Data has been released that to the surprise of absolutely no one, test scores dipped over the past couple of years during the pandemic. These statistics are being used, of course, in a vacuum, to bash teachers and unions with no mention of the 3 year drop in life expectancy over the past two years and the fact that OUR FUCKING ENTIRE SYSTEM OF MEDICINE WAS ON THE VERGE OF NATIONWIDE COLLAPSE AND IN SOME PLACES HAD or that none of the teachers signed up to work in a BSL-4 without PPE and that gathering in enclosed areas is the worst way to spread covid and that kids would then spread it to their parents, grandparents, and caretakers and that 50% of school districts have HVAC systems from the 60’s and 70’s and that none of the people bitching about this were willing to do the bare fucking minimum to wear masks or get a vaccine so it would be safe to reopen schools. So, yeah.
All over the country, schools and universities are suddenly moving to distance teaching, at least for the short term, with little or no preparation because of the pandemic.
If anyone has experience being a single parent and working from home with small children, please consider writing up a guest post.
Please contact WaterGirl if you would like to contribute a guest post. Contact information is under Contact Us.
Oh, and here’s an inspirational song from a teacher:
The University of North Carolina (UNC) wanted to have Fall 2020 look mostly like a normal fall semester with students on campus, kids in classes and the football team playing. Sure, there might be a few modifications as everyone would be encouraged to wear masks, and parties would be strongly discouraged, but things would look 85% normal-ish.
Undergraduates moved in about 10 days ago. Dorms were open and at nearly regular capacity. Everyone was finger-wagged on good behavior. There was no entry testing to establish a baseline of community infectivity nor isolate random individuals who were infected and potentially infectious before they could come in close contact with other, susceptible people.
Classes started last Monday. Everyone was asked to report symptoms (although by the time symptoms are differentiable from a hangover, there have been several days of plausible infectivity). Everyone was asked to be socially distanced and there were some huge parties and also the normal day to day interactions of campus and dorm life.
Reality hit on Monday:
Case count in the UNC community went from 11 for the week August 3-10, to 135 for the current week. Four major residential facility clusters had been announced since last Friday. The case count is likely to be low as this dashboard only reports individuals tested in the UNC health system. Individuals who got tested off-campus are not included. There are also likely to be many individuals who are currently non-symptomatic but either in the early part of their infectious period or entering their infectious period who have either not been tested, or are waiting for test results to be returned.
BREAKING: One week into the semester, UNC-Chapel Hill announces that it is transitioning all undergraduate classes to fully online instruction, effective Wednesday.
Story to come. Check this thread soon.
— The Daily Tar Heel (@dailytarheel) August 17, 2020
Last night, UNC decided to stop getting beat by a clue by four.
My big worry right now is are we creating a dispersed, super spreading event. I am assuming that there are a large number of individuals currently on UNC’s campus that are undiagnosed but infected. If they were infected over the weekend or late last week when the clusters were first being identified, they are entering peak infectious period just as many may be leaving Chapel Hill to return home.
There are few good options to manage this self-inflicted gunshot wound to the foot. Locking down all on-campus residential facilities for several days in order to do community wide screening testing is a possibility. That might allow for the safe return of dorm residents who have negative results while the university could isolate and quarantine any potentially positive individual for the serial period. However, it does nothing about the off-campus residents and the community spread risk that they pose. Some may stay, some may go. I think if Orange County and Chapel Hill go back to late March regulations, local spread may be contained, but again, state and national spread is likely as people disperse from campuses.
UNC is getting hit by a clue by four early. However it is not the only university that is convinced that it could resume operations at 85% of normal. Duke has students on campus. Duke has a far more aggressive testing plan but higher density residential situations for more students who live off-campus. Notre Dame is seeing high positivity rates of 11.5% of diagnostic (not general re-entry screening) testing since August 3. Positivity rates above 5% is a very strong indicator that a population is not testing anywhere near enough and targeted measures such as tracing and isolating potentially infected individuals are logistically challenging if not impossible.
UNC is the first major university to try to resume business as mostly normal and failing miserably. It will not be the last.
