To preface this, I am a parent and not an authority on online learning – I have one elementary and one middle school student in the Parsippany school district. I thought that people without children in the schools might be interested in how parents and students in Parsippany are using technology, as students work from home during this Covid-19 crisis.
Below is a screenshot from the Parsippany school district app on my phone. As you can see, it provides access to key areas such as school news and alerts, lunch menus and aftercare. The most widely used is Genesis Parent Access.
Genesis (shown below) is available online and through a downloaded application for parents’ phones and allows them to have access to information about their child(ren). The system does a number of things – it allows the district to have parents electronically sign forms (such as health forms or permission to use electronics in school). It provides the child’s schedule for the school day (and the year). It can provide real-time grades and report cards. It allows parents to notify the school of a child’s absence. And, it also allows teachers to put in upcoming assignments notifications (although this functionality is not always used, at least in K-8 – some teachers do more on paper normally, while others may use google classroom).
Google Classroom is a free online platform that not every teacher used pre-Coronavirus, but it seems to be used by all of my kids’ teachers currently. It can be accessed from any web-enabled device, whether it’s a phone, a laptop, chromebook, or a tablet. Teachers can create their own website allowing them to post assignments, informative videos, online quizzes and link to information such as online textbooks. Students are invited into the classroom, so the site is private and only for the intended students. Google also provides a forum where, for instance, a teacher may assign a news article for students to read and ask that students post their comments below the article, in an interactive manner.
Given the current situation of students working independently from home, students are able to post questions to their teachers in this “classroom” and can get answers from the teacher (or each other), which also allows the rest of the class to share or learn, as well.
In addition to Google Classroom, each student has a school email account accessible through google’s platform, and recently with the virus, some teachers are now holding live meetings/webinars – essentially they use Google classroom as a homepage/starting point from which they provide a daily itinerary of the day’s assignments, then provide links that help students navigate to a textbook, a web meeting, a video, etc.
Class Dojo is a free tool, generally accessed through an application downloaded onto a phone or other device. I’ve mostly seen it used in elementary school by teachers (not all use it). It provides virtual points for students making good choices throughout the day. In addition, it allows teachers to upload videos and share them with parents – so, during normal, in-person school I often get pictures or videos of my child having fun in gym class, participating in science experiments, etc.
With the new virtual learning environment, it is being used to create a community where parents share pictures of the child’s day and communicate with the teachers. For instance, last week, the teacher posted a picture of the lake she walked around, and other parents uploaded photos of their children biking or doing other gym-class type of at-home activities. In addition, students in our class were asked to create a cart out of household items as a math/science activity and test its run length – many of us took and shared pictures of the creations.
I’ve been impressed by how well my kids are adapting to being at home during this Coronavirus issue. My middle school daughter begins the school day by looking at Google classroom – she methodically goes through each class, following the teachers’ instructions and puts an alarm on her phone for specific calls or web conferences when needed. My third grader needs a bit more help, so we look together at Google classroom and see what the day’s activities are then I check in with her periodically, and do a final run-through with both kids towards the end of the day to ensure all the work is completed.