But, I didn't blog and recap, so here I am on July 17th, 2020, trying to think forward to this next school year by reflecting on what I did this spring. It was a practice run. There was a lot of stress trying to figure out the best technology to use. Trying to figure out a lot of things. We have been out of school for 1 month today. Time is warped. Sometimes it feels like a long time ago. Sometimes it feels like we just finished. I do know the start of the school year will come fast and I am not prepared yet.
I was happy with the way our school did remote learning this spring. We had a regular schedule and met for Zoom classes. We met 3 classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and 2 different classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays was open for prep, extra help, etc. Our daily schedule was one zoom class at 9 -9:45, then 9:45-10:30, a little break (much needed), then 10:45-11:30. As teachers, we only had to be on Zoom for a max of 60 minutes, so we did not need to be on for all of these 45 minute intervals. Sometimes I was, sometimes I wasn't. Depended on what had to get done in zoom.
I spent some time finding the right way to teach my lessons. This also depended on the content. I ran to Walmart right at the start and bought a piece of plexiglass (you can't find it now) and a light strip and built a light box so I could stand at it like a whiteboard and teach. I really liked it. I wrote out a script of the lesson with problems on 2ft x 2ft whiteboards I took home from my class. I recorded on Loom. It went smoothly for 3 complete videos and then I couldn't save in Loom and that started my spiral down the rabbit hole to look at other ways. It was just an issue with Loom that day and I should have stuck with it and may return to it for my fall videos. But, it led me to Screencastify. I use a lot of Google Slides in my class, so I updated the ones I had or made brand new ones and then used Screencastify to talk over the slides for my lessons. I kept my face in a little circle on the screen. The kids could listen, fast-forward, rewind, whatever they needed to do. I think this worked well.
Within the live Zoom class, I started by holding up a little whiteboard with the agenda. I always had the day and date on the top because we were really losing track of time then. I can't believe I actually wrote March, April, May, and June dates. I used google classroom for students to check their homework answers and upload their homework. Within their homework, I encouraged them to circle wrong steps or put question marks or even write my questions. A few did this and I loved it because I finally got feedback. I could take this to the zoom class and comment on it. Then, we would usually do a few problems. I found Classkick worked well for this and I hope to continue. I would put about 4 problems in and give them the code. They would work as I can watch them live writing. If I see a mistake, I am on zoom so I can call Sarah back to problem 3 and I can write on her screen and she can see what I am doing. It worked well for us.
Of course, I used Desmos. That worked wonderfully in Zoom. Sometimes the whole class stayed together in Zoom and worked on it, or I put them in breakout rooms so they could discuss and try to figure it out. I would open the desmos teacher dashboard on my home computer so I could see their progress.
As far as assessments, it was tricky, trying to find the best way. I tried Edulastic and it was good some of the time. I would still have to spend an hour or 2 per class regrading it because a student might say the answer is 3.4 instead of 3.5 and I have to overwrite and accept that. There is some space for students to write out their work, but most didn't use it. So, it became about getting the correct answer and not really about the process. I switched to typing up a shorter test in google docs (yes, a pain for math equations). But, I did like this because then I could open Google Classroom on my laptop and use a stylus to circle and write right on their tests.
One thing about this is the scanning in. If they have an iphone, they can use notes to take a picture of all 3 pages and save as one scan. That is an important piece, trying to get it as 1 scan instead of 3 because when you have to open it in Google Classroom, there are 6 actions there instead of 2, per student.
I did do student checkins. Sometimes, I asked right at the beginning to share something they are doing, or near summer, to share something they are looking forward to in the summer (most wanted to see friends). Sometimes I built the check in to a ClassKick or Desmos slide just for me to see and comment on.
I had them do surveys at the end. Here are some results. (I teach Alg 1, Geo, and Alg 2)
I was blessed with small classes this year for some weird reason but it worked out better for remote learning. I had 83 students. 59 answered my surveys:
1.) When we were in school, what was a favorite memory you have from math class?
Most wrote about my review games. I had my Alg 1 and Geometry students make shrinky dinks. A lot of them remembered that.