This is our sixth Guest Post related to the impact of school and university closings that are catapulting schools into distance teaching on the fly!
Guest Post from Fairchild
My name is Kevin Fairchild, and I am an Instructional Technology Coordinator for a public K-12 district in California.
Watergirl asked me to write a bit about Google Classroom. I’ve been using G Suite tools for a decade now, and teaching teachers how to use them for 9 years, some as a Teacher on Special Assignment, and now as Instructional Technology Coordinator for a public K-12 district in California.
Google Classroom is an increasing popular tool for teachers in K-12 schools. This is partly because of its minimalistic design and ease of use, but also because it’s included at no cost if the school or district uses the rest of G Suite (Gmail, Google Drive, Calendar, Meet, etc.). Google Drive was designed for businesses, not schools. It works best when a few people are sharing files with a few others. For a high school teacher trying to share documents with 150 students, Drive is impractical. Hence the development of Google Classroom.
Classroom began with a very sparse feature set, but has grown over the last few years to be a nearly complete Learning Management System. Originally, Classroom was little more than a management system for Drive, making it easy for teachers to share files with students and receive work back in return. They have since added a gradebook, co-teachers, conversation forums, organization tools, quizzes, grading rubrics, plagiarism checking, and integration with other systems.
A typical workflow goes something like this. A teacher can create a classroom, and is given a “join code” that they can give to students. Students sign in, enter the code, and they’re in the class. The teacher can then create an assignment, with as many file attachments or links as necessary. Classroom can then create a copy of each document for each student, so they are working on their own, and each student’s document is automatically named for them. (No more receiving 150 emails with files all titled “My Paper”.) Students do whatever work they need to do, using whichever Google App, and click “Turn In” at the top of the page. The teacher can then grade, comment, and return the work. There are other options, but this is the prototype.
In my district, we have been teaching Google Classroom to teachers for five years. We’ve seen the most uptake at the elementary grades. Our secondary teachers tend to prefer using our full-scale LMS, with its additional features, and additional learning curve. But as Google has added feature after feature to Classroom over the years, we have seen much more usage at all grade levels.
Teachers who have been using Classroom already are well prepared for our sudden-onset distance learning. In the past few days, I’ve been working (remotely) with dozens of other teachers who want to get started using Classroom and other Google tools. There are some excellent videos and tutorials out there for learning how to use Classroom, but always be sure to look at how old the resource is. Even when they’re not adding features, Google loves to redesign and move buttons around, so anything older than a year or so is just as likely to confuse a novice user as to help them.
Note from WaterGirl:
For sharing, and for future reference for yourself, you might want to bookmark the whole series.
You can also find it under Featuring in the sidebar (it’s in the menu bar / hamburger on mobile).
This is our fifth Guest Post related to the impact of school and university closings that are catapulting schools into distance teaching on the fly!
It’s our second post from Martin. (Thanks, Martin!)
With all the great information we’ve had so far in these posts, I am wondering whether we’re still in the “dog” phase, or if some of you might at least be approaching the “cat” phase. Perhaps that’s too hopeful – what with this being the first week of Distance Teaching for some – but we’ll get there.
For now, we’ll consider the cat as aspirational.
Take it away, Martin!
Online Teaching in the Trenches – Assessment
Pushing your presence out to students is one thing. You probably have Canvas or Blackboard to help you with this. You can publish lectures on YouTube or your campus’ video hosting platform of choice, you can do live lectures or discussions on Zoom. But maybe you’re accustomed to collecting student work on paper and returning it that way, and you’re almost certainly accustomed to doing exams on paper.
This is a bit easier to handle becuase you can often forgo any serious grade consequences here. If you have a standard textbook, see if the publisher has an LMS service like WileyPLUS. I’m generally not a fan of these for a variety of reasons – I don’t like the publisher lock-in, their software is almost universally terrible, and students usually hate it. That said, it does usually work, and you get the benefit of large problem libraries and automated grading. But if you need to get something going quickly, it succeeds nicely at that. We’re after ‘good enough’ solutions here.
We started this series on Thursday, March 12, which almost feels like a month ago.
