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Reflections on teaching during the extended school closure


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Flipgrid in itslearning

Picture of teacher Clori Rose

Clori Rose-Geiger M.A.

Online Teaching Tools

I wanted to post a few Screencastify videos detailing how I use itslearning – our district’s learning management system – to engage students, streamline lessons, and build community.

DISCLAIMER: I am not great at editing film, so these are rough. You can also hear my dogs sometimes. Additionally, I am reflecting upon my teaching practices, so I do not claim that any of my work is perfect. Finally, I am the mother of a student who learns online, so I have a very clear perspective as a parent in response to teacher-created lessons delivered electronically. I reflect a good deal on the parental experience of helping their children navigate online learning, pointing most specifically to things that cause us great frustration and stress while trying to support our kids. These reflections are not meant to criticize anyone. We’re all learning, and I think the responses of our students and parents, positive or negative, help us become better educators. My intent is only to share what I know and reflect upon best practices. I also say “literally” way too much. Sorry!

“As a parent, I see itslearning as an important tool that supports my daughter’s learning in the classroom and at home; we appreciate its ability to inform–and at times educate–us as we help her with homework and projects around the dining room table.”

Clori Rose-Geiger

Learning Paths in itslearning

The learning path technology in itslearning is one of my favorite aspects about our district’s LMS. Building a good one takes a little planning and effort, but well-built learning paths can lead to student engagement, student learning, and community building.

I am currently becoming certified in online teaching via the online certification course developed by Forsyth Virtual Academy. I have learned a great deal about how to simplify and chunk content for all learners because the course I am taking is built using learning paths–paths that are simple, engaging, inspiring, and instructional. Experiencing well-developed learning pathways has truly transformed the way I design online learning.

Here are the most important things I’ve learned about designing a pathway in itslearning

  • Keep a consistent design. Use larger fonts. Use headers, headings, and spot color. Don’t over do it with bells and whistles.
  • Create a presence. Teach online with a personality. In a face-to-face setting it’s easy to do this, but in an online setting you have to work at it. Developing a style and personality will go a long way in building connection with your students. Utilize the rich-text boxes in itslearning. Utlize the announcement functions.
  • Begin with an overview of the week that contains a list of assignments and suggested deadlines.
  • End with a summary of the expected takeaways and a list of assignments they should have completed.
  • Chunk content. Students will not read large blocks of text, so keep that chunking in mind at all times. If it starts to feel overly complicated, think of ways to chunk the skills and the big lessons. You may need to extend the pathway to two or three more learning paths.
  • Vet all of your resources. Make sure the links work, make sure the source is reliable, make sure the source is student friendly.
  • Design with all types of learners in mind. Provide a variety of activities within a pathway. Infuse chances for the class to engage with one another in order to build community.
  • Design with technology–not face-to-face pen and paper–in mind. Get to know the myriad of ways students can show what they know using ed tech tools.
  • Interact with the students. Participate in the discussions you assign. Respond to assignments that have been posted with feedback. Keep all feedback encouraging and positive.

Reflections on a pathway that needs improvement

In this video I reflect upon the strengths and weaknesses of a learning path I created for the first week of extended closure. I discuss how I built the learning path, what I would do differently, and how I integrated the pathway into the planner. Again, please forgive the amateur video editing.

Communication Tools in itslearning

Discussions

This video reveals how I develop online discussions, how I assign questions to students, and how I’ve crashed and burned with overly elaborate instructions.

Conferences

The conference tool within itslearning is a live backchanneling of a conversation happening alongside something else. I use the conference tool to engage the outer circle during face-to-face Socratic Circles. I am sure, with a little imagination, you can come up with ways to use the conference tool as a means to engage and build community.

Check out the full version of this blog post to find out how I use these great online teaching tools:

  • Screencastify
  • Nearpod
  • Flipgrid
  • Canva
  • Adobe Spark
  • Hypothes.is

A word of thanks to Forsyth Virtual Academy

I do want to say that my experience with my online certification course has been a transformative experience. I am still nowhere as good as the fine minds at Forsyth Virtual Academy, but I have learned so much about the student’s perspective via this course. I am easily able to use the skills I am gaining in the face-to-face setting. Can’t say enough good things about this course. Thankful that I signed up to do it. I learned a great deal of what I reflect upon in this blog post from the online certification course. I am no stranger to technology, and considered myself quite adept when beginning the course, but I have learned so much that takes my online learning design to a new level. Anyone who feels like they’re on a learning curve during this time should definitely take the Forsyth Virtual Academy Crash Course. You won’t regret it.

If people have questions about OTE or the Crash Course, they would love for you to directly contact them via Twitter: @cbryko @st3akasaurus @the_Ch3m1st @teachandcoachga @FoCoOTE

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