Our world has changed drastically in the last week, but the learning goes on at Woodward. Over the coming weeks, we'll touch base with each of our schools to discuss how they are approaching remote learning. Today, we'll talk with Middle School innovation and technology specialist Bob Petitto and Upper School teaching and learning specialist Alex Bragg.
Beyond the Gate: Can you explain a little bit about what the Middle School is doing for remote learning?
Bob Petitto: The Middle School is putting the health and instruction of our students first. We developed a schedule that allows students to work at a steady pace and without overload. Following this schedule, teachers meet with half of their classes daily via Zoom for live instruction, check-ins, followups, and Q&A.
Alex Bragg: The Upper School is currently running an asynchronous remote learning model to allow for teacher and student flexibility with their classes and coursework. Teachers post their lesson plans each morning by 9 a.m., and students can work through their lessons and assignments at their own pace throughout the day. Teachers are holding live office hours using Zoom as well, and they communicate their available hours to their students. This allows students to have the ability to sign on during these live office hours to ask questions and receive personalized help from teachers. If a student cannot be available for a teacher's office hours, they can email the teacher and set up another time to hop on the Zoom call for personalized help.
BTG: What technology are you leveraging to create a good remote learning experience?
BP: For synchronous instruction, teachers are using Zoom on a daily basis. For asynchronous communication, teachers are using PowerSchool Learning, email, Google Drive, and Flipgrid. For assessment, teachers are leveraging platforms like Formative, Edpuzzle, Gimkit, Kahoot, Explain Everything, and PowerSchool Learning.
AB: PowerSchool Learning has been our primary tool to communicate our daily lesson plans and assignments to students. Some teachers are also leveraging Google Classroom to create meaningful assignments and assessments. This provides a seamless integration with a student's google drive for easy submission of assignments and organization. Screencastify is being widely used across the Upper School to screencast and record lectures, discussions, and more. Padlet and Flipgrid are two other popular tools that are being used to foster student collaboration and formative assessments. Prior to remote learning, each department had a variety of technology tools they used to create innovative and meaningful learning experiences for students, and our students are continuing to use these tools throughout our remote learning experience.
BTG: What primary challenges are you anticipating, and how are we working to proactively solve them?
BP: In one word—"bandwidth". Educational companies are experiencing heavy traffic on their platforms and has resulted in degraded performance. To mitigate issues connecting with teachers, I created an app that allows students to sign in, see their schedules, email their teachers, and join their Zoom meetings with a click of a button. It's proven to be very convenient!
AB: As you can imagine, certain technological tools have been overwhelmed the last few days as many schools around the country are also relying on these tools for learning. PowerSchool Learning has been our biggest challenge this week. The system has been overwhelmed, and it has caused frustration for teachers, students, and parents since it's our primary tool for daily communication during our remote learning plan. In the Upper School, I've worked with teachers to find alternative ways to communicate with students if they were unable to utilize PowerSchool. Teachers are leveraging email and Google Classroom to ensure students can view the daily lesson plan and receive communication for completing assignments if they are unable to access PowerSchool. Another challenge we are anticipating is with assessment. Should remote learning continue for a longer period of time than we originally thought, we will need to determine the best way to formally assess student learning. As a teacher, you cannot rely on traditional assessments in a remote school setting. Because of this, there is a pedagogical shift that has to occur in order to ensure we can assess learning in meaningful, innovative ways remotely. I am working proactively with the Upper School administration and department chairs to brainstorm this challenge and provide professional development to teachers regarding assessment tools that are available and the process for designing innovative, authentic assessments while we're in remote schooling.
BTG: In what ways do you think this could be a positive experience for students?
BP: Middle Schoolers are finding that they have to be more independent with how they are organizing their "school day" and managing their time to get their assigned tasks completed in an efficient manner. This independence will strengthen their executive functioning skills and prepare them in their future studies.
AB: This experience allows us to continue creatively using technology to enhance the learning experiences for our students. Our students have grown up in a world with technology, so this is an opportunity for us to reach them and help them learn with the tools they already love.
BTG: Any other info you think would be good to share.
BP: Despite the suddenness and severity of this situation, faculty and student body is handling it well. Teachers have voiced their appreciation for our leadership and how this season of remote learning has challenged them to be more innovative and creative in the way they deliver instruction and assess their students.