With all the new developments this week (can it really be only Tuesday?) some have had immediate concerns more pressing than teaching. I know distance teaching/distance learning must still be an issue. I know this because I called my niece today and they were having fits at their house related to distance learning, technical difficulties with a printer cartridge, no ability to go out and get another cartridge, unrealistic instructor deadlines and expectations.
We do have one more post in the can, from Martin, on Assessments. And we were planning on separate guest posts on individual technologies: one on Zoom and one on Slack, and likely others.
We had lots of ideas in 2020 BL (Before Lockdowns) The question is, do you want us to pursue them, or has life “provided” higher priorities? Is distance teaching still a priority for any of you?
Here’s what we had planned lo that long ago… on Monday! Take a look, and share your thoughts in the comments, please. It’s up to you. Should we stay or should we go?
Several people have stepped forward and shared what they know about distance teaching. If you indicated last week that you might write something up, please don’t be shy. Just do it!
· Do you have experience being a single parent and working from home with small children? Please consider writing up a guest post.
· Is there some aspect of distance teaching, not yet covered, that would be helpful? Please mention it in the comments below.
· Are you particularly experienced with one of the major distance teaching tools? Please consider writing up a guest post on that one tool.
· If you think this series has run its course, please let us know that, too, in the comments.
· ZOOM – Immanentize
· Slack – Martin
Any interest in a post on these:
· Google Classrooms
This is our fourth Guest Post related to the impact of school and university closings that are catapulting schools into distance teaching on the fly!
This guest post is from commenter Pika, who wrote this in the earlier guest post from A Lurker: (Thanks, Pika!)
Most of what I’m hearing from the students–especially as Lurker put it, the graduating seniors–is grief.
I asked Pika if she might be willing to write up a few things about connecting with students emotionally as so many feel adrift, ripped from friends, communities, and their physical connection to an institution about which some have complained bitterly but yet still find themselves mourning the loss of.
Take it away, Pika!
Beth A. McCoy
SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor
Department of English
I’m an English professor at a public liberal arts school in Western New York. Technology is something with which I’m pretty comfortable, but like so many others I was not prepared to go all-remote for the rest of the semester.
I really appreciated A Lurker’s counsel about the perils of perfectionism, about counting what we are doing in this crisis as real LABOR, about being transparent with students, and most of all about being kind and not leaving students in “radio silence.”
This is our third Guest Post related to the impact of school and university closings that are catapulting schools into distance teaching on the fly!
Here’s Part 1 from Martin – Online Teaching in the Trenches (Thanks, Martin!)
Online Teaching In The Trenches
So, my credentials here are different. I do have some teaching experience but my main experience is with curriculum development and implmentation with a heavy dose of technical expertise and focus on assessment. I’ve chaired statewide initiatives and worked as an advisor for a number of K-12 districts. My main experience is with STEM instruction, including writing instruction at the university level. I’ve developed and led online learning initiative with varying degrees of success. There are valid individual objections to online instruction, but now we have no choice, so let’s make the best of this.
There’s a right way to do this which can produce better outcomes than traditional in-class instruction, but they take a lot of time to set up. We don’t have that, so we’re going to have to MacGuyver this shit and accept a lesser outcome. I’m assuming an environment where you have access to your campus, but where work-from-home policies or quarantine may be in place leaving you with minimal technical support. Assuming here you’re pretty much on your own.
Your first decision is whether to do live instruction or recorded. Live takes less work since you’re mostly just doing what you do in class, but technology problems are more critical at a time when your IT support is at its worst, and students may not always be able to make that time work. Some may have to share computers, some may be dealing with other realities of a pandemic. Recorded affords you time to sort through some of these issues and is more flexible on both ends, but takes more work to do. The upshot is that you will always haveyour recorded content so if we are still doing this in the fall, your fall offering is now mostly set up. My instructors typically do both – recorded lectures, with live discussion sessions and office hours. Effectively a flipped classroom model. It preserves some of that direct interaction without relying on it working for everyone. When we do have live lecture instruction, I typically insist we have a tech support staffer in the room simply due to the frequency something goes wrong.