I have been hearing from families left and right concerned about the education of their children as a result of Coronavirus impact. Many families are livid and disappointed that we have not yet started remote teaching and learning yet. It’s going on four weeks. Some families are upset that we are attempting remote learning with the amount of families that do not have access to the necessary technology or internet in many areas. This is one of the reasons we have not yet started.
But then you have the families that have everything they need to get started, but are
Table of Contents from The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition
confused about where to get resources to help them teach their children. Because of this, I created a Google Site titled The RenewED Teacher: Family Edition. The purpose of the site is to provide tips and resources for parents and guardians of children in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade to partner with teachers to teach their children at home. In addition to resources for children, it also includes a section on self-care for families, managing stress and anxiety, as well as staying education and up-to-date on Covid-19.
RenewED Teachers are always looking to see what is new, and how they can enhance their skills in the classroom! However, COVID-19 has most of the teachers in our country (perhaps the world) outside of their classroom these days. Because of that, many of us are moving towards some version of Remote/Distance Teaching and Learning, E-Learning, and/or Digital Instruction.
While many teachers have dabbled in flipped instruction, not all classroom educators, especially K-12 teachers, have experienced teaching 100% from the comfort of their home. According to www.teachthought.com, a flipped classroom is a type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school. In addition to this, face-to-face instruction is mixed with online (internet/web-based) instruction. I started dabbling with this in 2011 with Edmodo.com, Remind.com, and today with ClassDojo.
BUT IT JUST GOT REAL!
There is no blended learning right now. It is all online in the event that our Governor extends the Stay-at-Home Order beyond Tuesday, April 14th. (Update: President Trump extended social distancing through the end of April).
Now many educators have already began their digital journey and appear to be killing it! Many have been using Zoom and Google Meets. I am familiar with both, but when my district sent a survey asking how familiar I was with Microsoft Teams, I had to type in a one on that scale. That’s when my search began. And like these other educators killing it on Zoom and Meets, we are going to kill it on Teams!
What is Microsoft Teams?
Microsoft Teams is a web-based program that has capabilities for “students, teachers, and staff [to] seamlessly work together, create content, and share resources all from a single, easy-to-learn and simple to use platform” (microsoft.com). Microsoft Teams allows teachers to create classrooms, keep students remotely engaged, facilitate remote learning, collaborate, communicate, and personalize online instruction.
Teaching and learning online is our inevitable future. I have come to accept that this will be our new normal for the next few weeks. With that, I have continued to do research. I have also texted links to my colleagues and posted helpful sites on my Facebook page and groups I am a member of. The resources are plentiful.
Although I do not feel overwhelmed at the time, I am sure that other educators are, and this blog is here to help teachers focus on self-care. Part of healthy self-care is being pro-active and being prepared for what is here or may come. To help us all prepare for this digital instruction we are about to participate in, I am sharing the 10 resources I have come across throughout my research. It is my hope that this post will be an easy access point, a hub of sorts where teachers can visit and get tips on how to use Microsoft Teams.
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, download the Microsoft Team app to your phone or tablet.
10 Helpful Microsoft Teams Resources for Educators
This week was a roller coaster! Between daylight savings, a full moon, Friday the 13th, Corona-virus, and the excitement of Pi Day and the half day we had last Friday, I cannot believe we all survived!
Roller Coaster of a Ride. Image courtesy of Pixabay.
On Friday, March 13, teachers in Pennsylvania received news from our Governor, Tom
Closed for 10 Days. Image courtesy of Flickr.
Wolf that all K-12 schools would be closed for 10 business days effective Monday, March 16 due to the pandemic spread of Covid-19 in the commonwealth. This announcement was made after our scholars had been dismissed from school. Students had a half day of school while teachers stayed for professional development. During that time, we discussed Covid-19 and began preparing for schools to close as the virus continued to spread throughout the nation. We originally thought teachers would be in school on Monday and Tuesday. Students would come on Wednesday for a half day, and then we would be out for 10 days. Governor Wolf wanted all schools closed immediately. On Saturday, two cases were reported in Allegheny County. Two more reported on Sunday. Currently, there are 6 or 7 confirmed cases in the Pittsburgh region. (The data is changing rapidly.) State wise, as of Monday, March 16, there were 76 confirmed cases. On Thursday, there were only 22, and on Friday, there were 41.
With many people following the Governor’s order to socially distance themselves from family, friends, and other large crowds, how do we help the families of our scholars remotely when our schools or districts are not necessarily set up to do so?
Here are three ways I intend to do so:
Class Dojo is an educational app and website that connects teachers, students, and families, through communication features such as feed for photos and videos from the school day, and messaging. I messaged the families of my scholars today to check in with them. I informed them that ALL schools in the district would serve food throughout the week from 11am-1pm. I also shared that an academic packet would be ready for them at the school when they arrived. In addition to this, I left them with more contact information. I sent them my e-mail address and Google Voice number.
Google Voice is a telephone service (app) that provides a U.S. telephone number chosen from selected area codes, call forwarding, voicemail, voice, and text messaging services for Google Account customers for free. Because I prefer to not give my personal cell phone number to the families of my schools, I have chosen to use a Google Voice Number. What is really cool about this communication service is that I can receive and make phone calls with my Google Voice Number on my cell phone. When I call families, my Google Voice number shows up on their Caller ID. Two parents called me today, and I was able to give them more information about how long we were going to be out of school, the food at the school, the academic packets that were being sent home, and just to help relieve some anxiety that some family members had.
E-mail, well we all should know what that is, but just in case, e-mail stands for electronic mail and is a way to exchange messages between people using electronic devices via the internet. While I attempted to upload the 110 page document to Class Dojo for families to have access, I quickly learned that the file was too large to upload. I therefore e-mailed it to one of the families that e-mailed me earlier in the day, and then returned to Class Dojo to ask families to send me their e-mail addresses. However, I later learned that Dojo was having a few glitches throughout the day, and about 10 minutes ago, I was able to upload the academic packet to Class Dojo! Yay!!!
With all of this uncertainty, I think that we teachers should enjoy being at home with our families. However, I also believe that we are all in this together, and our scholars as well as their families need us to support them. These are three ways we can reach out to communicate with families amid the Covid-19 takeover.
How are you keeping in contact with your scholars and their families? What do you recommend? I have seen some really cool remote ways of facilitating communication and learning (Zoom, Google Classroom, Quizlet Live) these last few days, and I would love to hear some details on how it works and how well it works in your world!