While Windward School has adopted quite a few digital tools to enhance the teaching and learning experiences of both teachers and students, we’ve never gone into a fully online model—nor did we ever really think we would… at least that was the case before we left for President’s Week break. Upon our return, Jim Bologna and Jenn Zanoria were commissioned to put together a contingency plan in preparation of COVID-19 spreading to the US. At the time, we were receiving word from schools in our network around the world that they were making the shift to online schooling and we better start thinking about it as a real possibility as well.
With an overwhelming amount of information being shared across various listservs and from Global Online Academy (GOA), Jim and Jenn began curating the information and strategies that would be most appropriate for our community. They reviewed video conferencing platforms for ease of use and reliability and settled on Zoom. They also identified which tools to highlight with faculty to take advantage of asynchronous, or not in real-time, learning.
Due to the quick pace of changes during this time, the contingency plan kicked into high gear when the School announced we would be activating the plan much earlier than originally thought. In response, the CTL jumped into action, putting together an in-service to focus on learning the essentials for Virtual School. Sessions included the basics of using Zoom, the basics of using Flipgrid (a video response platform that allows students to have a video chat thread similar to a discussion board), and discussions on transitioning face-to-face classroom practices to an online platform. Sarah Clark and Cielo Botello-Williams also crafted an amazing resource guide available for our community—all of which has received much praise from the faculty in preparing them for such a large task in such short notice.
One of the biggest challenges to date is changing our mindset and expectations around how much material to cover, how the students are going to learn, and balancing working from home with families and classes—not to mention juggling the concerns of a pandemic and all the feelings it brings while trying to resume business as usual.
One of the brightest moments in this shift, though, is how amazing the community has been at jumping in and doing it. The strength and solidarity of the community during this time has been a tremendous bright spot in an otherwise uncertain time.