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STVM Featured in Akron.com Article: "STVM adapting to remote learning"

Mar 26, 2020

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STVM adapting to remote learning 

March 26, 2020 
By Maria Lindsay

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Area schools are rapidly learning how to provide instruction to students remotely after Gov. Mike DeWine recently ordered all schools, including colleges and universities and schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, to close through April 3 in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
St. Vincent-St. Mary (STVM) High School Principal Kim Gorr acknowledged it was a “rapid process” to make the transition.

“I was concerned a few weeks ago and so we started to compile what we needed to do to put plans into place,” said. “We are fortunate we are a Google school and most teachers had Google Classrooms [and associated software] setups. We offered training on this to teachers March 12, after assessing teacher technology skill levels and dividing into three groups, to help them explore a variety of [instructional] platforms.”

Gorr stated they have designed the online school day to run similar to a regular school day and teachers are required to be available to students and parents at least one hour each day to address concerns. Tutors also are available online to help students.

Business and information technology teacher Susan Miller said STVM students all have Chromebooks, and technology support is available to those in need.
“For the last year and a half, we have been working to get our teachers Google-certified and comfortable using all the tools,” she added. “Our teachers are well versed in the tools available that will work best for them and their subject material.

“Online education can often feel flat and lacking due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, she added. “Many teachers are hosting live, interactive lessons so students can still ask their questions in real time and have that connection. Our goal is that students will know we’re still there for them.”

School officials noted there are varying demands in different subject areas for online learning.

History teacher Anthony Boarman said he is making trips twice a week to create video lessons, so far involving the Charles Goodyear statue in Downtown Akron and the former B.F. Goodrich campus, and also doing live instructions, all through G Suite by Google and Google Meet.

“We can’t expect to go through the same amount of content as if students were in class, but we are focused on keeping them engaged, on track and in a routine to maintain learning discipline,” he added.

Biology and physics teacher Coen Cobb said he is creating online prerecorded lectures, having students take notes and submit them, and doing online worksheets and quizzes. The next day, he hosts office hours that students can elect to join to ask questions. He is also providing simulated lab experiences online.

“It has been astounding and heart-warming to witness school communities coming together to do the best that we can to educate our students,” he said. “Not only have fellow educators around the country been sharing materials and methods for this abrupt switch to online learning, but many educational and teaching companies are allowing teachers to access all of their products for free.”
Math teacher Angela Sanor said students are making “seamless transitions” to remote learning. She is using Zoom for her classes, and video chats are available for students who need extra help. Her lessons included COVID-19 graphs and discussions about them, and having students take their temperatures and submitting data online to determine whether or not the average body temperature is really 98.6 degrees F.

“It’s a great activity to get them to think and interact and it is especially important that they understand the graphs they are seeing in the news … and to widen their world,” said Sanor. “Also, the students enjoy the interactive video sessions as they get to see their friends and not feel so isolated.”

Gorr said teachers and staff members are continuing to adapt to the new learning pattern, and new policies are being created to address various issues, such as absences. Teachers are testing and assessing students on the course work provided. She added staff can remotely control students’ computers to lock them during testing and prevent them from opening another screen to access answers, and they are using more projects to assess whether students understand the course work.

“This [online learning] also made us realize how important personal relationships are in the process of education, and so we are making an extra effort to build and maintain our family community to create a sense of togetherness while maintaining social distance,” she said.

She also noted teachers are sharing “uplifting messages” with students to encourage them, and administrators are emailing parents regularly to keep lines of communication open.

“These plans are in place for the next three weeks [through April 3] to ensure there is a very little gap in learning,” she said. “My hope is that we will not go through the rest of the school year like this, but we are prepared for it … by staying fluid and maintaining communications digitally with staff and parents.”