How teachers taught teachers in ramp-up to return of lessons

Mar 31, 2020

Monday marked the start of a new paradigm of teaching in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, as all schools remain closed to students and lessons are delivered largely electronically due to the coronavirus pandemic.
    To prepare teachers for the change, the district had just a couple of weeks to develop plans to be delivered electronically, or failing that, by hardcopy, and then many teachers had to learn a new way of conducting class. Amanda Adams is the personalized learning specialist for the district, who worked with teachers on gaining the new skills needed.
     “But we have a whole spectrum of teachers who integrate technology into their practices or not depending on the needs of their families, depending on their strengths and weaknesses, all kinds of things. And so with this new shift, we wanted to make sure that we provided our staff with as rich of a learning experience as possible,” Adams said. “So what we did was we had a very abbreviated two day schedule where we were offering webinars multiple times a day on essential skills.”
    Then, last week the district expanded that training with teacher webinars.
    “So we had over 260 sessions, nearly 50 presenters, and we utilize the skills of our amazing educators that we have. And all of the presenters were from within KPBSD. So they were all educators who this shift to remote learning wasn't a huge leap for them because they were already heavily using technology, for example, and many of their pieces could just be easily shifted over,” she said. “Those teachers offered their time and volunteered to offer sessions to their colleagues.”
    Adams said that after one full day in effect, she was pleased with the response to the new system.
    “I mean there are going to be bumps in the road because we have things to work out and it's such a new skill, but overwhelmingly receiving positive feedback both through Facebook feeds and through Twitter feeds as well as just people emailing back and forth,” she said. “And multiple, multiple people saying the same things and everybody it's just a learning process for everyone, and parents have been so supportive.”
    Adams said her own kids were anxious to get back to classes and see their teachers and friends, even if it was online. She said the systems allow teachers to give students many ways to interact and collaborate.
    “Collaboration will vary, of course, by age range, and what kinds of activities that they might have. But they also can use everything from shared Google Docs, you know, Google Apps for Education. They can contribute through things like a tool called Flipgrid, which is video discussion, where kids can respond back and forth to each other,” she said. “We have online discussion forums into what you might call a traditional format that you might have seen in any online class where you know, a discussion post is made and then we all reply in text. Then they're having online classes. And then within that you can break students into groups, for example, and they can work in different groups as well. So yes, lots of different ways.”
     She added that the classes are all recorded, and available for students who either missed or could not access a live lesson due to low bandwidth or other reasons.
    The governor has mandated students remain away from school until at least May 1, at which time the order closing schools may be reviewed.