July has come to an end, and in August virtually all educators begin thinking about the coming school year as they develop lesson plans and prepare their classrooms. This school year in particular, there are many challenges facing teachers, not the least of which is a teacher shortage in many areas. Given these challenges, what can we do to make returning to the classroom easier?
How Administrators Can Support Teachers
Obviously, one of the best ways to better support teachers is to increase salaries wherever possible. When educators are not burdened with financial stress, they are better able to focus on the most important job they hold. But beyond allotting bigger salaries, administrators can demonstrate support by:
Providing teachers with the tools and technology they need in the classroom
Listening seriously to their ideas about how to improve education, safety, and the learning environment – and implementing any ideas you can
Ensuring they have a safe workplace
Saving teachers time by giving them a powerful learning management system that manages curriculum, instruction, assessment, and grading
How School IT Leaders Can Support Teachers
Most schools were already integrating more technology into the curriculum, but that certainly escalated during the height of the pandemic. IT leaders were responsible for making sure students had the equipment they needed, and for providing tech support for students, parents, and teachers throughout the school year.
For most districts, going into the new school year, the focus will shift toward ensuring that classrooms are ready for teachers and students. As more schools convert to smart classrooms, technology – and the experts who make sure the IT infrastructure stays up and running – become more crucial, to ensure the best possible educational experience. As SEL (social-emotional learning) becomes more prevalent in every school, IT leaders can play a much more important role.
How Parents Can Support Teachers
Aaron Cardwell, who was a teacher at Rocketship Public Schools and recently started a position as Assistant Principal at Success Academy Charter Schools, shared advice that went viral on Facebook about how parents of kindergarten and first-grade students can help, as their children begin the school year. He emphasized the focus on practical skills. Read his post here. Parents can also support teachers by:
Providing the requested supplies – and sending extra if possible
Filling out and returning all forms (a lot of this can now be done online through a parent portal)
Responding to and communicating with teachers when parental involvement is needed
Supporting their efforts in the classroom by ensuring that their children do their homework each day and come to school prepared to learn
Being active in the PTA and in the community, advocating for education equity and support
How the Community Can Support Teachers
There are so many ways the community can support teachers, including getting involved in the school board, attending school district meetings, advocating for the changes that teachers need, and voting “yes” on budget increases in those communities where voter approval is necessary for district funding. However, we know that teachers often spend far more each year on school supplies than their tax-deductible $250, so one thing we can all do to support teachers is to #clearthelist. This is a movement started on social media to help teachers obtain the supplies they need for their classrooms. Another organization, Donors Choose, connects communities and corporate donors with teachers who need project funding. It’s a great way to support education.
A well-educated society is the backbone of an economically strong, socially engaged country – and teachers are a pillar of that society. Our teachers have always been heroes but in most cases have gone unrecognized. The pandemic focused a spotlight on the education system and the value of the teacher versus the institution. It is our hope that everyone will support teachers more fervently going forward.
Since the spring of 2020, we have all come to know what online learning is. As a result of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and teaching organizations had to transfer their regular classes from traditional to virtual classrooms. To operate efficiently entirely online, the schools had to adjust all of their activities – not only the teaching and learning process, but also the handling of administrative activities, communication with parents, office hours, etc.
Before the pandemic, some of these activities had already been digitalized and automated due to SIS. Instruction, however, took place for the most part in traditional classrooms. The unexpected and immediate need to switch to online learning during the lockdown forced the teachers to use different and often incompatible tools to replicate their regular activities in an online format. After almost a year in this situation, the need for solutions that unite all face-to-face training elements in one online ecosystem has come to the fore.