2.) Now, switching to our remote learning class, did you like Google Classroom?
1/59 did not like Google classroom
3.) Explain what you did or did not like about Google Classroom.
Most kids liked the organization. We were out of the classroom for 10 weeks, so I made a week a topic. Topic: Week 1. Under each week, we met twice, so I called those 1A and 1B. I had google slides for each and homework for each and homework worked out solutions for each.
I think the 1 person who said they didn't like GC said they didn't like how a lot of the later assignments were there. Maybe it was overwhelming for them. I get that. I did use the due dates. If something was due on Wednesday before Zoom class and a student did it after that time, I got an email notification that they submitted this. I really appreciated this because I didn't have to go into each old assignment looking for new entries. GC told me and I could mark it down.
As far as putting other assignments in, I tried the scheduling piece, assign it for when that lesson needed it, but then I couldn't remember if I actually scheduled it, so I just put everything up as I made it.
4.) Did you like ClassKick practice in Zoom classes?
Most classes were 100% but 12 kids did not care for it.
5.) When asked to explain their answer to 4 on Classkick:
It was hard to do work online (they could do it on paper and just write answer).
Hard to upload answers
Sometimes Glitchy (yes, they acknowledge a time when they were trying to keep up with demand.)
A bit stressful because I didn't feel I was keeping up with the other kids (happens in real time class too).
It was tough having to solve them early in the morning.
It felt like the teacher was looking over my shoulder (good, I am trying to, just like I would in class)
But most kids liked that I could see their work and give them feedback.
6.) Did you like Edulastic for assessments?
18/59 did not care for it.
7.) Comment on Edulastic
Some said having the timer was stressful. (It just keeps track of time, but is not timed per se)
Hard to graph in (agree)
Hard to navigate different boxes for multi step problems (agree)
Kids wrote they prefer paper and pencil.
First grades were really low until teacher regraded it.
Student response: "It actually wasn't that bad, and it worked well, but every time I got my results before ms. Fairbanks checked it I had a heart attack." (I hate that feeling too)
8.) Asked about taking paper and pencil test and uploading it:
7/59 did not care for this. I think a lot more kids liked this because I used Edulastic first and they didn't really like it, making them realize they liked paper and pencil tests better.
9.) Did you use my full calendar with all the links? (Note: I used Google Classroom and went week by week, but I also arranged it differently for myself in a table format that was a calendar with all the links posted. I used that and figured I would share it with the students who might prefer that visual instead of the list type in GC).
49/59 did use it in someway. I really like it and am glad they used it.
10.) Was having full, worked out solutions helpful to you?
Almost everyone said yes, 1 no in there.
With three preps and making everything new daily, I will admit I had mistakes on answer keys, but this promoted discussion.
**Next year, I will put 1 mistake on each homework answer key. I will tell them I am doing this. So, if they are straight out copying my work, they will not find the mistake and have it on their paper. If they do their work first and compare it to mine, they should be able to find it. If they do it this way and can't find my mistake, then they made the same one I did and will have to go over their own work. I am not doing this to trick the kids, but to make them think.
11.) With my Google Slide lessons, I posted the plain google slide and I posted my talking over them, teaching in it, using Screencastify. Kids could use either. I asked which they preferred.
12 preferred the plain Google Slide, 47 preferred the video lesson.
I will continue to post both.
12.) This was an interesting question with a mix of results:
Discuss the success of our Zoom class - was it enough teaching, asking questions, and doing practice problems for you?
For the most part the students appreciated the variety within the zoom and practice problems and the feedback.
If I needed help, I could ask.
It was a good balance.
13.) Did you have difficulty uploading homework and tests?
5 did. I will work on that.
14.) Did you check your answers and work before uploading?
2 did not. I am curious why not?
15.) What worked well for you?
