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Teachers navigate remote teaching during closure

COLUMBIANA — Remote learning is a very new concept for K-12 students around the country, but with the continued growth of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it could be the new norm for a while.

While the process is new to the students, it’s just as new to the teachers, who have been tasked with providing work in new, creative ways. As communication and connection have been top priorities, technology will be a key factor to the success of remote learning.

Columbiana High School English teacher Holly Ferguson has adapted well to the changes, as she has posted lesson plans to a website where students can access the assignments. She takes attendance by making sure each student has responded to a question or has turned in a document each day.

The teachers also have a shared document that includes a brief synopsis of each day’s lesson plan and students that were absent the prior day.

“We’re kind of operating on a day before, day of and day after schedule,” Ferguson said. “Throughout the day I’m answering emails and questions, grading tests and prepping for the next day. So basically, I’m working the night to prepare for the next day, and the next day I’m working on the lesson plan from the previous day.”

According to Ferguson, remote learning has provided a difficult challenge of answering questions from students throughout all hours of the day. However, for her classes in particular, the transition to technology has been smooth.

Ferguson said that her classes are already well set up for remote learning, as she has utilized a website all year, so her students can see what is due the upcoming day and what is going on in class. She said it helps that Columbiana provides each student with a Chromebook device.

“So much of what I do is online, and that’s something I’ve always done in my career,” Ferguson said. “We’re really lucky at Columbiana that our kids are 1:1 at the high school. They are all issued a Chromebook from the school, which makes this process a lot easier for us than for a lot of other districts.”

While teachers are also encouraged to remain in communication with students through phone or video conference, Ferguson said she trying to set up times where the class can all join a video conference. But right now, teachers are trying to build on past lessons and use them to move into future instruction.

Ferguson said that she has been blown away by how her sophomore class has responded. After their in-class presentations were affected by the closing of schools, they completed the presentations by using Google Slides and audio voice-overs to complete the assignments.

“These were supposed to be in-class presentations with handouts and visual aids,” Ferguson said. “They made their projects digital by recording voice-overs, typing up documents and using videos and pictures. They did it all being removed from one another and being removed from me, and that was really incredible.”

While the adjustments haven’t been equally smooth for all teachers, there is an obvious learning curve to the technology. And Superintendent Don Mook shared with the school board that he is appreciative to all of the effort and sacrifices made by the teachers.

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