As a educator and parent adjusting to a COVID-19 world, I would say this adjustment has been at the same time challenging and rewarding. I definitely appreciate both being a teacher and dad at home but I can also related to what families are experiencing across the globe adjusting to a new norm of E-Learning. As a STEM teacher, this transition has definitely presented itself some challenges including not being able to provide class sets of materials for an activity or not being able to teach certain skills or outcomes like group dynamics or team collaboration. In an attempt to inspire STEM learning, I wanted to make sure students still are being provided opportunities for making career connections to their assigned work as well as allowing student choice in the creativity of their assignments. I think there are many educators including myself that have found the choice boards or assignment Bingo’s tools very beneficial. These tools have been a valuable asset in allowing learners to take ownership of their learning and make choices on what they want to focus on. Basically, I assigned to students via Google Classroom something that looks like a table with rows and columns where students can pick the column topic they want to focus on, such as “robotics.” I think students have shown me they have appreciated being able to pick and choose what to work on as well as choice in how to present it. Whether that be through photos, links to their scratch games, videos, or screenshots of their work. So far, its been awesome seeing students creations such as their Yoda Lego builds or their their robot code from the new VEXcode VR platform. In my experience, providing students opportunities for choice and creativity increases students excitement and motivation for learning.
As far as student reflection, I really have appreciated ed tech tools such as FlipGrid, not only for students to reflect on their learning but also allow students to connect and see each other from the class. I feel like this brings some normalcy to a school year where there is somewhat a lack of closure or awkward uncertainty. I think the video shorts have also provided a sense of community to the students with the understanding they they are not alone in all this. I recently used the FlipGrid shorts to send individual messages to my robotics team students that made it to the World Championships. Unfortunately, this was right in the midst of the pandemic and all events were being canceled. To provide some closure, I wanted them to know how proud I was of each of them and how I appreciated all their hard work and dedication this season. In return, they send me back some very kind, heartfelt messages from these videos. I’ve also been using Google Meets to check in with students twice a week. The face to face video has also helped students know they are still apart of the school community and their voices matter especially during a time of crisis.
What I have also appreciated from this E-Learning transition, is the growth in collaboration from educators around the globe. I’m seeing others that are sharing their best ideas and still continue doing what educators do, look out for what they feel is best for students. I love seeing what other educators are posting in Facebook groups, Instagram, and Twitter to inspire and lift each other up in a time where stress and anxiety are already high. Also, I’ve appreciated how administrations are showing such a human side to our E Learning challenges by being teacher cheerleaders with huge support to make this transition work. I have appreciated how we have been provided such flexibility as well as been given some grace for figuring out how to make the best of a tough situation. I’m also appreciative of how much I’m seeing the human side of educators being considered and how fellow colleagues are sharing positive messages of self care and staying healthy. Acknowledging the human side to all of this makes it all the more manageable to ease into this new norm of school at home. I’m thankful for being apart of a community of such talented educators with such large hearts for what they do. Its been inspiring to me to see people coming together to help our students in a time of a global crisis.