In With the New School

In With the New School

In the spring of 2020, with a global pandemic demanding that teachers reinvent their classroom experience and pedagogy for hybrid and fully remote learning, Govs faculty took steps to reimagine their classroom experience, in most instances with the help of a new technology or two. With our transition back to fully in-person learning, Govs faculty reflect on some new tools and technologies that they plan to keep using because of the success they and their students experienced using them.

Jake Falconer P’19,’21: Spanish Teacher

During the pandemic, my students did all their written work using Google Docs. Early in the year, I noticed that students’ work was being submitted with fewer errors and more accurate use of complex structures and verb tenses, many of which we had not yet covered in class. Initially, I was concerned that students were cheating, but I realized that Google Docs auto-detects the language and then makes suggestions as students are writing. They were simply paying attention to the suggestion feature of the app! When I was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire, I took a second language acquisition class. One of the principles I learned was that it is better to avoid exposing second language learners to errors whenever possible. When, for example, a student makes an error on verb conjugation, research suggests that incorrect form clutters up their mind. Even when they are taught the correct form, when they later go to retrieve that conjugation from their memory, they will often mistake which is the correct form. By avoiding exposing learners to the incorrect form, that confusion is eliminated. The traditional way in which a language has been taught, in many ways, encourages learners to make mistakes. This year, I noticed an improvement in my students’ writing skills. Moving forward, I will continue to find ways, like Google Docs suggestions, to help my students keep inaccurate language structures from interfering with the accurate ones.

Michelle de la Guardia: Spanish Teacher

In last year’s hybrid learning model, I wanted my Spanish classes to be engaging and fun for students as they developed the necessary skills in the language. I decided to create “escape rooms” to teach and review new vocabulary. Escape rooms made learning a competitive activity. Students could work individually or in small groups to try to decipher the puzzles and respond correctly to progress through the room. Using Google Forms and Google Slides that incorporated virtual jigsaw puzzles, recorded conversations, and other digital activities, students worked through a number of virtual “rooms” to successfully “escape” as they learned along the way. Escape rooms gave students, at all levels, agency on their learning and kept them engaged. As we transition back to in-person learning this year, I will continue to use this activity because it positively contributes to classroom dynamics and keep students on their toes as they develop their language skills.

David Oxton P’03,’08: Photography Teacher

When we first started teaching remotely, I had surprising success getting high-profile photographers Matt Eich and Pete Souza to present their work to my students. In the spring, I assembled a “dream team” of presenters, six highly regarded photographers who dazzled the students in the Persuasive Images Visiting Professional Seminar. Students learned how much patience it took for Jessica Rinaldi to earn the trust of the family she photographed for her Pulitzer Prize-winning series about poverty and trauma. Students heard Harry Scales describe what it was like to be on the ground capturing the Black Lives Matter protests across the US. It would have been challenging, if not impossible, to get these photographers to travel to Govs in-person. As a result of teaching remotely for over a year, I learned that photographers are very willing to participate in online discussions with students. Every photographer I invited said yes. I plan to keep reaching out to top-level professional photographers who I feel will offer my students compelling images and viewpoints. The convenience and cost-efficiency of a professional presenting to students over Zoom makes continuing this practice a no-brainer for me.

Steve Ogden P’19: English Teacher

For years, when I assign reading, I often—not always—also have students think about a question that we will discuss in the next class: What is revealed about Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s relationship in the following scene? What themes and/or techniques do Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman employ in their inauguration poems? In the spring of 2020, as we all were trying to figure out what techniques worked best when everyone was online, and ease of discussion was going to be tested, I had the students write their responses almost every night. But that summer I looked for something that would fulfill the same goal—have students read and think about what they read—while allowing for a little variety. Enter FlipGrid, a video discussion format. Not to worry, I still have the students write...plenty! Rather than write a response every night, every third or fourth reading assignment I would have them record their responses on video. Even a Luddite like me could figure out the mechanics of it. The tried and true techniques of argumentation held firm—come up with a specific argument, support it with evidence, and analyze and explain that evidence. An unexpected bonus: Those students who are typically reluctant to speak in the traditional class discussion setting—their voices could be heard. I plan to continue to use FlipGrid so students can practice making verbal as well as written arguments.

Bert McLain P’07,’09: Science Teacher

Going fully virtual in spring of 2020 required students to turn in all of their work electronically. When we returned to school in fall of 2020 in a hybrid format, it just made sense to have all students turn in all work in the same format—electronic. There are several other benefits to student work being turned in electronically: Electronic formats provide creative options for students. They can upload text, photo, video, and audio files for any assignment. “Orphaned papers”—assignments that are turned in at a different time—are difficult to keep track of and present a challenge when it’s time to correct an assignment. Our Learning Management System timestamps assignments so it’s easy to know if students’ work was on time or late. As a science teacher, I cannot help but think about the positive impact reducing students’ use of paper is having on our environment. I was initially reluctant to have students turn in assignments online because of the lack of flexibility I perceived in correcting electronic assignments. Now that I am confident that I can provide comprehensive, detailed feedback to electronic assignments, I plan to continue with the practice.