by Rich Wilson – Director of Technology – Francis Howell School District
School districts across the U.S. quickly shifted gears from in-person face-to-face learning to a remote learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We all became very familiar with new terms, such as social distancing, community spread, droplets, flattening the curve, and alternate methods of instruction (AMI). In addition, terms such as Zooming, Google Hangouts, e-learning, digital citizenship that are familiar to us, as technology leaders became common vernacular for our administrators, teachers, students, and families. Along with these new terms for our districts and communities came a quick learning curve around such digital tools.
In my district, we have a variety of subscriptions to software and online resources. Yet we did not universally utilize many of those resources we paid for or promoted. The reasons varied from lack of interest to learn, hesitancy or no desire to learn, and not having time to learn. Many in my district lamented the fact there was not time to learn, nor felt as though they needed to be trained first before using. As “tech people”, we have learned many of our skills by doing. I like to say, contrary to popular belief, I did not have a college course to learn Adobe Acrobat, Excel, or pick any software package. We have learned through our experiences by exploring and out of necessity to learn a system as part of our desire to learn more and our work responsibilities.
During our school closures, hundreds of our faculty and staff learned not only what Zoom was, but also how to use it. As we allowed Zoom and other resources, our teachers rose to the occasion with some guidance and learned in a very short period of time how to effectively use Zoom and other online resources. The need and desire of our teachers to serve and connect with their students and classes was the driving force. Most learned on the fly (with some instructional videos and guides) how to video conference with their students and classes to continue teaching and learning during the pandemic closure. One day during the closure, I was at a school for device and hotspot distribution. I listened in as a group of teachers, paras, and staff were trading Zoom tips and tricks. Most said they had “not ever heard of this Zoom thing just until a couple of weeks ago.” I was ecstatic to hear about their successes in learning and the collaboration around their new learning.
Through this experience, folks in my district and community have a deeper desire to learn more about technology and how it can be leveraged to enhance both teaching and learning. Moreover, with the increased level of implementing digital resources during AMI, I have witnessed a higher confidence level around learning new technology skills in our faculty and staff. No longer can we see technology as a tool to implement if one wants to, but many more see technology resources as an integral part of teaching and learning of our students. Through the years, we have preached this message. Now more members our districts and community are seeing this need and are more receptive than ever to the message. Now is our time to shine even brighter to further advance technology integration in our districts for the betterment of our staff and students.