Whitney Green is an assistant principal at Ooltewah Elementary in Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga, TN. She currently leads the implementation of EL K-5th and is taking full advantage of utilizing Kiddom within the classrooms at Ooltewah Elementary as both have positively affected her students success this year. She is excited to share her drive and her experiences with others.
This past school year had a lot of challenges, but with those challenges came a lot of new skills. As many schools return to in-person teaching, AP Whitney Green considers some of the distance learning skills that could be brought into the classroom.
Ask Whitney: Do you have questions about how her school is using Kiddom in the classroom and keeping digital skills sharp? Submit them here and she will write a follow-up response in her next blog.
Do you ever look back on the 2020-21 school year and think, is there anything positive about this year? The funny thing is how something that seemed so awful, like a pandemic, could actually bring about positive changes that will forever have transformed education.
Without this pandemic, we never would have been forced into a digital world and learned skills we never thought were possible. Ever heard the saying, “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Well this year, educators proved this saying wrong! Today, I’d like to take a look at five areas of digital skills we learned that we hope to carry over into the 2021-22 school year.
1. Blended Learning Skills
In our community, the term “blended learning” was previously used by just a handful of educators who were adventurous in utilizing technology within their classroom. But now, everyone in the building is beginning to understand what blended learning really is within instruction, and after the shell shock of realizing blended learning is the new normal, we’re actually seeing a lot of benefits from it.
For example, the following is just a short list of the many beneficial blended learning skills picked up this past year which we are now applying daily in the classroom. Teachers and learners in our community learned how to:
- Utilize 1:1 technology in class
- Ensure homework is intentional and tailored, and offer all resources needed to complete assignments at home
- Plan collaboratively using online platforms to develop lessons/assessments
- Track data towards mastery of standards
- Provide specific accommodations for individual students based on needs, such as read aloud, higher order thinking questions, etc.
- Build digital student portfolios
- Personalize assignments for student groups
- Plan ahead by developing assignments to be accessible to students on a specific day and time
- Decrease variability among teams by developing common assessments among grade levels
In a recent webinar, Whitney shared how Kiddom saves teachers time with many of these blended learning skills:
2. Building Student Ownership
Building student ownership of learning is a lifelong quest all educators strive to achieve, but this is not easy to accomplish. Luckily, moving to virtual learning this past year helped our students tremendously on this front.
Utilizing various digital platforms such as Kiddom, ClassDojo, Mastery Connect, i-Ready to name a few, has allowed our students to guide their own learning within parameters. Students have learned to take control of their pacing when submitting assignments virtually, which has given them flexibility and choice on how they want to present their work, ranging from uploading a picture, manipulating a document through a platform, video recording, audio recording, etc. We are so proud to see our students take more ownership of their own work, and we hope to see this trend continue well into next year and beyond!
3. Keeping Parents Informed & Improving Communication
One of the most interesting parts of the virtual journey that we went on for the past year is the parents’ growing awareness of their child’s learning.
As many teachers across the country visited many homes of their students due to virtual learning, parents and teachers were able to access one another in a way we had never dreamed was possible in education. This can be a curse and a blessing, all at the same time. It allowed parents to see what instruction looked like, and many parents were so appreciative of what they saw and heard from their children’s teachers. Unfortunately, some parents felt they had been exposed to certain teachers’ inability to instruct students, and were very vocal about their concerns.
One area our teachers have expressed they feel they have greatly improved in this past year is communication. This is due to all the digital platforms we use to communicate with families, whether Zoom, Kiddom, or ClassDojo. Teachers feel they have had to communicate more with families this year, than any other year they have taught. Many have said this form of communication is something they will continue in the future, as it has been so beneficial in keeping families informed of both, academics and behavior. It also supported developing positive relationships with parents and working together to support our students.
4. Data, Data, Data
One of the best parts of moving to the use of more digital tools has been our teachers’ ability to collect, understand, and use data. Teachers within my school have become more effective and efficient at collecting data through the use of technology, and are now using the information to inform their instruction. Platforms like Kiddom and MasteryConnect allowed teachers to have students take online assessments, like exit tickets, that provided data based on students’ progress towards mastery of the standards.
Having data on student mastery towards standards at their fingertips, with all of this information sorted and categorized, has consequently provided our educators more time for planning. Additionally, our teachers are now able to provide immediate feedback to students after taking online assessments. It also allows for more fluid or incremental deadlines as they post assessments that could be individualized to students.
5. More Personalization
Another shift that has occurred within our education through the use of more digital platforms is the ability to increase personalized learning.
Through digital platforms, lessons can be quickly designed or tailored to the needs of specific students or groups. Teachers can construct lessons accessing more resources for each lesson than they could before, when they were using paper copies of the curriculum. Platforms like Kiddom make it easy to make several variations of the same lesson that can quickly be sent to different groups of students who may need additional support or enrichment.
6. More Collaboration
All educators know that collaboration is the key to unlocking all planning at the highest level. Another great digital skill we’ve acquired in the past year is the ability for educators to collaborate with one another, without having to be face-to-face.
Especially during summer months when everyone needs a break, teachers can collaborate on documents and curriculums on their own time. We all know time is important and needs to be respected – I know I value my own time. I even have teachers here in my building that are accessing Professional Development (PD) this summer virtually, as they are vacationing at a beach. You are now able to collaborate from the comforts of your own home – this was never the case before the pandemic!
Why is it important to use what we’ve learned from this pandemic?
Can you remember back to before the pandemic and what education looked like? I can’t. This is the exact reason we can’t go back to our “old school” ways of doing things. The pandemic did wreak havoc, but has also opened doors for educators that we never thought was possible. Being 1:1 with technology is a must. As schools all over the country scrambled to purchase technology, I think everyone probably had the thought of “why didn’t we already have this?”
I know a meeting will never be missed by anyone anymore, as long as everyone has internet service. Snow days or weather days are now a thing of the past. Teachers and students will always be able to continue instruction. And the truth is, our teachers and families loved having conferences via Zoom. All of our Individual Educational Plan (IEP) meetings were attended this year because of technology whereas before, parents would forget or be unable to attend in person, which meant rescheduling, which is never easy or convenient for anyone.
I think every educator has a fear or apprehension of losing the skills we gained during this time. It begs the question, will we resort back to our “old ways”? Honestly, I do worry about this, but I believe overall, based on the feedback within my own building, digital skills are here to stay. I was a little shocked hearing this from some of our veteran teachers, albeit pleasantly surprised. I do know, from my own experience, any skills we have gained will be lost if we do not use them regularly.
Now, I do have concerns that districts may cut out programs or resources they purchased specifically to support remote learning, and that would greatly affect continuing blended learning into the future. We have already gone through the tireless nights of understanding how to use technology ourselves, and walking both parents and students through how to use technology, and I certainly would not want to waste all the time and effort we have put into learning these skills.
Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.
For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.
Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?
Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.