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Oakdale Educators: Talking Technology

Switching to online learning has definitely been a new adventure for teachers, students, and parents alike. In Lisa Greenhow’s words, it’s been “a unique experience.”

Greenhow, a third grade teacher at Sierra View, and Danesa Menge, an English Language Arts teacher at Oakdale Junior High, recently took time to assess how the year is going so far.

Both teachers are missing the face to face experience, but are trying to make the most of online learning. Something that helps with this are various programs and extensions they use.

“Over the summer, I revisited some tech tools (like PearDeck and SMART Learning Suite Online) to prepare for distance learning,” Menge reported. “As well as looking at what I have taught in the past and how I could revamp it for online learning to be more engaging, fun, but also tacking the standards I need to.”

Greenhow reported that tech like GoGuardian (where she can “‘Big Brother’ their screens to see where they’re at and walk them through work”) and BrainPop has been helpful for her students.

Google Classroom is also a facet of every class in the district and Greenhow noted that the district’s purchase of IXL has been helpful, especially with Common Core learning. The program sees what students are struggling with as they work through assignments and suggests remediation to both the student and teacher.

Assuredly, there are still everyday challenges like connectivity issues (on both ends) and having to understand the new technology, all while still catering to each students’ needs.

“The challenges are, of course, bandwidth. With streaming our students are struggling to stay connected. Even our teachers are having issues with mics, sound, etcetera because of the lag. I am sure this is happening all over the state,” Menge relayed.

The first week looked a lot like figuring out how all the new technology worked, getting it set up, and getting everyone comfortable with it.

“I got kicked out a few times; I would freeze and be talking to a still room,” Greenhow shared. “But we’ve gotten through it and the students watch and see that I have to problem solve through it, too.”

The “silent classroom” can be daunting for teachers, because there’s a risk of disconnect with their class. Students really owning the experience has been helpful for teachers; they understand that classes have to be online, but every time they engage it’s always a triumph.

“Some victories have been students actively participating and wanting to share a little of themselves. We have had fun while learning,” Menge added.

Moreover, there are still some pros to online learning. Greenhow explained that some of her students who tend to unknowingly distract the class (endearingly referred to as her “movers” and “singers”) can do what they need to do and just be muted.

Online classes “allows my movers to move and my singers to sing. I think it helps them focus in a lot of ways so it helps that they have that,” she said.

Menge also mentioned that the flexibility is helpful, as there are multiple ways to get information through lessons and videos; “I also think teachers working with technology has been a pro as well. Putting to use what students already are using and will be using in the future.”

Greenhow and Menge also wanted to share a bit of encouragement and advice.

“Just go through it, hear the kid laugh, hear your child share,” Greenhow suggested. “Look for the things you can celebrate, because their attitude is key.”

“Keep at it. I have two littles in K and TK, and they, too, have been frustrated. But it is getting better,” Menge recommended. “Reach out to your teachers. We want to help. We are your child’s advocates! We know how difficult, strange, frustrating this is. We are in this together! Let us know what is going on and we will help your child as best we can. We are better together.”