Teaching in an online environment

Dec. 4, 2020, 10:58 a.m. | By Isabel Corvington | 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Teachers are using a wide variety of online programs and applications to educate and engage their students

Education has taken on a new meaning over the past six months. The classroom has greatly changed and no longer represents a physical space, but a virtual one. Due to the new nature of online learning, teachers have started using new applications and programs to make the best of their situation. There are a few central tools that all teachers are using, but for the most part it is up to them to find innovative ways to engage students and project their lessons in a clear and interesting way. 

Photo: MCPS is using Zoom to hold online classes (courtesy of Maya Frey)

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) along with many other school districts across the country are using the video communications platform Zoom to hold online classes. Within Zoom there are a variety of tools that teachers are able to use such as breakout rooms, polls and screen sharing. Another application often used in combination with Zoom is Nearpod. Nearpod allows students to engage in the lesson with teachers by having their own version of the slide show. 

Junior Grace Ebobola uses Nearpod often in her English class. “We join the presentation by [a] code that is given to us in order to see what’s going on in the lesson,” Ebobola says. One of the main benefits of Nearpod is how it engages students. “Students can interact with the presentation to submit answers for questions [and] polls,” Ebobola explains. 

An application similar to Nearpod is Peardeck. Ebobola noted that her English teacher uses Peardeck as well. This application also gives students a link or code where they can follow along with a presentation on their own computer, so they don’t have to just look at their teacher’s screen. 

While some teachers are using Peardeck and Nearpod, others are also using Quizlet and Kahoot to engage students. Freshman Christian Limjuco’s teachers are using these tools in their classes. “These tools seem helpful because it’s a more fun way to learn other than just Zoom,” Limjuco notes. 

There are some subject-specific programs teachers have access to.One of these programs helpful to math teachers is the online graphing application, Desmos. This allows students to graph different equations and find certain points and intersections on graphs. In addition, Delta can be used to practice problems. Jenkins finds Desmos and Delta Math to be two of the most helpful online programs her teachers are using. “Delta Math gives you attempts when answering problems and helps work out the equation after. I also really like the online graphing calculator if mine is dead,” Jenkins says. 

In addition, MCPS schools are utilizing the program Canvas to organize assignments and resources for students. This comes as a change for some teachers who have previously used Google Classroom to organize work and modules for students. However, Canvas may not be the most easy application to navigate for teachers and some students. Sophomore Kai Jenkins doesn’t find Canvas to be user friendly. “[It] sometimes will mess up your grade on a quiz even if you got it correct. It’s sometimes hard to navigate when it comes to turning in work and where to turn it in,” Jenkins explains. Assignments can also be placed in multiple places making them more difficult to find at times. 

Luckily, many teachers are understanding about the challenges surrounding online learning. “They [teachers] will fix any problems if they see it, or if you bring it up to them. They also involve students when asking for help so everyone is on the same page,” Jenkins says. 

While some classes are more conducive to online learning, others are not. Classes that require hands on work or labs can be difficult to adapt to the online setting. In Jenkins’ chemistry class, students are doing some labs online. In addition to online labs and simulations, some teachers are cutting out hands on activities from the curriculum that cannot be replicated over a screen. 

Marta Woodward teaches AP Biology at Blair, a class that features many hands-on activities and labs. To make up for the loss of in class time that she would usually rely on she must rely on virtual labs or videos of labs for students to watch. Unfortunately, this virtual format is not as good as in person learning. “It's not the same at all, and this is the biggest loss in science teaching virtually,” Woodward explains. 

Woodward is making the best of this situation by utilizing tools such as Nearpod, Edpuzzle, Kahoot, and Screencastify to teach her class. Many activities can be completed to somewhat the same level as they would be in a normal classroom setting. “Most activities can be translated to a virtual setting, but not completely; it often feels like there's something missing,” Woodward says.

A resource widely used by AP teachers is the AP Classroom website. On this website, teachers can assign videos as well as assignments and practice quizzes or assessments. AP teachers from across the country film videos of themselves explaining different topics to provide a variety of in-depth explanations for students.

Online learning has been a large adjustment for not only students, but teachers as well as they try to navigate uncharted territory when it comes to what programs work best for students and their class. While some applications are easier than others, teachers are using a combination to make the most of their classes despite their inability to teach in person. This may be difficult for teachers to adapt to, but as Jenkins says, “Sometimes things can get confusing but for the most part they are utilizing their tools pretty well.”

Last updated: Dec. 4, 2020, 11:16 a.m.

Tags: teaching online school Zoom

Isabel Corvington. Hi, I'm Isabel and I'm a senior! In my free time I enjoy listening to music and hanging out with friends :) More »

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