The Phoenix Union High School District (Phoenix, AZ) mission is “Preparing every student for success in college, career, and life.” To ensure focus on this mission, teachers and staff are trained and supported to meet student needs and celebrate accomplishments as they work to prepare and inspire their students. There are challenges including the impact of the pandemic on student learning and teacher practice. Boxlight-EOS Education, the professional development division of Boxlight, has established a strong relationship with PXU (in its ninth year) so when remote learning became necessary, EOS designed training and support to help teachers and staff.
Boxlight-EOS Education is now a Google for Education Service Partner with the Google Cloud Partner Advantage Program. What does this mean? This upgrade in designation means that Boxlight-EOS Education is recognized as a Google Cloud Partner with Education Partner Expertise, enabling Boxlight-EOS to offer customized professional development and support specific to Google Workspace for Education and Google Cloud functions. This also means that Boxlight-EOS can offer professional development to organizations outside of the United States.
Krista Walker, Professional Development Program Manager with Boxlight-EOS Education, recently spoke with Larry Jacobs from Equity and Access Pre K-12 (ace-ed.org) about how school closures and the move to remote or hybrid learning due to COVID-19 changed professional development and support. Walker has 25 years of experience in education, including working with education technology, promoting accessibility and inclusive practices, helping educators include social and emotional learning into classroom instruction, encouraging community engagement, and advancing 21st-century enrichment.
There is countless research that says an engaging learning environment supports student achievement and success. As a former classroom teacher, my favorite memories are of seeing my students totally into a project, hearing them talk with their classmates about what they were doing, and celebrating their successes when they understood a concept or completed a project they worked so hard on. A classroom should be a place for conversation and collaboration, combined with critical thinking and creativity.
Now more than ever, school and parent/family connection is integral when it comes to supporting students as everyone is working to maneuver learning in various environments and situations. In response to school closures and a move to remote learning, there were districts that provided training to help the adults at home understand how online learning platforms, software programs, and video conferencing tools would be used. Parents and caregivers needed to know the what, when, why, and how of educational technology and how to best support learning at home.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework that helps teachers create flexible learning environments that can accommodate students’ unique learning needs. Research shows that when teachers incorporate UDL, they are better able to meet the comprehensive needs of their students, including students with learning disabilities. The goal of UDL is to implement a variety of methods to engage students, represent information, and encourage students to actively participate and express themselves. Essentially, the application of UDL eliminates barriers to learning.
This last year has shown, more than any other, that educators need to be prepared for any eventuality that could occur. It is critical that teachers learn how to plan their lessons so that they can easily be modified depending on the situation, whether for the whole school, lasts a few days, or for one student.
Districts and schools across the country are making decisions about how to best utilize federal funding. Regardless of the programs, software, and technology professional development and training plays a critical part in acclimating educators and students to what’s “new” for best integration for teaching and learning.
We’re approaching the one-year mark of distance teaching and learning for most of our country’s schools. Last spring when schools closed, teachers had to quickly navigate new and unfamiliar technology so that they could maintain some degree of educational normalcy for their students. Many education-focused companies and organizations developed and facilitated a variety of teacher training courses that centered on software and platforms that districts invested in to deliver lessons to the millions of students now having to school remotely. Courses included learning the basic tools of GSuite for Education or Microsoft Office 365, creating and delivering lessons using specific software and applications (think Zoom), and maneuvering the complexity of all these apps, platforms, and software to deliver lessons that would engage students so that they would show up to live lessons when scheduled. Our nation’s teachers handled what they could (with blood, sweat, and tears) and came out of this unprecedented situation with more education technology knowledge than they had before this.