If ever there was a time to celebrate what teachers are doing in the classroom, it is this year, especially on the 10th anniversary of Digital Learning Day. On February 25th, thousands of teachers participated in the national event which provided an opportunity to collaborate with peers, share ideas and try new digital tools. The excitement of a day like this, reminds school leaders, teachers and the broader community that everyday should be a digital learning day, a day of integrating tools and apps for anytime and anywhere learning. In the midst of COVID-19, digital learning has become a lifeline for the continuity of learning.
Meeting the Challenges
It has been quite challenging for educators nationwide with schools being disrupted by the pandemic. Whether it was a frozen computer screen or assignments ‘not working’ for students or multitasking like never before, teachers have been overwhelmed. Did it seem like your enrollment and workload increased because you were teaching instructional technology to parents and caregivers, too? As teachers continue to work hard, here are some important tips to remember when dealing with challenges:
- Be flexible – just as teachers always have a ‘Plan B’ during a traditional school year, the same applies in this new virtual learning environment. Embrace change and find meaningful ways to be more efficient.
- Be brave – don’t be afraid to try new technology tools, especially when it comes to engaging, connecting, and communicating with students.
- Be mindful – be sure to take some time to take care of yourself. You are no good as an educator to your students if you are burnt out. Turn off the computer, leave the papers that need to be graded on your desk, and take time for self care.
Celebrate the Learning Curve
What teachers have done and learned in a single year, underscores the importance of innovation in schools, and is truly worth celebrating. Teachers have had to re-imagine classroom instruction in new and different ways. In Amelia County Public Schools, we had to quickly acclimate teachers to applications our district recommended for online learning. To jumpstart, our traditional in-person end-of-year teacher training went virtual. In conjunction with the training, we launched a Google Training Site to better equip teachers with the necessary tools for creating engaging and interactive learning for students, whether in the physical or virtual classroom. The tools included hot topic recordings, PDFs, tutorials and links. In addition to giving teachers a series of ‘how to’ videos, we also provided a “Virtual Survival Guide” offering advice on how to navigate virtual learning while maintaining a work/life balance.
Teachers have experienced an amazing learning curve. Forty-six of our elementary teachers were introduced to Google Classroom and Hapara for the first time. Many teachers selected to learn or take a refresher course on ClassFlow, allowing them to push the resources of Promethean’s ActiveInspire to student devices. Everyone was strongly encouraged to learn how to navigate the state’s top platforms for digital media resources, eMediaVA, Virtual Virginia and GoOpenVa.
Mastering Video and Web Conferencing Tools
We saw the need and added value of using videos for instruction and purchased a district license for Screencastify. Recent reports show Amelia teachers have recorded 7,858 videos to date. Training teachers how to create their own instructional videos and learning best practices for content delivery over Google Meet web conferencing tool were priorities for lesson planning and student engagement. The success of Screencastify led us to making the application available for students. Everyone, teachers and students alike, had to complete the online certification before use. Way to go!
How We Celebrated
Hats off to teachers everywhere for their incredible wherewithal this year! Each year, teachers, districts and classrooms register on the national site map to share their Digital Learning Day activities with educators from around the country, and world.
Amelia’s Digital Learning Day began with a Thank You to all 125 classroom teachers and included the announcement of the 2021 Southern Virginia Regional Technology Consortium (SVRTC) winners, which highlighted our district’s technology leaders. A special video message from our superintendent applauded teachers for their enhanced technology skills, collaborative efforts, amazing levels of creativity and the all important problem-solving skills they have used in meeting the instructional challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Teachers registered their activities on a Digital Learning Google Form, shared in the school buildings, to create opportunities for classroom visitation by colleagues and administrators. Many of the activities, tools and strategies have helped transform our division from in-person instruction to hybrid and virtual learning environments. The learning experiences not only inspired teachers but connected them to ways to use different applications and to other teachers they can reach out to for help.
We photographed and videotaped the activities and posted them on our website, online newsletter, Twitter and Facebook. We submitted an article with photos to the local newspaper to tell our community how we are teaching and learning in the era of COVID-19. The technology leaders will receive a plaque from SVRTC, however, our district provided complimentary registrations for each winner to attend EdTechRVA, the regional professional development conference. All participating teachers received recertification points, and this year, a “Happy Digital Learning Day” cake for everyone.
Celebrating learning digitally, this year, included everyone for their varying levels of professional growth. Digital Learning Day 2021 will be remembered for the technology leaders we have become.
Sylvia has been an ITRT for 18 years, working the past five years in Amelia County. The career switcher came to education 24 years ago, after a career in the publishing industry, and loves teaching and learning with technology. She has a B.S. in Mass Communications and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from VCU, with a focus in Online Instruction.
Patrice has been a classroom teacher for 9 years with the past five years in Amelia County. She is also a career switcher with experience in law & finance, loves to use technology in the classroom, and is not afraid to try new tools and apps. She has a B.S. from James Madison University and a Master’s from VCU. She is currently pursuing a degree in Educational Leadership from VCU.