Southdown Primary School has moved full speed into the world distance learning on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of school buildings.
Southdown teachers Valerie Murray and Theresa Duffy are playing lead roles in the transition to the new mode of instruction and interaction as the technology mentors at the school.
“It is our role to help support teachers using new technology tools,” Ms. Murray said. “Throughout the school year we offer various professional development opportunities for teachers. We have so many amazing technology tools in Huntington UFSD for teachers to use with their students.”
Ms. Murray and Ms. Duffy have been working long days to assist their faculty colleagues and to help smooth the transition to a new way of instruction and learning for students.
“Since we began distance learning, technology has become a priority for both teachers, students and parents,” Ms. Murray said. “As the school’s technology mentors, we teamed up together and started providing training to the staff as a whole as well as on an individual basis.”
Southdown Principal Scott Oshrin is working closely with the technology mentors as well as with teachers, support staff, parents and students to help keep the school moving forward.
“Our teachers have been remarkably dedicated to learning new technologies to support their students,” Mr. Oshrin said. “They have gone above and beyond to support parents and students throughout this process. They always step up in every possible way and make me proud to be their principal.”
Southdown’s students are also stepping up and interacting with their teachers, completing their assignments, participating in live online sessions and doing their overall best during a very trying time for the country and world.
“With the support of our principal, we sent out a Google form asking teachers what areas of support they needed,” Ms. Duffy said. “We wanted to make this learning experience for students at home to be the most interactive and engaging as it could be. We created ‘Tech at 2’ for our building, which allowed us to create a virtual learning experience for teachers to join a video conference call. In each ‘Tech at 2’ session we focus on a different tool for teachers. All of the tools that we focus on highlight student engagement and promote student voice. As tech mentors we walk through the tool by sharing out our screen and answering any specific questions teachers may have.”
The tech mentors have also worked to created short tutorial videos and “cheat sheets” for teachers, students and parents to walk them through as they begin using a new tool. “We found this to be best to ensure all the students know how to use the tool independently at home to elevate their learning experience,” Ms. Duffy said. “These videos and cheat sheets can be posted in teachers virtual classrooms so all families have access to use them to help ease the transition to digital learning.”
Among the technology tools discussed during the “Tech at 2” sessions have been Google Classroom, Nearpod, Flipgrid, Buncee, Kami and Google Meet, plus a variety of others.
Every teacher has designed a Google Classroom. The virtual classroom is a streamlined, easy-to-use tool that helps teachers post daily assignments and manage student work.
Nearpod is a student engagement platform that allows students to follow curriculum in an interactive way. Within Nearpod, a teacher can create interactive presentations that can contain quizzes, polls, videos, images, drawing-boards, web content, etc. “This technology tool is wonderful for any grade level and teachers can voice over the lessons so that way the students feel the connection to their teacher,” Ms. Murray said.
Flipgrid helps promote “student voice.” Teachers are able to create a grid to facilitate video discussions. “The grids are arranged like a message board where teachers can pose questions and students can create video responses,” Ms. Duffy explained. “This tool allows all students to interact and respond to their peers when they are not seeing each other in school.”
Buncee is another engaging tool that offers students the opportunity to be creative while sharing their knowledge on a topic. “Teachers can utilize this tool for students to be able to create their own writing journal. Students can also use this tool independently to promote their creativity,” Ms. Murray said.
Kami is a tool that allows for the annotation and marking-up of a PDF document. “Teachers are able to add voice recordings, text boxes and highlight information before sharing a document with each student,” Ms. Duffy said. “Students are able to highlight, underline and respond directly on a document without needing to print it.”
Google Meet is an interactive video conferencing tool built in through Google. “This tool allows teachers to take their virtual classrooms to the next level,” Ms. Murray said. “Students get to interact with both their teachers and classmates to continue building that connection at home.”
Ms. Duffy is a kindergarten teacher and Ms. Murray teaches second grade in addition to being Southdown’s technology mentors. The pair has been collaborating daily with Mr. Oshrin and their faculty colleagues.
“All of these technology tools are incredible and we are so fortunate to have them all available to our teachers and students here in Huntington,” Ms. Duffy said. “It is our goal to continue to support teachers, parents and students in this new learning experience.”
No one knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last or when schools reopen. In the meantime, Mr. Oshrin said that Southdown will continue doing everything it can to meet the needs of its students.
“This has truly been an incredible transition for Southdown and Huntington UFSD into the digital world of distance learning,” Ms. Murray said. “We are all in this together!”