Fortunately, such solutions already exist – for example, the integration of Lumen Touch (a comprehensive all-in-one school system) and VEDAMO (a virtual classroom for highly interactive real-time online teaching). The next step is to improve the methodology and practice of online instruction. The virtual classrooms’ students should not be passive receivers of information transmitted via video conferencing and shared screens. A productive and high-quality learning process requires students to be actively involved with their teacher and peers, albeit from a distance. A lesson in the virtual classroom lesson should not be like a TV show hosted by a teacher. Instead, it should provide an environment for teamwork, discussion, self-expression, sharing experiences, practicing new skills, etc. The personal contribution to the interaction is a prerequisite for increased motivation and engagement during online classes.
Here are five strategies that can make your virtual classroom teaching more engaging and effective:
Collaborative activities on the whiteboard:
Тhe virtual classroom session is not and should not be a video lecture. It happens in real time and affords opportunities for active participation and collaboration between the instructor and the participants. Advanced virtual classrooms are equipped with all of the tools needed to apply collaborative learning. This pedagogical approach involves a group of students who work together to achieve a common goal, exchange views, or solve problems. In this type of interaction, the instructor’s role changes significantly – the instructor is not a lecturer but, rather, a moderator and counselor. It is a great way to turn the interaction into a partnership and encourage cooperation in skills development.
The online whiteboard in the virtual classroom is the perfect tool to engage students in collaborative activities. By using the tools for drawing, writing, editing, and presenting content on the online whiteboard, students can work together on many joint activities, such as:
Creating mind maps
Playing or creating educational games
Working on a joint presentation
Discussing and analyzing case studies and much more.
Small-group activities in breakout rooms
Small-group activities are a great way to take students out of stressful large-group discussions, which often do not allow each student to participate, reflect on the learning material, and practice the new skills and knowledge. Working in smaller groups creates a more informal and relaxed atmosphere. The instructor’s role is to carefully plan and facilitate the interaction in the smaller group so that each student contributes equally towards achieving the learning outcomes.
The virtual classroom allows the instructor to separate students into breakout rooms and assign small-group activities. Breakout rooms are a separate workspace where students cannot hear or see those outside the group.
For example, suppose the virtual classroom instructor works with a large group of 20 students. In this case, the instructor can divide them into five groups of 4 students, distribute them into separate breakout rooms, and assign each group a specific task for a particular time limit. After completing their assignments, each small group can choose a presenter and report their results back to the whole class. This approach boosts student creativity, communication skills, and teamwork.
Flipped classroom approach
The typical scenario in the traditional classroom is that the teacher presents the lesson during class and assigns practical activities for homework. The flipped classroom has the exact opposite logic. The students prepare for the new lesson on their own by using different types of resources created or selected by the teacher – video lectures, presentations, articles, etc. During class, the focus is on practice and discussions under the teacher’s guidance. This approach stimulates more in-depth learning and skill building. This method’s practical application depends on the quality of the materials for self-preparation and the students’ motivation to work independently and prepare for the class. The instructor can trigger the students’ motivation by giving them a particular problem to solve that is related to the new study material.
The flipped classroom method can be successfully applied to online learning, especially when using a Learning Management System (LMS) with a video conferencing virtual classroom. The instructor can upload the materials for self-preparation on the LMS and assign a quick quiz for reading comprehension that students should complete before the virtual classroom session. During the real-time virtual classroom session, the instructor can engage the students in practical activities and discussions. In this way, the students will use the virtual classroom time to build on their skills by applying the new knowledge acquired independently.
When the focus in class is on the instructor and the presented content, students usually remain passive and have little opportunity for collaboration. Student-led activities place the student at the center of the interaction. They aim to engage students in the material by giving them a leading role in the learning process. The students become the teachers – thus, they take ownership of the classroom interaction. In this way, learning becomes more meaningful and collaborative.
The virtual classroom provides the perfect environment for student-led learning. The instructor can easily create opportunities for both independent and collaborative learning. For example, the teacher can assign some of the students to make a presentation, demonstration, or a project on a specific topic. Each student will prepare in advance using available resources and guidance. During the virtual classroom session, the students and the teacher will shift their roles. The students can present part of the new lesson and engage their classmates in games, exercises, or discussions. This approach promotes peer-to-peer learning, improves the students’ presentational skills, and supports the long-term acquisition of new knowledge.