"I think having shorter zoom classes and more independent learning with the homework really worked for me. I think doing the homework first and then going over it in class helped me to understand the content a little bit better. "
"For math, online learning, I'd say, went well! I never really had any major issues with technology. I enjoyed having class twice a week and I thought the homework we received was a perfect amount and it allowed me to continue to feel like I had some sort of "normal" schedule during this unusual time. "
"I liked the amount of homework we got. I felt that it was enough for me to understand the topic and it wasn't excessive." (I tried to keep homework to 6-10 problems per night)
"I loved the unit plan thing. All the links where there and I used that a lot more than I used classroom. I actually loved using the answer key to help me learn, I am a very visual learner so I did best when I saw the work and had to figure out what the steps are. I’m definitely carrying that knowledge with me next year."
"Google Classroom really helped me and the videos you made also helped me because it was very organized and you taught us everything that was needed and it was very clear. "
"The lessons where the teacher talked over were my favorite " (so cute)
16.) What did not work well for you?
"Overall, I very much enjoyed the math material we covered over these past two months. There was never really much I struggled with, except some minor technology issues! However, I really do miss school and I wish I could have had my lacrosse season. "
"I would have preferred if the review zooms were optional"
"Sometimes, it was hard to get feedback on our homework assignments/tests because Mrs.Fairbanks could not physically hand us the paper for us to see. "
"I struggled with keeping my attention in Zoom classes because I got really tired of staring at a computer screen for hours."
"Having the answers right away kind of let me check to see how you did it before I could solve it myself whenever I got stuck, so I didn't really push myself hard enough"
"In all my classes, it was hard to be motivated to do homework every day without coming to school. "
"Nothing really, if I found I was struggling I would go back to the videos/power points."
"I struggled with just not being in the classroom because i missed the interactions."
"I had trouble uploading multiple pages as one using the note scan for the first time, but now I think if I had to do it again I would be fine"
17.) (Kids were told classes would be pass/fail).
How did you feel about this course being Pass/Fail? Student responses: (It was a mix)
"I felt like this course was better Pass/Fail. It took a lot of the stress off of school, however I still put effort into learning and felt like I learned the material just as well."
"I was unhappy about it because math is one of my stronger subjects but pass/fail is helpful in other classes."
"With the class being Pass/Fail, I still felt motivated to learn the units and do the homework because I knew that I would probably need that information for future math classes. However, I felt very little motivation to study or do well on tests because I knew I would pass by getting a 60 or above."
"It was less stressful because I wasn't so worried about grades."
18.) Overall, did you like being an independent learner?
(out of 59 students:)
19.) Do you have any suggestions for me if we have to teach remotely in the future?
"Keep doing what you are doing Mrs.Fairbanks, it was a pleasure working for you this year in your class. I will never forget algebra 2!!" (So sweet!)
"Do more of the teaching in the classes (what we are doing now) because I know it made it more difficult for me to do the work outside of class when I knew I had to learn the lesson as well as do the work."
"Keep doing what you're doing for the most part. Maybe encourage students to learn to use their scanners/printers instead of submitting pictures from their phones. Also, using the google classroom app to submit pictures might be easier than transferring to computers then submitting for people who prefer that."
"maybe have check-ins with smaller groups? So if someone has trouble understanding a concept they won't have to disturb the entire class?"
"Maybe post additional practice on a skill that is not mandatory, but if people want extra help they could complete the practice."
"The zoom classes are really helpful because of the practice problems"
20.) Thank you for all your patience and efforts this Spring. I really appreciate it. Please tell me something you are looking forward to this summer.
"I am looking forward to focusing on different hobbies and projects I’ve always wanted to try instead of surviving in school :)"
I will hopefully get to see friends. a lot has been cancelled but I know some people and groups are really trying to find ways to still have events and things, like summer band, it likely wont happen but I'm hoping it will lead to opportunities to meet with people and keep playing music."
"I'm looking forward to spending time with my friends and family!" (Common answer)
"I'm looking forward to eating a lot of ice cream and having time to go outside to read instead of being on zooms all morning." (Me too)
Thanks for reading if you got this far. I needed to analyze it - look back so I can start looking forward. I wish our school would tell us we are going 100% remote to start. Not that I loved it. Zoom was exhausting. But, I really think it is the safest way to start.
Now, time to change my lessons over to virtual.