photo by Jeswin Thomas via Unsplash

Teachers & Technology

November 20, 2021

by katie jones backer

Technology is continually evolving. And as you may have seen with your own children, there are all sorts of cool programs today that teachers can utilize to help with innovative lesson plans. Especially as we think back to when schools across the country transitioned to remote learning, early in the pandemic. 

“Obviously this last year was an opportunity to really look at how we’re connecting and how we’re reaching our students. Google Classroom has been around for a while, allowing for teachers to assign and collect work, but it became a necessity quick,” Shaundel Krumheuer, Senior High Technology Integration Specialist and Teacher-Librarian, explained. “When we shut down in March 2020, people were scrambling to get kids in Google Classroom.” Where you may have seen it used in an English class previously, it wasn’t common practice for say a Health or Art class. When schools closed, it became obvious just how immediately these tools would become vital. Shaundel shared, “we learned that it takes a lot of time to get kids set up” and to help parents and teachers learn along the way. While it may seem far in the past, now that we’re almost to 2022, it’s good to pause and remember what we’ve come through. Our kids are so darn resilient, aren’t they? And my goodness, have our teachers pivoted and had to deal with a lot… remote learning, masks, contact tracing, and block-scheduling just to name a few.

Shaundel reflected, “we have to remember so many of even our ‘younger teachers’ didn’t learn Google Classroom in college, or how to address something online.” And in a matter of days, if you remember back to that crazy March, teachers were leading classes without any background in teaching remotely. “Some of the smaller Montana schools’ teachers taught hybrid—in person and online. Teachers got creative and out of their comfort zones. Recording lessons, setting up Zoom and Google Meet meetings, and using all sorts of resources to reach students where they were.” Shaundel helped many new teachers through that season, hearing over and over, “It’s my first year of teaching.” She remarked, “can you imagine having that as your first test run?”

NO! I can honestly say. Even being an experienced teacher, teaching during the pandemic was challenging and taught me a lot. Having people like Shaundel, tech savvy District helpers, definitely eased the stress of leading classes in new ways. Including when secondary classes shifted to block scheduling, going into the 2020-'21 school year. Again, something that teachers (myself included!) have never been trained to do. Shaundel reiterated how different a two-hour versus an approximately 57-minute class is. You have to mix it up, and with that, many teachers have turned to technology. They’ve digitized assignments, found apps and games to help break up the longer periods, used interactive photo galleries, online textbooks, and/or primary source collections, as well as, found ways for students to stay caught up while at home on quarantine (or contact traced).

While we’ve found ourselves hopefully in a new rhythm moving forward, let’s keep in mind - and be grateful for - just how much we’ve overcome these last couple of years. When your kid comes home with that crazy, new “Escape Room” English project, or Quizlet practice exam in History, keep in mind that teacher is trying to stay up with the ever-changing times, and is aiming to help your child succeed. While I’ll never tire of a good old pencil and paper type of lesson (I am a History teacher, after all!), I truly respect the many professionals who are learning on the fly and teaching our kids in these chaotic times.

Find out what innovative, digital resources your child’s teachers are using. I bet you’ll be surprised to find the surplus of great ideas and materials circulating across Billings and beyond. And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let those teachers know that you see and appreciate the hard work they’re putting in. As Shaundel said, we didn’t learn these things in college, so these teachers are putting in many late-night hours to prepare these lessons and activities. So, if your kid is raving about a fun, interactive PowerPoint, Kahoot, or Jamboard from class, let the teacher know! It will make their day!

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