Clara Barton teacher: ‘We have a lot of kids who don’t have a device’

Tracey Schultz, science teacher, Clara Barton Open School 

The goal for this week is to get kids onto Google Classroom and get planned for that first week. It’s a big challenge. It is really exciting to learn new things and to find all of these amazing resources that are out there, but there is so much to figure out.

Last week I put out an optional challenge with a Google Doc for kids to respond to, and I realized I need to be more thoughtful about how to organize the Google Doc. If I hand you a paper, it’s really obvious where your answer goes, but that’s not so on the Google Doc.

I’m working with other science colleagues in Minneapolis to try to find some of the best resources we can use for curriculum on our Google Classroom. It’s a big shift for us, going from a hands-on, lab-based classroom. I’m trying to start small and simple and not add in too much technology too quickly so that kids can be successful. I don’t want them sitting in front of a screen all day.

We had our first staff meeting this morning. That was a Google Meet with our administration. One of our biggest hurdles right now is that not all of our kids have devices. The internet providers are making getting online a lot easier. But you’ve got to have a device. 

The district hasn’t made a commitment to put a device in every kid’s hand. We have a lot of kids right now who don’t have a device or who are sharing one device for every kid in the family. That is a huge concern for our teachers and our administrators.

Teachers have had really limited formal training in online learning. It’s another language. You can really see people are at different comfort levels with technology. It’s hard to support each other when you can’t be there in person. 

For the most part kids are so savvy with technology. My biggest worry for the kids is just access and juggling school time with responsibilities they now have for taking care of family. Of course there are going to be huge financial stressors on families.

When we are able to go back to school, this online learning will add to what I can do. I was just using an online resource from the CK-12 Foundation. I was like, “Oh my gosh, it would have been perfect to have this material when we were doing weathering and erosion and deposition.” It’s like anything else: You take the best of everything you’ve got. 

What I’m going to try during the first week of distance learning is post a week of science, essentially. If you were the learner, you could engage in that 25 minutes a day, if you wanted to have a really set schedule. Or if you were responsible for babysitting and had limited access to the device, you could sit down and spend a longer chunk of time on it. Some things it’s important to have daily practice with, but I think I can be more flexible with science. I’m also going to try to include ways that I hope the kids can still be really social.