For the last week, I have been researching quick fixes for virtual lesson ideas. It’s been a fast and furious journey into the unknown. There are no quick fixes as is takes time to research and test out the ideas. Hopefully, I can save you some time and lead you to what I have found to be very helpful.
Like many teachers, I have been anxiously checking the board site for information. I have found little to lead me to understand what we will truly be facing in September. We know the schedule for the Adaptive Model. We have been asked if we are returning to teach (the alternative was unpaid leave, resign or retire). A few days later, there was an email discussing steps to take if you have health concerns but well after stress levels rose to a fever pitch.
A few days ago we were asked if we needed technology (Chromebook or laptop). I can tell you that I worked with a lot more technology than that from March to June. It will be interesting to see what will be provided.
Curiously, I have found more answers in the Dufferin Peel CDSB Parent FAQs than in the staff emails. One thing I learned in the FAQs is we will not be filming the class during the in-school portion which makes me believe that we are not responsible for synchronous learning during that time simultaneously for the opposite cohort. That is the challenging part though, we have to plan two different activities for the same period of time for both Cohort A and Cohort B while one cohort is in class and the other is at home with academic support.
This is what I know - Social Media is a lifeline. If you are not using it yet, I encourage you to do so. Help is everywhere from email, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Websites to Google searches.
A colleague started a discussion in our board email about student art kits with teachers in the Visual and Media Arts Subject Councils. An optimal equalizing solution is for the school to lend out an art kit to each student. At St. Joseph S.S., we hope we can do that but once we are back in the building we will have to sort out who returned their art kit and who did not during Textbook/Supplies Drop Off days in June.
Through email discourse we shared resources and ideas and discovered we are all in the same boat - all funds were frozen and withdrawn in the shut-down, so any funds not already spent vanished. We consider ourselves to be wise with our budgets and always save a portion to order supplies to complete the semester and to prepare for September. The harsh reality is that we have depleted supplies, no orders in place to send in once approved, and likely any supplies we order will not be delivered until half-way through the first Quadmester.
Oh well! COVID!
Next, I searched out teacher Facebook Groups and joined High school Art in the Time of Covid – Ontario where teachers shared ideas and discussed their frustrations and possible solutions. Other Art Teacher Facebook Groups such as Art Teachers Making Art and Art Teacher Resources have daily posts with teacher samples of what they have created for September or what worked well in the Distance Learning portion in the Spring. If you are new to Facebook you can just view the content but to really engage socially you should comment, ask questions, and offer support.
My next path was to search for specific hashtags on Instagram. This app is artist-friendly, it's photo-based with captions and hashtags. A hashtag links connected ideas, # is no longer a number sign. Type in anything – all one word after “#” such as #Virtualteaching, #DistanceLearningHacks, #helpmethroughthisquadmester. Try anything and see if it already exists. If it does, follow it to see what others are posting with that hashtag. If there are no hashtags for what you searched, then you'll be the first to use it. Some people even use hashtags to sort and store their posts and photos.
Starting an Instagram account is easy. Steps are given in the app itself, but you could always Google or YouTube for step by step instructions. Once you follow the hashtags, your Explorer page will start to feed you more content within those realms. You can click them and then decide if you want to follow the content creator or the Instagram account. If you like what you see, Like it and make a comment. To really support the account you need to have at least 5 words in your comment to increase the likelihood of the account receiving more dominance on the Explorer page. Since the content is copyrighted by the fact that it was posted online, you need to do your due diligence when sharing the content. If you like what you see you can send it to other Instagram friends, or you can use the Repost for Instagram App to repost the content on your own feed. It gives the creators attribution and a link back to their account. Many accounts have a link in their bio that leads to their websites and a whole new rabbit hole to travel into.
One of the paths I explored led me to a wonderful Instagram account and website with helpful ideas for 21st Virtual Teaching. Lauren from Go Teach the World is amazing. If you click that link you will see a video where she discussed and shows several different ideas and strategies. She shares so much for free on her Digital Resource Library and has great suggestions listed in Starting the School Year Virtually!. You can also help support her by purchasing inexpensive bundles on Teachers Pay Teachers. I purchased her Virtual Engagement Strategies for about $5 USD.
She has created Virtual Classrooms for numerous topics within Google Slides along with Bitmojis. Her awesome lesson and video link on creating Virtual Lockers quickly turned viral and if you look it up on the internet you will now see several examples by other teachers. This engagement strategy is a great way to learn about our students.
Here's my version. Can you spot my favourite things?
The Bitmoji app allows you to create a personal avatar that can be used as a sticker within social media with various call outs and poses. Click here to learn how to change poses. I couldn't figure that out. I already had an account and was as shocked to see my former avatar as I am when I see Facebook memories. Needless to say, I had to adjust my figure to account for the Covid-19. Oh and my hair is longer, so I had to change that too. I accidentally changed my original clothes and couldn't find a scarf again except in one area that I didn't notice was the maternity shop until I really noticed my voluptuous body! So no scarf - for now. I miss that scarf!
Katherine Panczner gives a step by step instructions on how to set up a Virtual Classroom within Google Slides and Powerpoint and how to add your Bitmoji. Here's my version after following her instructions.
Another cool website mentioned in her lesson will help you create better visuals in your documents. Remove.bg allows you to perform in seconds what has taken Photoshop users significant time to create. Let's say you have a photo with a coffee cup on a white background and you want to place the coffee cup on a checkered tablecloth but the white background is in the way. Until now there were many steps to eliminating the background but this website gives you what you need in seconds – upload your jpg, click remove background, download and then copy and paste the image where you want it. I used this in my Locker, see if you can find my coffee cup. I can see so many other ways to utilize this functional free tool. See if you can find this item in my locker. HINT: it was rotated horizontally.
For those thinking about how they can make the asynchronous virtual learning better, consider using LOOM for Chrome which is free for educators. Click that link to see it in action. It allows you to show the live virtual lesson and the teacher talking at the same time, in a visually pleasing way with the teacher within a circle on the left or right side. I looked to see if it was supported in the DP G-Suite Marketplace and it did not come up. It is a Google-related product, so hopefully, it will be made available to us in DPCDSB. You can sign up and use it through your personal Gmail account. I haven’t tried it out yet but will keep you posted with results.
I have been so anxious about September that I have needed to spend time working towards solutions. I enjoyed spending the afternoon creating the virtual classroom and locker, and the evening writing this post. I hope my discoveries and links help to ignite your passion and decrease your stress just a bit.
Until next time,