The Monday morning after Spring Break usually involves a busy rush of bikes, scooters, skateboards, cars, buses and pedestrians as students return to school. This year, the streets and sidewalks will be eerily quiet. On Monday, April 6th, Coronado Unified School District will begin a new Distance Learning Program (DLP) due to the mandatory school closures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
While technology has been integral to Coronado education for several years, the distance learning format is new for students and teachers. Over the past two weeks Coronado High School (CHS) teachers have been busy preparing for the transition. Some CHS teachers had already incorporated technologies in their classroom. CHS English teacher Mr. Chao uses WordPress and Weebly to provide class resources and has students create content online through blog posts, discussion boards, and surveys, etc. CHS math teacher Ms. McGreevy previously taught hybrid courses (utilizing both class instruction and online lessons) and was on the staff at Coronado’s Pathways online academy that used online platforms such as Edgenuity and University of California’s UC Scout program. CHS Biology teacher Mr. Couture uses Powerschool to incorporate case studies and videos into his lesson plans and is planning to use new technologies such as the Zoom video conferencing platform. Mr. Couture shared, “I had never heard of Zoom until about two weeks ago. I need to be a better Zoomer to communicate in the future with my classes.”
Distance Learning will inevitably present some challenges for teachers. Mr. Chao believes the biggest challenge for teachers “is the weight of expectations that we place upon ourselves. Teachers often hold themselves to higher standards than anyone else. We need to re-calibrate our expectations and be willing to make mistakes.” Mr. Couture shared that he is seeking the best ways for students to deliver assignments on the internet. Ms. McGreevy identified a potential challenge with the lack of face-to-face contact between the teachers and students. “At CHS, teachers and students have genuine and authentic relationships which have been built over the course of the school year or over several years. It will be difficult to maintain that sense of trust and caring in an electronic environment.”
Recognizing students will also face challenges, CHS teachers offered advice for students to prepare for Distance Learning. Mr. Chao shared, “As long as you are open and willing to learn something from every experience (no matter how different that experience is from what you’re used to), you will find value and meaning in it.” Ms. McGreevy recommends that, “Students will be most successful if they establish and maintain a schedule for themselves. Yes, this does mean getting yourself out of bed and starting your day in the morning. Ultimately, students should try and spend the same amount of time ‘in class’ as they would if they were physically at school.” Mr. Couture’s advice to students follows his famous catch phrase — “Be ready to learn”. Mr. Couture suggests that students should, “Communicate with your teachers if you have a question. Be an advocate for your learning. Prioritize work and their due dates.” Superintendent Karl Mueller recently emailed families encouraging students to, “Navigate these unprecedented times most successfully in solidarity.”
Distance learning is a unique opportunity for teachers and students to reconnect as part of the high school experience. While everyone hopes Distance Learning will be a success, teachers and students will look forward to the chance to return to in-person learning at some point in the future.