Technology In Practice : Adapting To A Remote Learning Environment

As the Technology Integrator at a Middle School, my responsibility includes student tech support. With a background in libraries, I also strive to help teachers incorporate technology into classrooms in a curated, intentional way that models our school’s commitment to digital citizenship. This role (as well as my presence in the centrally-located library) invites a daily flurry of questions from the whole community. 

Like most educators worldwide, our transition into remote learning was swift. With the sudden leap into online school, I quickly realized that my ability to troubleshoot, and field tech questions in person was one I had taken for granted. We’re fortunate to work in a 1-to-1 school, meaning each student went home with an iPad, or a Chromebook that they were familiar with. This also meant our entrance into a rigorous, remote learning environment was immediate. 

A daily reminder to myself was that learning, of course, was happening. But in reality, troubleshooting tech issues remotely was difficult, and constant. When we finally got into the swing of Zoom, other tech issues started – Chromebooks not powering on; iPads not charging. What I knew would have been a short conversation in person, or quick device swap was often a multiple-day email conversation that involved parents, and brainstorming how to get temporary fixes into quarantining homes. Teachers introducing tech without the easy capability to communicate with me resulted in students emailing about apps, or accounts I didn’t know were in use. Almost as frustrating was a lack of follow-up, or ability to know if my efforts had worked.

Nobody’s summer has been normal, but I can only assume that my first one as a Tech Integrator has been a different one. Almost immediately, I began an assessment of what I felt the big challenges were, and which ones were in my power to improve. What support systems could I help build to mitigate at least some of the issues we experienced?

What emerged was a 4-tiered plan, applicable to any learning environment (hybrid; remote; or in-person). It includes:

  1. Faculty work week sessions covering tips on using Google Classroom, and Zoom in a standardized, consistent way for our students
  2. The structuring of an intentional tech support workflow (for students, faculty, and parents)
  3. The construction, and introduction of a Libguide for teachers, featuring curated tech tools, examples of them in practice, and instructions in setting up accounts for both educators, and students
  4. 4 tech orientation sessions for all students, meant to reinforce ‘digital essentials’ such as Zoom norms, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and effective emailing

The day I wrote this blog post happened to be the day our school made the call to start the school year remotely. Meaning this plan will be put into action even more seriously than I envisioned. While the concept of rolling out a functioning remote educational system is challenging, I embrace my role in accomplishing it. And I am beyond grateful for these summer months to brainstorm, and build!

Manuela Aronofsky, Berkeley Carroll Middle School, Brooklyn, NY

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