March 2020. A month in which everything changed for educators across the world. School buildings shut down and education moved to a distance. “Distance learning” – or remote learning, online learning, pick your moniker – became the way to survive the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Educators found themselves in a state of emergency, facilitating teaching and learning in an unknown environment, and many lessons were learned. 

Following this time, we sat down with members of our iTeam, our integration experts, to review lessons learned during distance learning for this two-part series. 

Part I focuses on the experiences of Angel DeGrasse, Vartek’s Academic Technology Coordinator at All Saints Academy (ASA) in Florida. 

Question: In what ways did you feel prepared to support your teachers in the pivot to distance learning? 

Answer: At ASA, we had ongoing tech sessions throughout the year where we were supporting our teachers with technology integration and training, but we pivoted quickly to distance learning essentials for our campus in the spring. We focused on how to use Loom for virtual lessons, leveraging Google Classroom for content distribution, and how to facilitate live meetings via Google Meet. 

Question: How do you think this year’s experience looked from the perspective of different stakeholders?  Students? Parents? Teachers? 

Answer: For students, I think they had a broad range of experiences: some were able to thrive and some barely survived. But they all learned better time and resource management techniques. For parents, they were supportive. They had enough challenges and life changes that we wanted to get them the support they needed to help their students succeed at home. (Related: Check out tips for setting up your at-home learning space here). Teachers were the real heroes; they learned fast and stayed calm for their students. They didn’t skip a beat on lesson delivery, and they put in crazy hours to keep up and balance it all. 

Question: How did distance learning at the beginning of closures look different from the end of the school year? 

Answer: In the beginning, it was “Pandemic Pedagogy” – not the way we want to teach permanently and not necessarily aligned with best practices, but it was just what needed to be done to survive. Near the end, things became more routine, processes were improved, and we were looking forward to how some of the lessons learned could be useful when returning to the classroom – whether in person or virtually – this fall.  

Question: What do you wish you would have known or done differently?

Answer: We found that consistency was really important – setting specific guidelines, standards, and expectations. It was difficult when every class was different. I think we would have benefited from consistent structure for class setups, live meetings, and virtual lessons. 

In Part II of this series, we check in with Joey Legg, Classroom Technology Coach in Arkansas for his experience on distance learning in the spring. 

Don’t forget to check out the Vartek Podcast (hint: Angel covers this topic in Episode 2) on your favorite podcast streaming platform and on YouTube.