One major hurdle during week one was figuring out what in the world is Google Classroom and Zoom and how do those platforms work when people are using them. As we go into Week two, teachers are taking what they have learned from their first week of instruction to inform changes. For example, in some cases, teachers have revamped schedules to be more precise. Or, in other instances, they have adjusted assignments to be more flexible or include less screen time. Feedback from families has been helpful. Please forward your questions to Heather Weston with the subject line: Ask Erica
What is the expectation around live video from teachers? (4/1/20)
There is not a mandate that teachers must deliver instruction through live video. The DOE and the UFT are having ongoing conversations around labor practices, so information in regards to how instruction is provided remotely could change. At 261, there is an expectation that all teachers have a Google Classroom page. We are using an expanded definition of ‘live’ so that it includes not just video, but also Google Chats or phone calls.
Does my child have to participate in Zoom meetings if they are making my child anxious? (4/1/20)
As teachers are introducing new classroom platforms, we are learning that students react differently. The short answer is no; if Zoom meetings are creating heightened anxiety, then they do not have to participate. Be sure the teacher is aware of what is going on. In our staff conversations, we are exploring digital strategies for supporting students who may be experiencing this.
Can teachers meet with small groups? (4/1/20)
As we move into this second-week, teachers who have been growing comfortable with the Zoom platform are exploring ways to meet with students in small groups. Last week we experienced ‘Breakout’ rooms as a staff to help introduce it to everyone. Ways different teachers are exploring this: ‘office hours’ as a structure for connecting in smaller ways. Breakout’ rooms as a structure for including small groups in whole group meetings. Schedule for Zoom meetings at different times for different groups of students.
Will there eventually be actual lessons from teachers on webinars or videos? (4/1/20)
The Remote Learning platform will certainly never truly replicate the in-person classroom learning experience. There is not a mandate that teachers need to use video. With regards to webinars, there is a steep learning curve when it comes to teachers learning how to use the various technology platforms efficiently and understanding the types of lessons that they are capable of delivering. All of this learning takes time.
How and when will new concepts be introduced? (4/1/20)
This is undoubtedly going to be an ongoing question. The launching of remote learning has felt very much like the first days of school. As in September, the initial focus is on establishing routines, procedures, and building community with the added challenge of not having ever created a classroom in this way before. An expectation for all is figuring out how they learn best in this type of class setting. In these initial days, teachers are trying to determine what resources students have at home. Some families do not have printers. Some families want their children to have less screen time. Some families wish to have more paper and pencil work. Some families do not have notebooks at home. We all kind of left school without having everything we need. Unlike previous crises in NYC (Hurricane Sandy and 9/11) that affected some schools, but not all, this pandemic is disrupting school for everyone. We are all having an altered learning experience. While we at 261 will certainly take this into account as we look into our planning, I anticipate that the citywide expectations and state expectations will take this into account in the coming months as they are determining achievement needs and academic expectations.
What curriculum are teachers using? What will assignments look like going forward? (4/1/20)
There is not a remote learning curriculum, per se. Like most schools, our initial attempts at creating a digital academic classroom involved tapping into existing resources. A critical value of the 261 instruction is inquiry. Learning how to bring inquiry work into the digital classroom is an area in which we need to learn and grow as a staff. The EngageNY math work can be found online, but some of the Teachers are figuring out what types of assignments translate well to the digital platform and which ones do not. Again what assignments look like going forward will grow and change as teachers’ knowledge, skills, and comfort level grow and change as they work in this new way.
Is there flexibility with scheduling? (4/1/20)
The assignments, the schedule, the logistics of the Google Classroom have been overwhelming for some and underwhelming for others. One of our challenges is striking a balance between families who are juggling a lot of schedules (multiple children, own work schedule, sharing devices, limited space) and families who are asking the teacher to pour on more. From a legal standpoint, video conferences with students cannot be recorded, so the possibility of students catching up with a meeting later is not so simple. Teachers have been coordinating as best as they can to stagger live videos. Some of the adjustments teachers are making are creating assignments that can be done over some time and being mindful of the intensity of the workload.
Do parents need to compile and supervise all of the activities, or can teachers use videos to instruct for an hour or two each day? (4/1/20)
When I hear that teachers are taking one to two hours to create a single video for their class, I am reminded of how much tech learning we all still need to do before we can more efficiently create instructional videos. Some teachers are more skilled in this arena. As we embarked on Remote Learning, we all were trying to figure out how to support our youngest learners with all of this because the parent piece of this work would be hefty. We haven’t figured out how to fully help kids navigate the digital platform independently as young learners. I know there is pressure to want to ‘catch kids up’ on what they missed, but again this is a situation in which every kid in the entire city is having an altered and interrupted schooling experience. All children will need to be caught up.