Talking distance learning with our Vizzler of the Month
With the need to switch to distance learning and the uncertainty as to how the remainder of the school year will play out; teachers, students and parents have had to address how to be distanced while still being connected. So many teachers have been incredibly successful with this including our Vizzler of the Month.
How were you using Vizzle with your students before distance learning and now?
Before distance learning, I used Vizzle during both 1:1 and group instruction. I have used it with small groups of 2-3 students, as well as a large group with my entire class. Specifically, I used Vizzle to cover class content, as well as to target students’ individual IEP goals. In addition to using Vizzle during 1:1 and group instruction, I also have assigned Vizzle lessons during independent work time and utilized the data feature to track data on student performance. I find that I now use Vizzle in basically the same capacity. I work 1:1 with students on video calls using Vizzle, as well as during online group lessons. I have also assigned individual lessons to students during this time and tracked the data on each lesson. By using Vizzle during this time of distance learning, I am confident that I am still assigning lessons to my students that are aligned to state standards, as well as individualized to each student’s ability level and IEP goals while we are unable to be together in the classroom. Just because we can’t be together doesn’t mean that their level of educational content should falter, and with Vizzle I know I am still providing the instructional content my students need.
What has been the response from your students when using Vizzle?
My students thoroughly enjoy Vizzle! They get a kick out of the reinforcers, and the interactive content keeps them engaged. The first time I did a whole-class Vizzle lesson with my students this year, at the conclusion of the lesson I asked them to “give me a thumbs up if you liked Vizzle!” and I got a full class of thumbs up! Using Vizzle keeps them engaged, and I am also able to build in movement by having them approach the board to answer questions.
What is your favorite Vizzle feature and why? And has that changed since being out of the classroom?
I love that I am able to cover such a wide range of skills and content using Vizzle. In one school day, I could use Vizzle to teach a student who is learning to identify shapes and he could be doing an errorless matching activity, shortly after that I could use Vizzle with a group of two students learning expected and unexpected behaviors, and later in the school day I could be giving a whole class lesson covering algebra concepts and the students could be working through one-step algebraic equations on Vizzle. And within that algebra lesson, I can individualize the content to reach the learning needs of all my students. I have had experience teaching multiple grade levels, but I currently teach high school and love that I am able to cover higher grade level material using Vizzle. It is great to be able to target such a wide range of topics using one program, and that it keeps my students engaged and focused. If I can’t find exactly what I am looking for in the lesson library, I am able to easily create my own lessons with no trouble at all. My second favorite Vizzle feature is absolutely the data collection. As all educators know, data drives instruction and finding easy ways to collect this data is lifesaving. I find that all of the features I loved about Vizzle while in the classroom are still true with online learning.
How are you managing distance learning?
Making the transition from face-to-face classroom instruction to distance learning has been challenging. As I got started, I was immediately overwhelmed with making sure that I was able to provide instruction for all students and was able to accommodate their family’s individual needs. My biggest takeaway was to connect with each parent and to make a plan that worked for them in terms of communication and technology. Parents needed help getting technology up and running for their students, as well as help with accessing websites that were unfamiliar to them. Once I was able to determine the level of support each family needed and what would work best for them, I was able to come up with a distance learning plan and schedule that worked for everyone. Another thought that helped was to realize that just as instruction wasn’t the same for each student in the classroom, distance learning wasn’t going to look the same for each of my students. Once I found the best way to reach each individual student, I was able to provide content in a more organized manner.
What ways have you found to engage your students in distance learning?
There was a learning curve here for me as I had to learn how to utilize various platforms (Zoom, etc.) to their full capacity in order to engage my students. Through these programs, I have learned how to have 1:1 and small group sessions with my students where we can all see each other, I can share content from my computer screen with them, and I can also share control of my screen to give them more independence when it comes to responding to questions. I turned to the programs in which I was familiar with and saw success with, namely Vizzle, and was able to transition from using it in the classroom to using it for distance learning. Being able to connect with my students virtually whether it is through a video call or on the phone helps to maintain the relationships I’ve built with my students and offer some familiarity for them during a time when everything has changed for them. Being able to check in with them to ask how they are feeling is incredibly important to me, and I’m grateful that there are so many ways we can connect while out of the classroom.
What were your classroom go-to’s before distance learning and now?
In the classroom my go-to list is extensive, but the top items that come to mind are: the Smartboard, dry erase boards/markers, Velcro, independent work stations, student schedules, and visual supports. Other go-to’s for me include an organized planner, sticky notes, markers, gel pens, and most importantly, my mentor teacher. As I made the transition to distance learning, I have found new ways to include my go-to’s during this new form of teaching. I am able to create schedules for my students while providing online instruction, I provide them with visual supports (both online and laminated copies sent to their homes), I use a mini dry erase board I hold up to my camera during virtual teaching, and I am able to provide them with independent work activities where they are able to continue to build on their endurance/stamina with completing these tasks. Having a good mentor teacher is top on my list and I’ve been so lucky to have such supportive and knowledgeable mentors. Being able to connect with my mentor on video calls as I was getting started with distance learning eased a lot of the anxiety that came with transitioning to a new form of teaching.
How are you taking care of yourself?
This one took a while for me to work on, as in the beginning it took a lot of time to transition to distance learning and there wasn’t much time left for self-care. Working from home, it was hard for me to find the balance between work time and personal time, as everything initially blended together and mostly consisted of work time. Once I was up and running with online instruction, I was able to schedule times where I check in with each individual family, as well as schedule daily office hours. By establishing these times, I am able to create boundaries in which I am no longer responding back to emails or messages. This has been crucial to separating work hours from personal time. I also build a daily lunch break into my schedule where I am able to step away from my computer and get some fresh air. As I am not used to sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods of time, incorporating movement breaks has been essential as well.
Thanks for sharing how you’ve been able to stay connected with your students! They’re fortunate to have you on their side. Love this quote by William Arthur Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Thank you to you, Cathy, and all the teachers that continue to inspire!