School desks may be empty, but classes are still in session.
When school started this year, it was doubtful anyone was expecting for all students to be learning from home — and with such little notice.
From schools figuring out how to get meals to the kids who depend on them, to teachers creating lesson plans that could be done from home, to parents who suddenly found themselves not only working from home, but becoming a homeschool “teacher” at the same time — this season is certainly one for the history books.
Despite the unexpected upheaval of the school year, there are some innovative ideas that schools are implementing to make sure students stay engaged — with technology playing a big part in bridging the gap during this time when students can’t step foot into their classrooms.
The Switch to Teaching Virtually
Teachers have been abruptly required to turn their carefully prepared lesson plans into something that translates to a virtual environment. While it is no easy task for the teachers, the assistance of apps and websites such as Class Dojo, Google Classroom, and Seesaw have significantly helped with the transition.
Stacie Cerotsky, a Kindergarten teacher in Washington, says, “Learning these new technology platforms has been a challenge, but I’m making progress. It takes me several hours a day to create and edit content.” She added, “I’m emailing and calling parents to get feedback on how they are doing and how I can do things differently, or best support their needs.”
Our CEO, Rodney Rice, also shares his experience as a high school parent during these times, saying: “My kids are all doing Zoom conferences with their professors and classmates for lessons and project-based work. My high schooler is also using Google classroom to manage assignments.”
Evidently, education technology saves the day here.
When it comes to connection, it helps to see a smiling face. Virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangout are not only great for teaching, but are also becoming popular methods to connect socially with students.
Michelle Namnun, a teacher at Moorestown Upper Elementary School in New Jersey, says she hosts virtual meetings to add some fun to the day: “We’ve played bingo, trivia games, and had home scavenger hunts. I also post a ‘Challenge of the Week’ question that students submit guesses for and I answer during our virtual meetings.”
Colorado Academy in Denver has their own way to stay connected: Zoomlights. Coined by Colorado Academy senior Will Ungar, the school posted about Zoomlights on their Facebook page: “Marry ‘Zoom’ and ‘highlights’ and you get ‘Zoomlights,’ a new weekly show to keep community spirit alive — highlighting how CA students are spending their time during remote learning.”
According to the school’s online newsletter, Ungar produces them with the help of other students and staff, then edits them for posting.
Exchanging Photos & Videos
A big plus that came with the era of smartphones is how easy and seamless it can be to share photos and videos with one another. As we’ve been chatting with schools, we see schools and students engaging and delighting each other through the exchange of photos and videos.
Trinity Episcopal School in Austin, Texas is using Waldo as their photo-sharing platform to keep their community connected. They’ve created their own family uploads gallery so their school families can share all their fun memories with each other.
Erin Mason, a Special Ed teacher in Ohio says, “I’ve loved getting pictures of my students at home and hearing that they miss me as much as I miss them. I was able to post a video the other day and got good feedback from a couple parents saying watching the video brightened their day.”
Other schools are utilizing Youtube to keep experiences alive via video. Nysmith School for the Gifted in Virginia has created a virtual “Art Room” with their own Youtube channel. They posted on their Facebook page: “We are thrilled to announce that Mrs. Robinson & Mrs. Rock have created The Nysmith School Art Room YouTube channel. They will be posting optional Art projects and art demonstrations for students in grades 1-8.”
Honoring the Class of 2020
There’s no doubt COVID-19 has made a big impact on the Class of 2020. The anticipation and excitement that comes with a typical senior year was swiftly swept away. Senior proms, graduation ceremonies, parties: all cancelled or moved to virtual. Schools have been challenged with how to make their graduating class feel special during this difficult time. One way schools are doing this is through social media.
Bracken Christian School in Bulverde, Texas has been posting “Senior Spotlight” videos to their Facebook page to honor their seniors. In addition to the Spotlights, the seniors themselves make videos for the school to post that give encouraging words to their classmates.
Virtual School Tours
With school enrollment season in full swing, the stay-at-home orders have been a hindrance to schools that depend on tours to inform their potential applicants. Some schools have found a creative way around this obstacle by offering virtual tours instead. Riverside Military Academy shot their own videos to make the school tour experience happen for families who couldn’t visit their campus. They even shared some of their behind the scenes photos on Facebook.
Sending Our Admiration
Whether you’re a teacher, student, or parent, Team Waldo wants to commend you on your ability to be flexible and adapt to this unprecedented season. E-learning may not be ideal in some situations, but it’s clear that schools, students, and families are making the best of it to get through this tough time that we’re all facing. We hope you continue to find ways to connect and keep up the great work!