Keep learning, keep teaching – Part 3: Educators detail COVID-19 adjustments

Chloe Burns
Chloe Burns

Like every student-teacher across the United States, Chloe Burns is working through a situation she never could have anticipated.

But that doesn’t mean she’s not making the most of a difficult road.

“eLearning is definitely not something I expected to encounter during my last semester at NIU and as a student-teacher. No one has expected something like COVID-19 to occur and keep us in our homes,” says Burns, a senior Special Education major from Roselle.

“It has been a challenging time for many and has already hurt people close to my heart. However, as I tell my students and family, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and there is always good within the bad,” she adds. “In regard to my student-teaching, it has turned out to be a great experience that I will never forget.”

Credit goes to her cooperating-teacher at DeKalb High School as they now teach and co-teach Intensive Algebra B, Inclusion Algebra B and Inclusion Humanities online.

“We work very hard as a team to make eLearning as great as it can be for our students. I am forever grateful for the people I work with because I get to learn from the best of the best,” Burns says.

“Allowing the students to just do what they can for the time being allows them to be in charge of their own learning and understand that we are on their side,” she adds. “Letting them know that we are all in this together has proven to keep them motivated and engaged in work.

Virtual teaching-and-learning provides teachers flexibility “with the timeline in which we present material. We provide extra review days and ways other than worksheets where they can show what they have learned.”

Quizizz is one of those online resource that offers “a fun way to assess our students – it is like an online review game,” along with student projects created on Google Slides and Flipgrid.

Google Meet, meanwhile, allows them to connect with students “to check in and see how they and their families are doing during this time.” It also facilitates collaboration with her DHS colleagues as they hold virtual meetings and plan for their Google Classroom-based instruction.

“My students love Google Meet and have shared with us that they appreciate the fact that we can walk them through problems they are confused on and say ‘hello’ to us. It is a great way to keep in contact and see their shining faces.”

Seeing the faces of teachers is a driving philosophy for Burns and her cooperating-teacher.

“When we teach a new algebra skill, like we are currently with factoring, it is best to do so when they can see the teacher going through the work,” she says, “so I prerecorded myself teaching the notes and will give them very minimal problems to do until we feel they are ready to move on to the next thing.”

Rachel Bicksler, an Elementary Education major from Dakota, Ill., is completing her student-teaching at Brooks Elementary School in DeKalb.

“With one day’s notice, we were to begin e-learning,” Bicksler says. “Our students were also not sent home with Chromebooks, so we have been working hard to provide access to learning for all our students. DeKalb has 1:1 technology in grades 3 through 12, so it was challenging for our young learners.”

Like Burns, she is finding the silver lining of student-teaching in the age of COVID-19.

Rachel Bicksler
Rachel Bicksler

“This eLearning experience has taught me how to utilize lots of different online resources and platforms to better the learning experience for my students,” she says.

“I have learned how to creatively engage and connect to my students through online activities. For example, one lesson was about the role of an architect. Students were able to then become an architect using items from around their house,” she adds. “This experience has also taught me how to collaborate with my team in order to make sure the activities we are providing to the students are engaging and meaningful routine at school.”

She and members of the Brooks first-grade team communicate through Google Meet to share plans for the week and to suggest good resources.

“This helps each teacher understand what tasks they need to put into the Google Slides for next week,” she says. “We are also creating videos for students to watch us model new learning, in areas such as writing, math and English language arts using Loom.”

They “push out a Google Slides presentation for our students to complete their daily activities” daily, with activities that include all curricular subjects and specials such as art and music.

“We also hold our ‘morning meetings’ through Flipgrid so that the students are able to see their teachers and their classmates. I worked really hard on setting this up so that all our students could access it, since many of our students miss seeing their friends every day,” Bicksler says.

“On the Google Slides, we also record audio directions for students, so that the parents do not have to read all the directions on the slides,” she adds. “This makes it easier for students to be able to complete the activities independently.”

Click on the image above to watch Rachel Bicksler’s video!
Click on the image above to access Rachel Bicksler’s online lesson!

Harnessing technology to promote continued learning during the coronavirus pandemic is not limited to student-teachers and alumni in education.

Staff and students at the Jerry L. Johns Literacy Clinic are using Facebook to reach students and their families at home with read-alouds hosted on YouTube.

Caitlin Nelson
Caitlin Nelson

Many of the posts link to videos created by websites such as Storyline Online or Grandma’s House, some featuring actors that include Mindy Sterling or Eric Close. Book titles include “Dragons Love Tacos,” “Grumpy Monkey,” “Pete the Cat: The Great Leprechaun Chase” and “Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book).”

However, one of the video stars is a familiar face to children who visit the Literacy Clinic: Watch NIU graduate assistant Caitlin Nelson reading “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

We want to know what our teacher-licensure students and educator-alums and are doing to “keep teaching.” Please complete our Educators in Action online form to tell us how you’re promoting eLearning with your students during the COVID-19 situation!

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