Gamification is often confused with educational games or game-based learning. Gamification is an approach that applies gaming principles and techniques to the learning process; examples of gamification include collecting points, prizes, badges, etc. Usually, teachers use gamification to solve problems they encounter in their classrooms, such as issues with behavior, concentration, motivation, active participation, etc.
Gamification in the virtual classroom boosts the students’ motivation and helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses. How can the virtual classroom instructor apply it? Here are some ideas:
You can use the online whiteboard for weekly rankings. First, identify criteria and indicators to assess the students’ achievements during the week. Then, assign points to each indicator. Present the weekly ranking as a table on a separate whiteboard sheet. Finally, discuss the students’ progress at the end of the last virtual classroom session of the week.
When assigning individual work in breakout rooms, you can use an imaginary scenario and determine challenges for the students to overcome while completing their tasks.
You can award virtual badges for completing given tasks during the virtual classroom session. You can put images or graphic objects on the whiteboard next to the students’ work.
Gamification makes learning a fun and exciting process. It stimulates the students’ interest in mastering the new knowledge and developing skills.
With the right tools and functionalities, advanced virtual classrooms allow instructors to easily apply these strategies. They can provide significant added value to online learning by addressing student needs, individual characteristics, and preferences. Making students active and responsible participants in their own learning is one of the main factors that is taking virtual classroom instruction to the next level.
About the author:
Dr. Veronica Racheva is an education programme director at the VEDAMO company.
She is also managing various educational and social project at “Proznanie Foundation” Veronica has a PhD in Theory of Education from Sofia University. She also graduated from the Doctoral School at the Institute of Education, University of London and has a specialisation for a Virtual Teacher from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, Veronica is also a lecturer in E-learning at the Sofia University, trainer of teachers, researcher and author of scientific reports.
In the medical world, we have been giving a tremendous amount of praise and recognition to the doctors and nurses who have been combating the coronavirus. We are providing them with pandemic protection equipment, we are developing safety protocols, and we are paying them more to come into areas where additional help is needed.
Can we truly say we are doing the same for teachers and school staff or are we demanding they return to a work environment that will compromise their health? What are the challenges associated with going back to school? Here’s what teachers are asking about:
Many teachers are challenged with metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity; respiratory diseases, such as asthma; cardiovascular diseases, such as mild heart failure; and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. As well, some teachers are immunocompromised patients recovering from cancer treatment or organ transplants. Do these teachers get more robust protection equipment and special assignments to reduce their risk?
So, when we go into this new world of learning, we will still be in the fog as leadership is clearly lacking when it comes to providing direction that responds to these concerns, and decision makers have different vested interests. Moreover, we have compounded the medical crisis with a social enlightening, drawing attention to mutual equity and equal education.
Our teachers have always been heroes but in most cases have gone unrecognized.
This crisis has focused a spotlight on the education system and the value of the teacher versus the institution. And guess what? The spotlight is only going to get brighter as we move into a whole new dimension of learning and unmask the travesties of our existing school systems. And this is not the time to add additional technology to fix the crisis but rather to look at what schools are trying to deliver by way of learning and realizing that their technology is not suited for the crisis and the future.
Is it reasonable to consider online-only instruction for most students?
As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in 32 states, health experts predict that schools will not truly be able to return to some semblance of normal until May or June of 2021. Knowing that, we can begin now to address the challenges of maintaining a distance-learning environment. While there were a number of hiccups in getting started with distance learning last spring, most teachers were able to overcome the challenges – as were most students. With better support to infrastructure, addressing the inequity of Wi-Fi and device access, many students can continue with distance learning. By facilitating distance learning for as many students as possible, those who really cannot remain home, whether because of financial reasons or because of special needs that require in-person therapy and guidance, can have enough space within the school facilities to be accommodated.
