As families and students at Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School began their back-to-school preparations for the 2020-21 school year, parents and guardians went back to the classroom, both in-person and online, to learn useful technology tips to help their students prepare for the year. The school hosted various grade-level training events for parents to learn how to take full advantage of the online learning platforms and help their students become familiar with their selected learning model.
The technology training sessions included parent-focused coaching on best practices and tips to understand the functions of Clever, Google Classroom, Chromebook features, and the Parent Portal. Aside from providing technology support training, these events also provided an opportunity for the administration and teachers to distribute necessary materials for the school year, including Chromebooks and school supplies.
“Virtual learning is similar to the classroom experience,” said Sally Girouard, principal at Brooklyn Excelsior. “In addition to distributing Chromebooks, we also distributed physical materials. We gave them hard copies of all the materials students would need. We also gave them whiteboards, Expo markers, and math manipulatives. Every kid got a really fun and exciting, massive colorful bundle to take home in addition to their device.”
During the technology training, families were given recommendations to help their students prepare for virtual learning, broken down into three categories: before class, during class, and after class. Suggestions included ensuring Chromebooks are charged and ready to go, making sure pencils and other materials are ready, having something to eat, and being on time. These tips encourage students to follow a structure similar to an in-person environment.
The outlined suggestions for students during class veer away from the traditional learning environment and focus more on how to engage well in an online space. This includes recommendations like keeping your microphone muted while not speaking and being a good neighbor to your online classmates, in addition to several conventional rules like listening to the speaker, raising your hand to ask a question, and participating in-class activities.
The tips for students to consider after class remain in familiar territory, including encouraging students to think about what they learned, working on assignments, and asking their teacher for assistance with any questions.
“When the students returned to school virtually, we had pretty high percentages of kids logging in and not experiencing any technical difficulties,” reflected Girouard. “Of course, there were some but had we not spent that time helping parents we would have received more calls.”
Girouard also shared that while the pandemic has created technology-related challenges for students and teachers, it has also provided a unique opportunity for kids to develop life-long technological literacy skills that will be beneficial now and into the future.
“Kids need strong technology skills, and I'm so excited to see how our kindergarten cohort fairs when they're in their twenties,” said Girouard. “It's important that they start to understand and become familiar with technology at a younger age. As we start them earlier, their general familiarity with technology will come with them, and then we'll continue to build on that.”
As Brooklyn Excelsior move to hybrid learning, with students rotating their days in the building and learning from home, school leaders and teachers are thrilled to regain some sense of normalcy in seeing their kids face-to-face once again.
“I'm an educator because I love kids, and I love those ‘aha’ moments,” Girouard shared. “I'm so excited to see students back in action, and that's really what excites me the most.”