Students aren’t the only ones doing the learning this year during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers across the country are dipping their toes in new technology, from incorporating green screens into their remote learning to introducing fun characters like Bitmojis into their lessons. Teachers at Quest Charter Academy have enjoyed the challenge of coming up with new and innovative ways to teach and engage their students.
A Bitmoji allows teachers to create a digital presence in their virtual classrooms by creating a personal avatar character in their likeness. Taking this a step further, teachers now also are able to build an entire Bitmoji classroom, which students can access at any time. These digital classrooms are interactive, allowing students to click around and see assignments, class calendars, and engage with learning resources.
“The Bitmoji classroom is one way to help the students ‘see the teacher’ even when they are at home,” said Bethany Garbutt, dean of lower elementary at Quest. “The Bitmoji classroom is also more engaging and interactive, supporting our youngest learners with videos, stories, manipulatives, and games to assist them in completing their work when they can’t have direct teacher support.”
Many of Quest’s teachers are finding success utilizing and expanding on beloved technology and programs from the past, while others are seeking new technology to fit the newly identified needs of the current school year. Teachers continue to show ingenuity and creativity as they seek new ways to make lessons more interactive so that they are compelling to all students, including those who are learning in-person and those who are logging in online.
Ms. Sara Bonomo, paraprofessional at Quest, and Mrs. Katie Zieba, first-grade teacher at Quest, have kept busy leading their students in Bitmoji classrooms, encouraging students to sharpen their reading and math skills in a fun and interactive way.
Ms. Bonomo’s Bitmoji classroom is embedded into daily Reading Mastery Videos that are posted and shared in Mrs. Zieba’s classroom for students to work through while at home. “The group of students in this class have high levels of engagement and work completion with these activities in place,” said Garbutt. “The students have been observed talking about the activities they complete at home in Ms. Bonomo and Mrs. Zieba’s classrooms. One of the students even drew a Bitmoji classroom of their own!”
Ms. Bonomo creates a daily reading mastery video that mimics what in-person lessons would entail. Students in the school’s hybrid learning groups use these videos to practice their reading skills independently while away from the building.
“Our goal at Quest in kindergarten through second-grade is to provide Reading Mastery lessons five days a week for our K-2 students in order to make up for the lost instructional time that occurred last school year and continue our path of preparing our scholars to be proficient readers by third grade,” shared Garbutt.
Both teachers have been successful in teaching their groups the routines and procedures on the days the students are in-person so they can participate along with the video at home independently. “There are independent work pages the students complete upon completion of the video and turn in when they have completed a lesson,” added Garbutt.
While these adjustments have strayed from the traditional school year, students and teachers have learned many lessons along the way. One of the most notable is being flexible and adapting to change.
“Our teachers are truly the rock stars this year, said Kelly Osterhout, principal at Quest. “This unique year has brought challenges and our Quest team has become problem solvers to overcome these obstacles. When we started this year together, we agreed to have patience and grace with each other as we navigate through.”
As students and families continue working together to navigate this nontraditional school year, one third-grade parent at Quest reflected on their student’s remote learning journey in a poem. Her hopes in writing this poem aimed to share it in hopes of striving for a great year.
“I am a third-grade parent.
I wonder where they're going.
I hear their future calling.
I see them working hard.
I want them to reach the stars.
I think they can do anything.
I pretend everything is just fine.
I feel they can conquer all.
I touch base with their teachers.
I worry that they're all okay.
I hope this craziness will soon all end.
I understand so much has changed.
I dream of a bright new future.
I try and look for the best and everything.
I will help them to achieve it all.”
Principal Osterhout believes this poem accurately reflects the thoughts and feelings that many parents have faced throughout this school year so far.