Lumen Touch Is Here for You – Start with our No-Cost Audit
We don’t have all the answers, but we continuously monitor the learning space and add more capability to our platform, such as integrated video and computer-based interactivity, and Covid-19 monitoring and tracking with parent, teacher, and student portals to keep everyone informed every moment of their day.
We also have a seasoned audit team that will help you find means to pay for extra costs when your budgets are being cut. This audit is at NO COST to you and has saved some districts hundreds of thousands of dollars. Get in touch to learn more.
Look at any teacher’s social media posts and you’ll encounter an emotional journey:
Sadness from having to temporarily say goodbye to students
Frustration over having to quickly adapt lessons to an online environment
Fear for the safety and health of their students and colleagues
Desperation to get technology to function properly
Melancholy at the realization that students may not be returning to the classroom this year
Not every school district has cancelled classes for the year; some are reassessing every two weeks, but the likelihood of most students finishing the school year from home is high. But as Dr. Brad Johnson recently tweeted, “Schools, remember this is not the new normal. This is just surviving a crisis. You don’t build a new home in a storm, you weather the storm and then regroup once it’s over.”
When the Going Gets Tough, We’re Stronger Together
As difficult as this has been for educators and students alike, we’ve been heartened at seeing the incredible strength demonstrated by members of our education community as they come together and support each other. From sharing lesson ideas and supporting each other online to making sure school children are still fed a nutritious breakfast and lunch to sharing moments of humor to help us all get through, the education community has never been more committed to each other and to their students and parents. We’re hearing stories about school districts handing out laptops and hotspots to ensure every student has access to online learning, EdTech companies offering their services for free, and so many resources being provided to help families and schools cope.
Surviving the Stay-at-Home Order
Whether you’re a parent learning core curriculum for the first time so you can help your child with their studies or you’re a teacher who is repurposing assignments to adapt them for distance learning, you are not in this alone. We’ve rounded up some great resources to help.
Screen time. Parents, relax. As with everything, moderation is key, but according to a review of the research, the evidence linking screens to harm is, in reality, paper thin.
Adapting lessons. This guide can help teachers stay engaged with students and adjust lessons.
More resources.WeAreTeachers has put together an exhaustive list of resources for teachers and students.
Lumen Touch Is Here to Support You
The Bright SPED™ system will continue to support communication among staff and student teams, as well as the development of progress reports, IEP forms, and associated documentation. Bright SPED is a multi-user system, allowing your team to work together on an individual record at the same time. We are also adding a parent portal.
Bright Student™ has the same capabilities when used remotely as it does in the school. This empowers the school staff, students, and parents, providing them with the ability to interact with each other in a new learning environment that accommodates this emergency situation and perhaps creates a confidence that respects a different model for our future.
We are holding a variety of webinars to help. You can schedule here.
We will get through this. We are stronger together. Stay home, stay safe, and let us know how we can be of service to you.
In any industry, employee retention is both a challenge and a necessity. When we’re talking about the professionals who mold the minds of the future doctors, lawyers, and leaders of this country, retention becomes a mandate. And as with every industry, one way to improve teacher retention is to give them the tools they need – to teach more effectively, to be more impactful with special populations, and to grow professionally. Bright Path™ by Lumen Touch is a professional development program specifically designed for personalized teacher professional development.
What Is Bright Path?
Bright Path connects educators to dynamic learning opportunities with highly effective learning programs that help streamline professional development. By offering customizable courses and units of study to fit the learning needs of leaders, teachers, and support staff, professional development has never been so easy. As educator professional training and advancement through micro-credentialing gains momentum, Bright Path provides the sophisticated solution school administrators need to improve retention rates. Bright Path provides:
Just-in-time learning, anywhere, anytime
Proven best practices for instructors
One-stop shop for all members of the education community
Easily monitor learning progress of content
Streamline all professional development
Résumé builder, providing micro-credentialing through Master Teacher
Free, innovative global content
Teacher Retention and Attraction
Offering professional development opportunities not only helps you retain the teachers you hire but it also can be used to attract higher quality teachers to your district. Teaching is a difficult job, and most people who go into the profession do so because of their passion for education. Providing professional development opportunities makes teachers feel valued and supported in their desired vocation.
