The Tech & Learning COVID Diary series follows educators and administrators throughout the year as they share stories about how their districts are handling teaching and learning during the pandemic.
Jennifer Malone is Technology Supervisor for Loudon County Schools (opens in new tab) in Loudon, Tennessee. The district has nine schools (seven of which are Title I), and is a mixture of suburban and rural PreK-12 schools with approximately 4,800 students. Currently, classes are hybrid/blended, with a combination of virtual and face-to-face classes.
Tools being used
We purchased curriculum content from Florida Virtual for students opting for all-year virtual school. Loudon County teachers manage the virtual courses, take grades, and check in daily for additional instruction and feedback.
Eighty percent of students have returned to school in-person, and when there are COVID-19 quarantines, students go remote with their regular classroom teacher using Microsoft Teams, Canvas, and Zoom to provide instruction and support.
Our biggest challenges are related to the constant change of quarantine requirements, difficulty providing at-home tech support with no additional employees, and that some teachers are not prepared to instruct digitally.
Advantages to teaching in this environment
Providing choice for parents and students and expanding our in-person teachers' repertoire of effective technology based instruction.
Do the teachers enjoy teaching in this environment?
There is no way to qualify with a yes/no answer. It’s been a mixed bag.
How are teachers being supported?
Our district has been training on Microsoft Teams and Canvas for more than two years, and this definitely helped the transition. Our Board voted to pay teachers stipends who take on rosters of virtual students.
Do students like this environment?
Hard to tell as we’ve only been back three weeks.
How are you supporting your students?
We’re providing 1:1 Windows 10 devices (70% are new or only one year old). We’re also providing a local teacher to supplement their virtual curriculum, and hired two early literacy specialists to teleconference with K-1 students for support. Our ELL, SPED, RTI teachers also offer virtual support with daily check-ins with students.
How are you supporting families and parents?
We listened to parent results from a survey taken in June and provided the two options they requested: either fully virtual or fully in-person classes. Our parents did not want a hybrid schedule of alternating days of attending schools.
We also continue to provide assistance through meals, our Family Resource Center, and frequent check-ins by teachers and counselors.
Did anything unexpected happen (good or bad) during remote learning that can now be used as a teachable moment for others?
Our teachers have really improved effectively utilizing digital tools for learning.
Anything else you'd like to add about your successes and challenges being a teacher and/or an administrator during the pandemic?
This is my 30th year in education, and I have never seen a year start like this. Everyone is working harder than ever to make sure we are providing the best education possible during this unprecedented time.