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Mathematics Teacher’s Diary: Quarantine, Part II : Educational Technology

Ahh, the good old days when I thought it was more temporary. Looking back at my previous post on quarantine teaching how young I was! How little I knew!

There is no denying that some things are really thriving in this new environment. Others don’t. At this point, it’s basically daisy-petal picking. Here are my takeaways from our second month at home:

  1. I love it: My colleagues have great ideas. We have a newly created Slack channel where we work together, and despite the oversaturation of the sourdough loaf photos, I get insight into my colleagues’ lesson choices that are really inspiring. A teacher shared her trick of activating her zoom waiting room so that she could take the students one by one to welcome them personally in class. It adds time, but who cares? The connection is paramount.
  2. I don’t love it: I am learning to design instructions interactively. My students’ reading comprehension mysteriously disappears when it comes to my homework. After the 17th submission of incomplete homework – and the 25th chorus of “Oh, I thought I could have done it” – I learned to make my instructions interactive in two ways.

    First I write my instructions on Google Forms, followed by multiple choice options like: A) I definitely understand the paragraph above! or B) You know, I didn’t understand these instructions at first, but then I stopped looking at my phone and actually focused and now I understand! (The students think it’s funny and I’ve seen improvements.)

    Second, I created drag-and-drop emoji checklists as a slide in my homework for the Google Slide Deck. The students said to me: “I love that.”

Emoji checklist

  1. I love it: I am in love with Flip grid. If students record their mathematical thinking with video, I can capture things that I would otherwise miss when I learn remotely. I can limit her videos to a blissfully short minute … and then (of course) a student only films three separate videos because “she wasn’t finished talking”. I kind of love that too. I kind of hate it too. It is a strange time.
  2. I don’t love it: I spend so much more time teaching. Don’t get me wrong: I love my job. I only wish I wouldn’t go back to the first year in the classroom, where I would pour my heart and soul and spend three hours working on a worksheet that would take my students nine bored minutes. I stopped committing this crime years ago, but now I’m back at the scene.
  3. I love it: I have to be more diligent in differentiating in both directions. I finally see my students as the individuals they are, not the lump sum that sits in front of me. Distance learning has increased the sense of individualism, and as a result, I tinker Couture Homework for certain students. It takes so much longer. But it’s so worth it.

School is almost over and I’m alternately grateful and sad. I had fantastic ideas where I drive to each student’s house and fling a lovingly prepared art and math package into their yards, drive away with the windows down, and blow up Bittersweet Symphony. And then I remember that it’s still raining in Portland and that I don’t really like this song.

I will never teach the same way again and know what I now know about what is possible with online learning. But most of the time I will never take for granted a student who wants a high five, a hug or a punch between classes. Who needs me to hold their books while they set up their backpack? or who throws a piece of paper and misses the trash. Anything palpable? I accept it.

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