Will Distance Learning Ever Really Go Away?

Digital learning is no stranger to any teacher across the globe. COVID-19 has overtaken so many aspects of our lives, and schools have taken a hard hit as well. 

Google Classrooms

Zoom 

Google Drive with sheets, docs, and more

Prezi 

More Zoom. 

Emails on emails on emails. 

And Zoom. 

All things that majority of teachers are all too familiar with. 

Someday, our lives will go back to normal. Someday, far in the future, we won’t have to wear masks, apply hand sanitizer every three minutes, or tremble in fear when we accidentally cough at the grocery store. Instead of hearing coronavirus in the present tense, it will all be past tense. Someday we will be reading about the toilet paper shortages in history books and recalling memories of quarantine to our kids and grandkids that were too young to remember. 

But when it’s all over, will our schools go back? Will we continue to have our standardized learning that took place before COVID? A teacher using technology as a resource in the classroom. Or, will this pandemic change our teaching? Will Zoom still continue to be a meeting place for teachers, administration, and students? If we didn’t have to spend the gas and time driving to a common location but instead meet from the comfort of our own homes, will we? Or is there an added value of face-to-face communication? 

I’m eager to see how our world changes and adapts to this new-normal, even when the pandemic is over. What are your thoughts? Will everything go back to how it used to be, or are we adapting and changing? 

A Free EdTech Resource For The Classroom And Distance Learning: Virtual Field Trips

I originally planned to write about virtual field trips in late May after I went to the UCET conference in Provo, Utah. I was pumped up and ready to dive deep into virtual learning/ using technology in education! However, soon after the UCET conference, COVID took over our education systems, forcing us to use technology to learn, socialize, and even grocery shop. By late May, I couldn’t bring myself to write about one more technology use in the classroom because I was burnt out. And I’m not even teaching right now, so I cannot imagine how educators feel!! Instead of writing about my original plan of virtual field trips, my post on slowing down and remembering the simple, one-room schoolhouse came about instead. It felt more appropriate. 

Now that I’ve had a break from writing about the tech world for a little span on time, I feel more ready to write about my original idea. Here it is: virtual field trips.

Did you know virtual field trips were a thing? I did not! Don’t you (especially those social study teachers) wish you could put all of your students on an airplane each year and bring them to Alcatraz or the Eiffel Tower? While there are so many reasons this can’t work out, there is one simple way you can do this with your students. It’s simple. It really, truly is so simple and FREE. 

Do you have a computer? Good. Open Google Maps. Search your desired location. Turn on street view. You’re there. You did it. See, I told you it was simple!

Matt from Ditch That Textbook wrote about it here on his website that gives you a better rundown of exactly how to use it to its full potential. Or if you’re looking for an even easier route, he put links to 20 different field trips for you. All you have to do is click the link and you’re magically walking through Yellowstone National Park.

Matt was our keynote speaker at UCET and where I learned this new trick. His website is packed full of great educational tips and free resources, never once would he link us or send us down a path that costs money, he truly believes educational materials should be free and is doing a wonderful job at accomplishing this.

A screenshot from my computer during a virtual field trip. A cell in Alcatraz.

It may not have the same impact as walking the streets themselves, but I will attest to the fact that it’s more engaging than pictures in a textbook or on a computer. It’s different, it’s interactive, and it’s educational. 

Another screenshot from my Alcatraz field trip.
The White House

I invite you to play with these virtual field trips this summer while school is out so that when your students come back in the fall you can be ready to do this in the classroom with them, or send them home with the assignment to explore a new place during distant learning. When you’re done, come on back here and let me know how it went and share any tips you have for other teachers! 

Cover photo from pexels.com

You Don’t Have To Be Screen-Free To Be Successful

How many times do you see on any social media platform “Screen-Free Summer!” or, “How our family became screen-free” maybe the “Screen-Free Challenges”? These titles are indicating that using screens such as iPads, movies, and electronic games are bad. But is it bad if you aren’t screen-free in your homes? 

Our schools are using technology and can even be thriving through its use!! But then we go home and are pressured into being a screen-free home. Media can be harmful. But also… It doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to be screen-free to be successful. Say it with me again, you don’t have to be screen-free to be successful! 

Media can be powerful. It can pull teachers and students together during a global pandemic. It can give a teacher a few minutes of free time to grade papers or join a zoom meeting because she’s still a mom with kids to teach and entertain herself. It can be a platform for friends to collaborate and create, hello Minecraft! 

Scree-free for some households works great. But media filled households can also function and have just as much success. Let’s stop focusing on what we need to add or take away from our lives and start growing with the resources we have, media, and all! 

