Week 6 #8WeeksofSummer – Professional Goals

This post is week 6 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

Share your current professional goals.

I enjoyed Penny’s challenging post and big idea dreams for what is happening with education. I am always excited to try new things and have always been an early adopter. However, I’m not often the innovator.

Last spring was no exception. I worked my tail off daily and late into the night. I found myself in a position to be able to help families and teachers navigate through various websites when we were quickly moved to emergency remote learning. It was exhilarating and challenging. I was happy though that I was not an administrator and having to make the decisions to figure out how we were going to manage all this.

Right now for summer, I’m enjoying some relaxing time and yet, I also need to get working seriously on a TESOL certificate I already paid for. So, right now, that’s all I’ve got. My professional goal is to finish that TESOL advanced practitioner certificate so I can hone my skills to teach English to speakers of other languages. Then, I have a goal to be able to use my new skills.

I’ll be retiring and moving back to the U.S. when my husband’s work is finished here and it’s safe to return. I’m not ready to retire, so I hope there will be some online teaching opportunities in my future, as well. I’m open!

Week 5 of #8WeeksofSummer – Spring Technology

This post is week 5 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

What technologies enhanced / reduced your effectiveness this past spring?

Flipgrid – Though I had an account for Flipgrid since it was obtained by Microsoft, I had yet to use it with my students. We got started right away in March, and it became a favorite of mine and many of the students. Everyone participated. It was great to see and hear the students. It gave them an authentic chance to practice speaking English. I appreciated not having to download videos to watch them. The platform is excellent and has lots of great features.

Screencastify – From the first day of our remote emergency learning, I purchased Screencastify. It was a simple way to create teaching videos for students and to teach my colleagues how to do tech things that I normally would show them on our computers in person.

Zoom – This was a new program for me, and now it is so familiar. I have seen improvements over the months. There are a lot of benefits. I love the breakout rooms and chat feature. A lot of discussion and collaboration can occur remotely through Zoom.

Kahoot – So many apps gave free upgrades for the time schools were closed. It was a really good idea. We needed ideas. We test-drove a lot of apps. This one was really fun for students, and it was great to have the premium version. They will get some customers when the free version expires, but in the meantime, they helped a lot of people.

Our student information system – I won’t name it, but it was weak. When we all began to use it, students began posting assignments and we had to collect the same. It was then we realized its weaknesses even more. It reminded me of an old html website we used to build in the 20th century. Clunky, cumbersome, slow, missing so much potential. Every time I used it, I longed to use Google Classroom, where students could complete assignments on Google Drive and just turn in the link. Instead, on our system, I received assignments . Then I couldn’t view them until I downloaded them. Some assignments (like pages in a book we created together or pen pal letters to be shared to Arizona) I needed to upload to Drive. There was so much wasted time and bandwidth for everyone. I was happy to see that our school has adopted Google Classroom for the fall for all grade levels.

Padlet – I was disappointed to learn (two years after the fact) that Padlet had put a limit on the number of walls you could make on this old Wallwisher site. I hadn’t used it very much before, so when I rediscovered it I jumped in and used it for several lessons and recommended it to others. Sadly, new users had a limit of three walls, so they quickly exhausted their usage. Unlike so many of the educational tech companies that gave free access during the pandemic, Padlet did not. It didn’t take long for me to exhaust my six walls. Then I went back to the less robust but very helpful Lino.it app. It has seemed better to me after my springtime experience with Padlet.

Tumblebook Library – This is an online library program that our school has  subscribed to. We were using the program before the shutdown and we continued and expanded our use after the shutdown. We signed up all our students for the Tumble Tracker, where we could assign books and quizzes and see when our students read the books. It had some weaknesses, but we used it for some assignments. Sadly, instead of improving the weaknesses, they just stopped the Tumble Tracker. They replaced it with a much less robust assignments feature, which has no way to track students or differentiate the assignments. The more I got to know this program, the more of a disappointment it became.

How about you? Which technologies enhanced or reduced your effectiveness last spring?

Addressing Implicit Bias

This post is week 4 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

What do you consider when addressing implicit bias at your school?

I have spent seven years in the Middle East in the small country of Bahrain. In any new place we begin to call home we learn of new explicit and implicit biases the community holds onto. Coming in as an outsider, the subtle biases are easier to recognize than the ones I grew up with and are so deeply embedded inside. However, there are still universal biases I know are in myself and others based on age, race, ability, nationality, health.

When I stop to re-read the question, I see something I hadn’t noticed before, “What do I consider…” That got me thinking again. It’s imperative for me to consider the fact that implicit bias in me and other people is implicit–it’s unconsciously there, so I need to explore my own biases, making them part of my  conscious thinking. To bring it to the forefront, so I can at least begin to deal with it. Even that though, I might say that I believe in justice for all and equality, but unconsciously I don’t realize that the system and I are enforcing different values.

The same process of exposing biases can help my students and colleagues  navigate and find their unconscious biases and bring them into their consciousness so they can deal with them. I can ask questions and invite a safe discussion place to help others explore their feelings that may get in the way of them treating people as individuals, each with their own right to equity and justice.

  • Tell me more about that.
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How do you think it makes the other person feel?
  • If that happened to you, how would you feel?
  • Why might that person have done or said what they did?
  • How can we better understand each other?

As a teacher, I need to be more aware and passionate about standing against explicit biases, the small acts and comments that show up in my classroom. They are teachable moments, and I need to make sure students know that someone is noticing and challenging their biases.

Just some thoughts today. It was a good prompt, Penny, and I will revisit the topic before school starts in the fall.