This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Ann Railing
When I began reflecting on my experience with “The Connected Classroom*,” I was excited for the challenge. Not only for being able to reflect on what I learned through the sessions, but also for the challenge of putting what I learned into words and how it relates to the FLUENCY project. This assignment also forced me into realizing that we will eventually be going back to school and I WILL be using the plethora of tools that I was introduced to in order to effectively run my classroom (virtually). Yikes, what a scary thought. You see, I started teaching when classroom movies were on reels and they used a projector. I took audio/visual aids as a college course and the copies were made with carbon paper and they were called dittos. I don’t think we even had computers, but it was so far back that I don’t remember.
One of my first memories of being introduced to a computer was using a gradebook program at Cheat Lake Elementary School. We were able to input the students'; grades into a program which then averaged them and presented you with their grade. Bye, bye hard copies. I remember thinking that this was changing my world. I no longer had to calculate by hand the
multitude of grades that were recorded in my grade book for each student and average them (by hand) to calculate their grades. Fast forward a lot of years. When technology started to infiltrate the classroom I really left it up to my students to be in charge of the little bit of technology that was available. As the years went by teachers were expected to be knowledgeable and learn the different programs that were available. At some point I surrendered to the fact that technology was an important part of every aspect of life, especially the classroom.
So here we are. The year 2020 and to top it all off in the midst of a national pandemic. Believe it or not, I have embraced technology in my classroom, not as much as some, but definitely more than others. I am willing to give anything a go and learn from it. I love getting to know my students and feel like giving them the opportunity to exercise their voices lets me get to know them on a new level. Being part of the Fluency project has encouraged me to jump into technology and student voice with more gusto, and I appreciate that. Through the Fluency project I have again realized the importance of student voice and how technology allows that voice to be heard loud and clear.
I looked at all of the wonderful sessions being offered through “The Connected Classroom” and thought to myself, “How am I going to be able to choose a reasonable number of these?” I knew that I could benefit from them all. I realized that each session had something to offer that would either inform me or sharpen skills to make me a better virtual teacher. Since I am the teacher coordinator for the “Steenrod Broadcasting Team” I signed up for the “Green Screen” session. It was beautifully presented and gave me so many new ideas and tips to extend to the members of the team, and as the teacher sponsor I will be able to impart my wisdom to the students (for a change). I’ve been working on my classroom Bitmoji for weeks now and am so excited for my students to create their own bitmojis to share. What a wonderful way to emphasize Equity in the classroom and for the students to interact. I am now able to “Screencastify” with (some) confidence which will enable me to virtually teach my math lessons with (some) ease. Who knew all of the incredible possibilities that our own online grading program, Schoology, has to offer? I feel that if the only program I had to work with was Schoology, I would be set for the year. Schoology has so much to offer and I was incredibly happy to be introduced to its possibilities.
To sum it all up “The Connected Classroom” gave me the opportunity to hone my skills as a virtual teacher. If I’m being honest, gain the skills. It also supported the fact that “FLUENCY” has been emphasizing for the past three or four years that I have been involved. Technology is the future. It is here to stay. Technology is an amazing tool to use to give our students a voice. I am especially pleased that I was offered the chance to sign up for as many or as few of the sessions offered through “The Connected Classroom” platform. “Let the games begin!”
*Recordings of The Connected Classroom series can be found on WLU's Topper Station
Ann Railing graduated from West Liberty College in 1980 with an Elementary Education 1-6 degree and from WVU in 1987 with a Masters, in Counseling. Began my teaching career in 1983 in Morgantown, WV. Taught a multitude of grade levels. My current teaching position is with Ohio County Schools teaching 5 th grade. I consider myself a “jack of all trades and a master of none,” although that may be a little too rough. I am currently involved with the Wellness Group, Green Team, and Steenrod Broadcasting Team. You could say that my interests lie with wellness and the environment. I am currently a member of Cohort 3 of the Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University.)