The number of Covid-19 cases are always changing in Norwich, Connecticut. For schools, like Norwich Free Academy, that means switching back and forth between all remote learning and in person learning is continuously changing. For teachers, this creates challenges in keeping students interested and focused during classes.
Although remote learning has been going on since March 2020, it still has its challenges for teachers. Sara Leisten, 10th grade science teacher, says online learning has impacted the activities she used to do in her class.
“In science in particular, we’re used to sharing equipment and we’re used to doing labs and working collaboratively, so finding ways to do that online is really difficult,” Leisten said.
Getting students to participate in class has also been a challenge.
“I use Edpuzzles but Edpuzzle can get old,” said Leisten. “We also have Peardeck, we’ve got Goformatives to mix it up. I try to mix it up with projects using Google Jamboard, and there’s many different things that I want to pull from everyday so that it doesn’t get boring.”
Activities like Edpuzzle, Goformatives, and Kahoot are used by a lot of teachers who are trying to mix up their lessons and keep students engaged during class. NFA culinary teacher, Laura Szczygiel, uses those activities but had to find a way to teach cooking labs via Google Meet.
“Our class is usually 80-90% hands-on learning, and so with taking a hands-on class and trying to make it digital, a lot of the students are missing out on kinesthetic learning where you are actually doing what we are telling you to do versus just hearing about it,” said Szczygiel.
Elective classes, like Szczygiel’s culinary courses, have become more difficult to teach. Because of the rising Covid cases in Norwich and the hybrid schedule, it’s hard to plan for projects.
“The hardest part is I’ve already bought the groceries for in-person learning and I’m told we’re going to be at home. But it just switches so instead of the students making it, I make the same thing they were going to make,” Szczygiel said.
Another way teachers are trying to make virtual classes more engaging is by using breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are a tool offered by Google Meet and the teacher can put students into separate rooms, usually to do group work. But some students tend to not talk to each
other in the breakout rooms. Tori Zinno, 10th grade English teacher, uses breakout rooms in her classes–but has found a way to get students to actually talk to each other.
“Breakout rooms are good, but still some students don’t feel comfortable with them,” said Zinno. “So I still use those but how I make those more ‘user friendly’ is I will create a document the day before we work in breakout rooms and I will allow students to sign up for groups.”
Even though online learning has made it more challenging to teach, these three teachers and many like them are pulling through.