On March 13 , my Connecticut school district closed its doors for what we envisioned would be two weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We had little time to prepare (less than 24 hours), so my colleagues and I scrambled to grab what we thought we needed from our classrooms to teach online for at least two weeks. We now know we will be teaching online for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, and we also anticipate teaching online in some capacity during the 2020-2021 school year.
While many of my colleagues were nervous about taking on distance learning, I can honestly say I felt exactly the opposite. As a graduate of the Two Summers program, I was confident beginning distance learning with all I had learned. I only grabbed a few materials from my classroom, knowing I would be able to rely on the resources I had accumulated in my Google Drive and the extensive list of apps and programs I learned about through Two Summers. The Two Summers program also provided me with the skills needed to seek out and evaluate apps and programs for their worth and value. We studied a variety of learning theories that support the wise integration of technology in all grade levels and subject areas, helping me justify and advocate for certain technology choices with my colleagues and building and district administration.
While online learning has certainly presented its challenges, I am confident in my ability to deliver meaningful and engaging learning activities to my 6th grade Spanish students that allow them to continue to develop their collaborative and communicative language skills. And finally, not only did I graduate from Two Summers with concrete tools to use in my teaching, but I also met a group of dedicated, talented educators with whom I continue to collaborate.
The UConn Two Summers Educational Technology Program helped me become a better digital teacher for my elementary students. I learned new and creative ways to balance technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge while also exploring a variety of innovative digital tools to construct more authentic learning experiences for my students. During our spring semester coursework, I found myself further exploring these ideas in the form of interactive media and game design weaved with creative storytelling. We created valuable interactive games and technology that I could use in my own classroom to further enhance instruction.
Particularly in light of recent times, Two Summers helped better prepare me to make the switch to full online teaching. I feel comfortable in the place that I am after taking these courses and look forward to integrating my new learning experiences with my own teaching practice in the classroom as well.
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the world we live in. While there are some things that will fall through the cracks, one of those things should not be the education of our future. I found with the experience I received from the UConn Two Summers Program, I was uniquely positioned to deal with this unprecedented situation.
Many of my coworkers struggle to deal with online teaching, only sometimes figuring out how to use basic technologies. I can focus on the pedagogy and intelligently implementing technology as a vehicle for the learning—and not as a gimmick. I understand the extra steps that are involved in students learning how to use new technologies. It’s important we build that into our lesson planning, often posting how-to videos and practice assignments. We cannot expect students to learn the material in a relevant way if they are just learning how to use the tech. We also cannot think that these students are learning in a vacuum. These students are experiencing something absolutely new to not only them but their parents and relevant persons in their lives. This means keeping both your own and their schedules flexible. We are not in a standard classroom, so we cannot expect the same work product from them. That does not mean lowering standards but changing how we assess and giving opportunities to present content in multiple ways that suit multiple needs. Because of my experience at UConn, I understand how to balance the amount of work I’m assigning without overwhelming or confusing my students.
There is so much I have to thank Two Summers for. Feeling prepared for COVID is just one example.