The 2019-2020 school year is one for the books. This year had to be one of my most difficult years teaching Special Education at the secondary level. Not only did I have to teach mathematics for the first time in a co-taught setting, we had to also navigate a pandemic. With this said, I have learned so much this year and I have had many opportunities to grow and share what I know about technology and instruction to my colleagues, to teacher candidates at San Diego State, and to my online blog and Twitter community.
Over the past week as school and begun to end, I have taken time to reflect the entire year. My high and lows, accomplishments, failures, and the positions I put my students in with my teaching and case management. My goal is to provide some summarized bullet points of what I have learned in addition to outlining how we can prepare for this coming fall semester. Lastly, I will provide links to each one of my blog posts from the past year because they represent my own reflections and demonstrate some new insights I have learned on a variety of different topics. Check them out if you haven’t already!
What I Have Learned This Year – An Overview of my Reflections for the Year
- Classroom culture is everything; regardless of educational setting and grade level.
- Communication is elevated during online learning. Communication takes many forms. Video, email, written feedback, a rubric, face to face feedback etc., are all forms of feedback that take place online or in face to face instruction.
- Build your online instruction as if it is for a blended learning classroom. Blended learning sets the foundation for both in-person and online instruction.
- Students can be engaged in similar ways in online and in-person class settings if the edtech is used right.
- Student accountability is everything during online learning. Without accountability, not much learning takes place.
- Modeling using Screencastify or Loom have been life savers.
- IEP meetings online are easier to conduct because sharing your draft IEP screen with parents moves the process forward much quicker and efficiently.
- Pear Deck has been great for ELA and Math. I used Pear Deck this past year before COVID, but mastered it during COVID.
- Find 4 to 6 edtech tools outside of your learning management system. Get good at them and make them routine for your students because they will get at them.
- Always learn. Read articles, research, create a strong PLN, and think outside the box and be creative!
Preparing for Next Year
Next year will be one of the most challenging years we have ever had to face as educators. Many educators and historians say this is an unprecedented challenge, which may only compare to when the United States participated in World War I or II. Thus, we need all hands on deck to prepare for what’s to come. But, I know we can do this if we work together!
Preparing for next year should involve being prepared for teaching in an online and a blended learning instructional setting. Depending on your local conditions will determine whether you are teaching primarily online or in a hybrid blended learning environment where students attend one or two times a week to an in-person class session. Once you hear what type of model of instruction your district is going to utilize, there are a number of things you should consider that I am also considering in my preparations to teach this fall.
- Instructional design is the name of the game. In this environment, teachers must adapt to build high quality designed courses. Like it or not, we are content creators, and the quality of our content in terms of how it is rolled out on an instruction basis is going to be central to our success.
- Develop your course to always be online. Gone are the days of the course being offline. This means regardless if an opportunity presents itself for an in-person synchronous session, build your class so that this synchronous session can be online in either a synchronous or asynchronous format.
- Your learning management system will be your students major hub of interacting with the curriculum you have developed. In addition, it will be the central location your students will access all of the edtech tools you decide to implement in your class.
- Prepare for student driven asynchronous instruction. What this means is to develop asynchronous instruction that is predicated on student choice. I plan to use hyperslides and hyperdocs as student choice boards for students to direct their own learning but are concurrently making progress in the class.
- Use your edtech to collect data and make data driven decisions. Use your edtech to export student data to help drive your instructional decision making and provide individual and whole class feedback.
- Plan in advance. Once you know which direction your district is going to provide instruction, plan at least 1 to 2 months of asynchronous learning along with one to two days a week of synchronous instruction.
- Collaborate with those who are teaching the same content or grade level as you. This is where vertical and horizontal planning is key. Work with your colleagues within your grade level or content department to build the same or very similar asynchronous instruction with several embedded supports and differentiation mechanisms. Then, for the synchronous instruction sessions, you can differentiate in a very specific manner based on your students needs.
- Focus on the 6C’s for your curriculum. Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Character, Citizenship, and Communication are all vital skills to teach our students in this ever fluid world we live in today.
- Be prepared for your school shutting down and moving online for a few weeks or as long as a month. So far, in South Korea and Israel, schools have reopened and closed down. It is inevitable that some schools will have to close.
- Buy or create a plastic face shield. A face shield in addition to a mask will be the norm.
- Get ready for possible schedules that look like this.
Below are the major blog posts I have posted this school year. They all capture my reflections as well as what I have learned this school year. Take a look if you are interested in any of these topics!
With the 2019-2020 school year completed, it’s time to prepare this summer for what’s next to come. However, I will be definitely taking some time to relax and rejuvenate the best I can so I can be at my best once we begin in August. Over the course of the summer, I plan on writing extensively on how to prepare and how to develop your blended learning classrooms for when the doors of our schools open. I am excited to share some of my thoughts with you.
Comment below or provide some of your own reflections on Twitter. I look forward to hearing what you have to say because some of your reflections may be what I am looking for as I begin thinking about next year.