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Educators and Teachers Connect via Technology During COVID Restrictions

Educators and Students Connect via Technology during COVID Restrictions 

After a year of COVID restrictions, long hours, juggling personal and work responsibilities, many teachers and instructors are reaching a breaking point. Teaching is one of the most stressful occupations in the U.S., tied only with nurses. The additional stress that teachers are reporting during the pandemic is worrying because it doesn’t affect only educators — it also affects students. In March 2020, when schools moved online, teachers across the U.S. had to completely reimagine their approach to education, often with no training or time to prepare. For many, it was a rough transition. Teachers say they have additional responsibilities now, such as sanitizing desks between classes, making sure children follow school safety protocols and keeping track of students who have had to quarantine.  “NPR, All Things Considered” https://www.npr.org/2021/04/19/988211478/we-need-to-be-nurtured-too-many-teachers-say-theyre-reaching-a-breaking-point   

However, technology seems to be the one element connecting teachers and students amid the crisis. While teachers are turning to live video streaming for online lessons, students are relying more & more on educational or academic platforms to complete their lessons. These are virtual programs whose function is to create virtual spaces to share information. It is intended for teachers and students. It is widely used in universities and schools, both face-to-face and online. This makes teaching much more instructive and entertaining. Some of the ways teachers are revamping the academic setting is by using or providing:  

Streamable lessons: For most educational institutions, the first decision was to adopt a live lesson streaming procedure. This allowed students to learn on a regular schedule and not lose any time of the semesters. Pre-recorded lessons also serve to allow students from different time zones to learn at their convenience. With video calling services such as Zoom; online lessons have become the most common measure adopted by educational institutions. 

Distance Learning Solutions: Teachers are also utilizing free online educational and training courses, or MOOCs. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses available for anyone to enroll. MOOCs provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale. e.g. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/resource/educational-materials/saving-southern-resident-killer-whales  Be it virtual learning, certification programs, or language learning apps; such software has taken a leap in their user numbers.  

Personalized Learning: The technology can also support personalized attention to students. Even during the new routine, kids can benefit from smart devices. Customized approaches offered by the learning solutions are nearly endless. Platforms such as the Florida Virtual School help teachers offer tailored academic and emotional support to the students’ needs. Such solutions work on a schoolwide scale. These programs offer individual models that instructors can use to mentor and provide independent learning to each.  

e.g. Marine Science I  https://www.flvs.net/flex/courses?source=vanity/courses#highschool/83   

Access to Resources: Though there are plenty of resources on the internet, the pandemic has shone a light on some brilliant and free options that were unpopular before. Apart from free and discounted ed-tech tools, the resources also include open digital libraries. These are offered free to students and teachers all over the world giving access to a new array of learning materials.  

e.g. https://campustechnology.com/articles/2020/03/16/free-and-discounted-ed-tech-tools-for-online-learning-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.aspx  

Improved Communications: Teachers have taken it upon themselves to establish a connection with their students. Many communicate daily, not only with students but also with their parents. Such actions by teachers allow them to set clear goals, backed by access to technology. The use of smart devices and means of communication has undeniably helped this. 

With personalized strategies, teachers can plan tasks to allow students to work at their own pace. They can offer choices of activities and encourage students to take initiatives based on their areas of interest. 

Renewed Focus on Inequities: This extensive reliance on remote learning has enlarged the existing socioeconomic disparities. Nineteen million Americans still lack access to the internet. And even more, people don’t have access to the necessary smart devices. Additionally, not all parents or guardians are able to offer technical assistance to prepare their children for online lessons adequately. 

Creative Teaching Methods: Along with a focus on activities, many teachers are offering education that matters in real-life scenarios. While many teachers use the lecture approach, others have been getting creative in imparting their lessons. This creativity is often combined with ed-tech. Technology has offered solutions in the form of simulators for learning purposes. 

“Janine Wing”, TechDay  https://techdayhq.com/community/articles/top-7-ways-technology-has-affected-teaching-during-pandemic  

Today, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, students and educators must adapt and prepare for a return to schools. School staff will need to support students in the transition back to the classroom, and at the same time manage their own transition and anxiety. Hopes that the 2021-22 year would mark a return to some sort of pre-pandemic normalcy have been dashed by the rise of the delta variant of the novel coronavirus, with covid-19 cases skyrocketing in some places and mask mandates either being imposed or hotly debated. 

There are many suggestions now for teachers returning to school from the US Department of Education such as the “Return to School Roadmap” to Support Students, Schools, Educators, and Communities in Preparing for the 2021-2022 School Year https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-releases-%E2%80%9Creturn-school-roadmap%E2%80%9D-support-students-schools-educators-and-communities-preparing-2021-2022-school-year   

Molly Dushay, science teacher at Trumbull High School in Trumbull, Connecticut says that her school district (Trumbull Public Schools) has coped by incorporating a hybrid (virtual and physical education) model into virtual or in person. They can do Zoom Field Trips with scientists, conservationists, and subject matter experts. Her hands-on labs pivoted into using at-home everyday materials for virtual students, while physical students used in-school resources. To appeal to student motivation, she declared Friday’s as Kahoot! or Jeopardy Labs days. Both virtual and physical students had the ability to interact with each other while also creating a strong learning environment with ease of mind during those difficult months. Due to the inability of participating in physical field trips, they watched documentaries such as Our Planet: Coastal Seas,Chasing Coral, and The Story of Water. Students used Canva to design creative wanted posters to warn the public of invasive species found in both the open ocean and along our coastal habitats. She says the field of science is continuously evolving with innovation and technology and as a science educator, the classroom can be just as innovative as the field is. Ms. Dushay says “In most cases there is no replacement for in-person interactions.” But she is eager to embrace a more hybrid-type approach to educational programming in the future“I see online resources as a way to extend learning past the time to keep them engaged in marine science and the community.” This Fall, students will return full-time in person. 

Maritime Technology teacher and Harbor Branch Ocean Engineer, Bill Baxley Conducted a summer Ocean STEM camp with students virtually. During this four-week program, the students learned to build a PVC boat designed to “heard” and pick up ping pong balls in the campus pool simulating an oil spill or collect plastic trash at sea. The robotic vessels were operated and controlled by the students using their cell phones from their homes while Mr. Baxley performed the physical tasks back at their physical school. Please see https://youtu.be/hGC3XkRKP3g For the technology discussion involved in model design and https://youtu.be/2Wp7caLdpYQ to see the prototypes in action. 

During the past 18 months, NAMEPA has engaged with partners, educators, students and industry and found opportunities to collaborate on projects to develop online educational programming on the marine environment including workforce development insight. The Planet and Ocean Discovery Series (PODS) have been developed as a completely virtual,  downloadable, environmentally-based learning series in an effort to reach a broader audience bringing Marine Science into the classroom. Check out our unit on Coast Habitats https://namepa.net/coastal-habitats-download/ . Visit our website for additional educational resources available for virtual use, downloadable and in hardcopy versions.  www.namepa.net/education .  

Ted Davis

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