Slowing Down To Remember The Simple Learning

After 2-3 months of virtual learning, who’s ready for a good old fashioned “read out of a book” and “use pencil and paper” kind of learning? My mind is going back to my early school days of chalkboards, chalk, and big hefty erasers. Just take a minute with me to go back in time and picture the one-room schoolhouses full of heavy desks and children of varying ages all learning in the same room. What would they think if we explained our schooling methods now, especially today while schools are closed but we are still finding creative ways to learn online? 

Zoom meetings, iPads, Google Classroom, emails, and virtual learning are all jargon that kids as young as preschool can comprehend. Boy, learning has taken vast leaps and bounds since the one-room schoolhouse where all work was done on a simple slate! Even thinking back to my own elementary days, email was still a term that everyone was trying to wrap their heads around. 

Photo from Mrs. Beach’s Class– A quick read I highly recommend

Oftentimes I find myself longing to live in a simple time period where going to school was a luxury and nights were filled with candlelit dinners, reading, and music instead of extracurriculars, tv shows, and work on the computer. However, I am grateful for our opportunity to gain knowledge even amidst a global pandemic that shut down the world for a time. 

How are you feeling after a few months of virtual learning? Are you hyped up and ready to keep going, or are you coming with me back to the one-room schoolhouse for a little break? 

Safe Social Media In The Classroom

Let’s dive into the older grades right now. What is one of their main focuses outside of school? Friends, and social media. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are not going away anytime soon, so why push them away when we can embrace it, utilize it, and have our students more involved and intrigued? While using actual social media may not be ideal in a classroom, let’s look into different, safer ways to recreate social media in your classrooms, or even during remote learning! 

Twitter: Create a Twitter handle and bio for characters in books, historical figures, or current politicians, and more! Let the students create the tweets for the character using the language of the book mixed with current language. For example: What would Macbeth’s Twitter look like? What would his status updates look like in specific scenes? Who would he be following, and what pictures would he post? 

How do we do this in a safe way? Create a shareable google doc and have students create the twitter profile on there. It can be as extravagant as adding in pictures and formatting it to look similar to Twitter, or more simple with just text on a page. This is useable for distant learning as well because it can be created all online and shared between students and teachers. 

Instagram: What would Instagram posts and stories look like for characters, historical figures, or politicians? Let’s give those math teachers some love. Have your students make an Instagram story, “Math Concept for Dummies” with someone giving a funny, quick tutorial on how to do the latest concept learned. Use google slides for Instagram stories and docs for posts. 

Facebook: Status updates, friend requests, pages they like, etc. Again, Google’s shareable documents are great for this collaborative project. 

TikTok: Facebook most likely seems out-of-date for many of today’s students. TikTok is where the trending is happening. (I’m not even sure if I’m saying that right, I’m still stuck in the Facebook era myself). Have your students make content relevant videos on iPads and use the built-in movie maker to create TikTok like content. 

Social media is a big part of our lives, and especially our student’s lives! Let’s embrace it! Pull it in close and bring it to every relevant classroom! There are so many other social media outlets and ideas we can be creating every day. My intention with this post wasn’t to give you already made lesson plans but to get your wheels turning for how you can easily implement this in your classroom, especially during this distant learning time. 

If you have or are going to use this in your classroom, share it with us! We would love to see how social media is being used in classrooms. If you would like more direction/ information on this, please reach out to me directly. 

Gone Are The Days Of Computer Labs

If you are old enough to teach right now, there is a good chance that while you were in school you had a computer lab instead of a laptop cart. There was one room in the school with the classroom set of computers every class shared throughout the school year. Your computer time was about once every week or two weeks where you would spend an hour typing your papers, playing cool math games, or testing. And there is a really good chance that if you’re teaching now, this isn’t the case for your students. 

Computer labs are a thing of the past, irrelevant to our day. We aren’t setting aside time for utilizing technology in our classrooms, we are picking up this tech and solving everyday problems with it. 

Typing our written papers isn’t a treat anymore, it’s expected. 

Finding learning-based gaming isn’t to kill time in the computer lab, it’s used to boost test scores and teach on a tier-three basis to each and every student. 

Coding isn’t just for fun, it’s there to teach students how to plan and think ahead. Later, they will use these basic fundamental skills in their future careers as adults. 

Thinking tech-minded in schools is becoming easier and easier with more technology access throughout every grade. More often than not, each classroom is equipped with a 1:1 ratio of technology to student, whether that be by laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or cellphone. 

When it comes time to learn about penguins for science, we don’t line up our class and march them down to the computer lab to research the subject. Instead, we ask them to pull out their iPads, watch the videos about the habitats, read the online articles on the different kinds of penguins, create their own presentations, choose their own images, and present their findings to their classmates and friends. What used to take weeks and weeks of time to research now can take one afternoon. 

How are you shifting your technology mindset from a “computer lab” to an “iPad” in your classroom or school?