For starters, I KNOW I haven't been a good blogger this school year. It's simply been an insanely busy year for me both professionally and personally. But, that is about to change. I am vowing to return to regular blogging to share my thoughts and experiences in the classroom and education in general. So, let's get started!
As we all know, the world around us is constantly changing. Our latest hurdle to overcome is the COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic. If you are like me, you watch the nightly news and have seen all of the information out there being relayed about this new threat to humanity. And, make no bones about it, this threat is scary. But, I want to look at it from a different perspective...a more positive one in my mind: what opportunity does this provide for educators to reflect upon our educational models? Many school districts across the nation are closing as a result of just how contagious this virus is and are moving to a remote learning model so they can continue to deliver education to their students and keep some sense of normalcy in all of our lives. Our school district and the state of North Carolina are no exception in this change. We were recently told that the district will be closed for a minimum of three weeks and just yesterday, the governor announced closing all schools for the next two weeks. So, let's take a look at how this affects my students and my content delivery.
For many years now, I have used an online learning management system (LMS) in my classroom. I've gone through Blackboard, moved to Moodle, explored Edmodo, considered Google Classroom and finally settled on Schoology. While different platforms will meet different teachers' needs, I found Schoology to be the best at meeting my needs due to the large number of resources and tools it offers for free as well as the very user friendly interface for both educators and students. I use my LMS every day with my students both in and out of my classroom. However, I have never made that leap to completely flipping my classroom out of fear for my students simply not doing what they are told and because some students might lack access to the necessary technology, even though I know they most likely have everything they need. In case you don't know, a flipped classroom is a method of teaching students where the content is delivered outside of the classroom, typically online, while moving the activities that are commonly used for homework and such to inside the classroom.
For years, I have wondered what would happen if I moved to a remote learning model even though my students continue to meet with me daily. I have fantasized about teaching from home and living a much more comfortable and rewarding life by doing so. Now, educators everywhere are finding themselves scrambling to answer the question of how they will deliver content, materials and instruction to students while in mandatory closures due to the virus. And, I find myself finally getting the answers to my ever-looming questions, as well as being better prepared to do so than most of my peers thanks to setting up my LMS over the years, using it with my students on a daily basis, and having experienced the excellent online learning provided in Adobe's Education Exchange. On a side note, if you are an educator reading this, the Ed Ex currently has a course on Flipped Learning for Your Classroom, which is 100% free! Just create a free Adobe account and sign up for Ed Ex...you may even earn CEUs for taking their online courses!
So, how will my students succeed in light of this pandemic emergency? For starters, I polled my students before we went into closure to see who has and who doesn't have access to the necessary technology as well as what kind of access they have. All of my students reported some level of access, be it computers with internet access or cell phones with data plans.
There are lessons I do in school where students will not have access to the same resources we use in my classroom while at home, I know this and need to find a way to compensate for it. This week, I am working my way through the content in my LMS to determine what is critical for my students to complete and what can be passed on until a later date when we return to regular classes. Some of the assignments I normally give to my students will change from hands-on creations to informational reading, vocabulary exercises, written reflections and online discussions. Some of it is basic conceptual understanding and while I prefer them to do hands-on experiences, it simply won't be possible and they all need the information to be successful later on. So, understanding the information is more important than the exercises.
Next, comes the problem of software. Luckily, Adobe offered schools with current licenses access to named user accounts for their students which enables them to use the software in the school's current license at home. While I wish our district had gone this route from the start, we have station licenses which means they can only use the software at school. This offer from Adobe is a real game changer for our students and greatly appreciated! Schools have to apply for access and our district did so as soon as this opportunity was announced. I am currently waiting to hear about approval. If you want more information on this, read this article. And, Adobe isn't the only company making their tools available to schools. Google has offered free access to the premium version of their Hangouts Meet software and other companies are doing the same. On top of that, some of the software I use already offers free access to students such as Autodesk 3ds Max and the Unity Game Engine. However, not all students have computers that can run this software. So, I need to find some alternatives for all of the software we use. I already have a long list of options compiled on my Digital Artistic Tools page here on my site.
To conclude, while this will be a challenging time for many, I am excited about this forced experiment in remote learning. While I fear some of my peers will not fair too well in this new educational model, it just might change the way I teach for the rest of my career in education. Over the years, I have done my level best to make sure my students are self-sufficient in their education and this will be a real test for some of them. But, I know they are well prepared for this kind of a shift in education and will be successful. If you are a fellow educator in a similar situation, a simple search online will reveal all kinds of amazing free resources that can help you as well. Everything from full-on LMS suites that are free (I'm telling you, check out Schoology, it offers a lot of tools in their free version), lessons and activities for every curriculum area that can be completed with little to no additional preparation, as well as tons of free tools you can use to deliver instruction and content to your students in interesting and engaging ways. Regardless of what everyone does in terms of continuing to teach in these trying times, remember the most important thing is to stay safe and well throughout this worldwide crisis!
What are your thoughts about flipping the classroom and remote learning? Add a comment below!
I am a high school Career & Technical Education (CTE) teacher located in Durham, NC with a focus on game art and design. This blog provides a place for reflection on relevant classroom practices.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer or anyone else associated with Durham Public Schools.