It was almost as if this was the pre-planned ending to this Master’s Program! A student teaching experience in distance learning! Teachers often reflect back to their teaching programs and say that they didn’t really prepare us for the classroom. I cannot say that about this program!
In March, after schools were closed down, my department was unsure of where we were headed. We had our ideas, but we had to wait for the administration to give us the go. What we got instead was a lot of go… wait not yet… do this…hold off…how about this…but, wait! Then my “favorite” experience was when we were told, “You are going to teach Teams to the whole district on Wednesday.” It was Monday. I had just gotten back from spring break, a relaxing week at home working on my Master’s program. Now I was being thrown into a high-anxiety situation of teaching a tool that I was vaguely familiar with. I had two days to prepare!
Luckily, I was paired with a Librarian who was only slightly more familiar with the tool and we put together a great set of slides to teach Teams. We practiced the night before and it went perfectly. We each took sections that we were comfortable with and decided that when we weren’t directly teaching, we would ‘man’ the chat and help answer questions as they came. We were ready!
Since we had to get through a large majority of the district in one day, we had 8 sections being taught (The first 4 started every 1/2 hour). The earliest classes were completely full to capacity. 200 people on the call. I should mention here that I live in a rural area with cellular internet (It bounces of different farms to get to us) that seems to be weather controlled. We decided not to use our video so that we could save bandwidth.
We started our class at 9:00 am. (If you remember there are 600 people on Teams calls in our district by this time) Right away, people were complaining about lag in the slide show. Then they couldn’t hear us. We kept going. Then- I couldn’t seem to share the correct screen. Which became a huge frustration for me, because I had practiced and was able to the night before. What was I doing wrong?
Eventually, we decided that my partner would be the one to share the slide show and I would direct her to change the slides or show the videos. Our DLC Team made some incredible short videos to show how to access Teams. We thought that they did a great job explaining some of the parts of Teams that we didn’t have experience with. But the videos wouldn’t play correctly. The lag was excruciating. About 40 minutes into the presentation we had to make a decision. The teachers were very angry and didn’t mind letting us know how they felt in the chat. They were getting credit for this and we were wasting their time. Someone mentioned that there was a self-paced class and they would rather take that. The revolt had spread. I didn’t think I had the power too- but I said, “Ok, it looks like this isn’t working, should we call it?” By this time, we had lost 30 people, after I called it, another 50 or so decided to leave. Our call was reduced by 1/2. Then things started working! Not great- but the teachers were encouraging us to continue so we did!
After we finished the call, we did a de-brief and decided to drop the slide show. It was too difficult to show the slide then go to Teams and show the application in real-life. We brushed ourselves off and decided to try again!
The second call was AMAZING! We had about 90 people on the call and we were flying through the material. We were so excited about this experience and felt ready to take on another call! It was night and day! During the debrief, I shared how proud I was of my self because even though I was super flustered, I didn’t let the participants know. I felt like I could finally do this!
Our Team debriefed the experience of training everyone in a day, and decided that it might of not been the best way to do it! We were given a new direction. We were going to select a tool that we were pretty familiar with and that we would develop PD for the district. Ok! I could do that!
Throughout this program, I have been focusing on how to create effective and engaging professional development. At the building level teachers complain that it is usually sit and get. With distance-learning PD, I knew that it could be-just by the nature of the tool- sit and get. I developed my class with that in mind and focused on the 7 Characteristics of great Professional Development that I wrote about in my blog, Planning for Professional Development.
I decided to teach about Flipgrid. This is a wonderful tool that would really engage students and since it could be accessed through any type of device, I thought it would get the most use. I also decided to cap my class at 20!
I set up my class with engaging activities, asked them to share their thinking, showed them authentic examples of how you could use Flipgrid in their space, and gave them work-time to create their own grids to share with students. I loved having Music, Art, and PE teachers on the call! I loved what they were coming up with- Exercise Olympics, art shows, and music lessons.
I even set up a channel in Teams to house resources for the teachers. As they asked questions, I found answers and loaded them up to the channel. I shared Flipgrid updates with the teachers and I kept up with the changes so that I could adapt my class. I was making notes of what they wanted to learn and what could be next steps for learning and developed a Flipgrid 2.0 class.
My class was a HIT! I was teaching it twice a day, four days a week. My department asked me to raise the limit of my class. I agreed and raised it to a conservative 30. In addition to teaching this class, I was working with teachers 1:1 helping them solve problems, joining their Teams calls with students to help them with their issues. It felt great! I had redeemed my self from my first foray into distance learning. I became the district Flipgrid Guru! I felt like all of my work learning how to become a coach had come full circle! I’ve not overcome the issues of poor internet connections- but I have proven that I will do whatever I can to support the teachers and students of this district.
I just want to say that I could not have done this without the Digital Education Leadership Program! The support of my cohort, Liz, Bridget, Nat, Christine, Kelli, Helen, and Brittany has been incredible! The professors that I have gotten to work with and learn from has been amazing! Dr. Wicks, your encouragement and grace has been life changing! I am so proud of the work that I accomplished in this program and I wanted to say that I couldn’t have done it without you all!0