Improved Outcomes for Students
Teaching is not a static profession. There are always new things to learn, both in the subject matter being taught and in educational approaches. Providing professional development to teachers that deepens their subject knowledge and empowers them with the tools they need to better engage and instruct students has a measurable impact on student achievement.
The Benefits of Teacher Professional Development
When school leaders invest in teacher professional development, they end up with better teachers who stay longer and are more satisfied with their jobs. This, in turn, translates to a more well-educated student body, increased satisfaction with the school from the entire community, and many other positive outcomes. Bright Path is the place to start to improve teacher professional development opportunities. For more information, email us at email@example.com, call us at 816.880.0066, or visit www.lumentouch.com.
Today’s school population is complex and dynamic, especially when trying to facilitate and meet the specialized needs of students on 504s and IEPs. It’s not that the teacher can’t or won’t provide required accommodations; it’s often the process that hinders success: How do you make sure every teacher knows about a student’s accommodations without violating their HIPAA and FERPA rights? Without overtaxing SPED teachers, how do you make it easy for them to deliver the education that students need?
Give Teachers and Aides the Tools They Need
Most schools rely on forms-driven solutions for special
education. It’s all about IEP and 504 completion. But a form is not a student.
And a form is not a teacher. To make SPED work for the people involved – the
students, the teachers, the aides, the parents, and the CSE teams – schools and
districts need a solution that lets teachers take the time they spend working
on IEPs and use that time instead to work with students.
How Bright SPED™ Transforms Special Education
Bright SPED is designed to address the complexities and
changing dynamics of special education planning, development, and reporting. It
delivers powerful functionality through a data-driven infrastructure that does
not rely on forms processing, providing schools with a comprehensive,
timesaving, web-based tool for special education programs. This significant
difference is one of the aspects that allows Bright SPED to meet federal and state
compliance modifications in a timely way.
What Does Bright SPED™ Mean for Your School?
Bright SPED is designed for the user experience. Teachers
who work with students who have individualized needs can view or print IEPs
with the click of a button, so there so is never any requirement to dig through
a paper file to find out about accommodations or special curriculum goals. It
also guides teachers through the entire IEP process, including the
time-consuming process of developing annual goals. Bright SPED makes it easier
for teachers to build IEPs, communicate with parents and team members, and
For teachers, it means less frustration
and more time working directly with students. This in turn results in better
job satisfaction, less attrition, and more time to collaborate with other
For parents, it means easier
communication and the confidence in knowing that their child’s accommodations
are disseminated to every teacher and support professional who works with the
For the student, it means needs can be
met more confidentially and more effectively, so that the overall education
experience is more positive.
For school and district administrators,
compliance stops being a headache.
Teachers are taxed beyond their capacity in every way in today’s public schools. They are expected to meet not only a variety of educational mandates and goals but an extraordinary number of compliance-related demands – all while still creating engaging lesson plans, providing emotional support to students, and meeting their own continuing ed licensing requirements. Lumen Touch exists to make it easier for teachers to meet all of those demands without losing the joy in doing what they love: teaching students.
Schools that implement
Lumen Touch experience an average savings of 30% to 60%, which is realized from
the time of engagement. In addition, Lumen Touch eases the aggravation that may
result from negotiating with multiple vendors and removes the need for telecom
contracts, carriers, and fees.
If meeting EdTech mandates has overwhelmed your school and district, let Lumen Touch demonstrate how we can free you up to focus on what’s really important: educating students and creating the leaders of the future. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 816.880.0066, or visit www.lumentouch.com.