Distance Learning Tips: A Teacher’s Personal Journey – by Jennifer Zegler
When the schools in our state were closed due to COVID-19, our faculty had very little time to prepare, plan and organize a distance learning program for our students. Our school is based on the Waldorf model of education, which means we approach education in a very holistic manner and art is a huge component of our curriculum. As a teacher and administrator of The Juniper School, a small private school in Columbus, OH, I have found the Virtual Classroom feature of SchoolTube to be tremendously valuable. The Virtual Classroom within SchoolTube allows us to connect to the students, engage them, and include art in our instruction. In the short time that I have used SchoolTube and Virtual Classroom, I have learned a lot…here are some of my observations and distance learning tips.
I use the Virtual Classroom for whole-class, small group, and individual instruction for my class of 3rd and 4th-grade students. Within the Virtual Classroom, the students and I are all able to see and hear one another. There is a whiteboard available on which I can type, draw, place images, and more. There is an option which allows a student to work on the board themselves. This is extremely useful for assessing the students’ learning. Users are also able to load files and show them within the classroom as well as write or mark on them. I upload files and prepare my screens ahead of the class. All of this material remains in the classroom until I remove it, allowing me to prepare ahead of time. These are the main features of the Virtual Classroom that I utilize each class. The ability to show videos that I have made has been helpful. I like to give the students a preview of the videos that are available to them within my channels. There are many other tools that would be very useful for instruction, presentation, and small group work as well that I have not yet utilized but plan to do so to further enhance the classes.
What I Have Quickly Learned from Virtual Teaching
Over the last several weeks, I’ve learned so much about distance learning and how to incorporate the Virtual Classroom. I have learned to allow some time for the students to be social and reconnect with each other and with me at the start of the class. They are better able to focus on the class after having this time. It has been helpful to provide expectations for behavior inside the Virtual Classroom just as I would in the regular classroom. I have found that it is best to allow access to the whiteboard tools to one student at a time or else it can be a little chaotic on the board.
Virtual Teaching Transition Tips
The transition from being in a physical class to teaching from home was difficult at first. Only having a couple of days to prepare was stressful and made the transition seem rushed. The teachers, students, and families all had to learn and adjust to a new way of learning. The Virtual Classroom helped smooth the transition. Connecting is so important in education. This connection happens within the Virtual Classroom. I am able to support the students in the material that I send home to them through email. More importantly, we are all able to “be” in the same space at the same time. The Virtual Classroom has been the bridge between the students and the teachers. It is with this in mind that I learned another wonderful use of the Virtual Classroom. I now hold social time with the parents and teachers weekly. We need to remain together during this time of distance learning. SchoolTube and their Virtual Classroom helps make that possible.