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 II focuses on the experiences of Joey Legg, Classroom Technology Coach at El Dorado School District in Arkansas. 

Question: How were you prepared going into the sudden pivot to distance learning? What tools or knowledge were you armed with?

Answer: This was a particular challenge for me, I started March 11th, and on March 13th I was in a meeting with principals and the superintendent talking about developing a plan for distance learning. I was familiar with Google Classroom, video conferencing programs, G-Suite, and online platform management.  I consider myself a lifelong learner, and follow blogs and YouTube channels regularly.  But the scope of this was staggering. Networking with the Vartek iTeam,  following YouTube channels (like Pocketful of Primary), and reading through the articles sent to me by my support network made all of the difference. 

Question: How do you think this year’s experience looked from the perspective of teachers and school leaders?

Answer: I think school leadership and teachers are resilient.  They proved that this year.  However, what I’ve heard and experienced is that how this was done was not sustainable.  This was a ER treatment to an emergency situation, when what we need going forward is a comprehensive treatment plan.  This spring served its purpose, it was hectic but the students still learned.  Unless a school district already had blended learning and some sort of Virtual Academy, I can’t see many people wanting to continue in the exact way they were.

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

Answer: There are a few things I would have done differently:

  • A very practical thing would have been to laser focus my training videos.  I did 10-20 minutes  videos for teachers.  Over the summer I revised the videos, but in a live document in a FAQ format with 1-3 minute videos that only answer one question. 
  • Focus on the students and parents. While it was important to be connected with my team, because of how new I was I had limited contact with my District’s Technology Council, Administrators, etc…  Now that I have that contact and the relationship and information that comes from that contact, I am more able to influence and be a part of comprehensive decisions that benefit our entire district.
  • Doing this in a rush is not good, I wish I would have been on the job long enough to have  contingency plans in place for this.

In Part I of this series, we sat down with Angel DeGrasse, Academic Technology Coordinator in Florida, for her experience on distance learning in the spring. 

Don’t forget to check out the Vartek Podcast (hint, this Joey speaks on this topic in Episode 3) on your favorite podcast streaming platform and on YouTube.