This week we started our discussion with a conversation by asking about the fears participants have for what might happen in the fall. Much of that focused on the current uncertainty of whether schools will reopen in the fall, and if so, how. There is an expectation that the coming school year will still require distance learning, whether that is for part of the year or part of the day. Given the experience of the last couple of months, educators want to be prepared to teach effectively in whatever environment that turns out to be.
As we dug into these fears, we made note of a series of observations around what drives them. These focused on the decision making process, training and guidance available to educators as they experiment with distance learning, and factors which drive or limit student engagement when they are forced to work from home.
We also captured some initial thoughts on what changes might be necessary when students return to the classroom, as well as aspects of the in-school experience that educators would want to capture should distance learning return. The Jamboard we used to capture our thoughts is below.
Wondering how you might engage your students in an authentic experience from a distance? Erin Magennis, who you may know from Code For Milwaukee, is working on Ask3Gens, a social media project to create opportunities for students to connect with and learn from older generations. With Covid-19 driven isolation, now is a great time to build connections and share experiences.
Typically, questions are posted on social media with the #ask3gens hashtag, and seniors participating in the project will respond, but students could as easily reach out to seniors in their family or neighborhood to start a discussion. The shared experience of forced isolation creates an easy bridge to start a conversation:
What is your isolation experience like? How is your isolation different than mine?
What in your prior experience was anything like this? As you were growing up, what was most like this Covid-19 experience?
What from your experience would help me get through this?
If you’d like to create an opportunity for your students to connect with seniors over Zoom with a trusted 3rd party to monitor the conversation, let us know. We’ll offer eight slots and provide a recording of the conversation students can use to craft the story they’d like to tell. For more information on the Ask 3 Generations project, or help connecting with seniors to interview, contact Erin at email@example.com
Covid-19 threw a wrench in our plans for the final design review for students engaged in our Zoo Train Challenge. MSOE had planned to play host for the session, but as schools and universities first closed and then moved on-line we adjusted as well.
As schools reopened for distance learning, five teams were able to continue work on the challenge to redesign the process used to store and load coal for the Zoo’s steam locomotives. In most cases, they were forced to do so without the resources and physical prototypes they had started to produce. On Wednesday, four teams were able to join a review session on Zoom where they presented their ideas to and took questions from a review panel representing the advisory team for the project. That group included industry professionals from We Energies, Kumatsu, County Materials, as well as faculty and staff from MSOE and UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science.
While the virtual format was less than ideal, two things stood out across the presentations. All of the teams were able to leverage feedback and ideas from the conceptual design review UWM hosted in December to improve not just their designs, but their ability to talk through and communicate their design decisions. When asked by panelists about where they saw value in the experience, students consistently mentioned both the experience of figuring out how to work effectively as a team, and the opportunity to leverage and learn from outside experts.
Congratulations are due to all of the teams involved in the project. Thanks are also due to their teachers. Nothing interesting happens in a classroom without a teacher willing to say yes. Their willingness to involve their students in an open ended project, coordinate student participation in project events, and help their colleagues at other schools with ideas on how to manage project teams is the key ingredient in efforts like this.
Zoo Train Schools and Teachers
Elmbrook Launch – Ryan Osterberg
Golda Meir – Tina Gleason
Menomonee Falls – Robert Regent-Smith
New Berlin Eisenhower – Devin McKinnon
New Berlin West – Bill Trudell
Pathways High School – Angelique Byrne/Chris Kjaer
This week our discussion focused on teaching practices — what has been left behind as a result of Covid-19 school closures, what educators are testing as new ways to keep students engaged, and what is now happening that ought to continue even after schools reopen.
What stood out to us were the ways teachers are going above and beyond to help students stay engaged. That ranged from hosting a daily two hour drop-in video call for students who wanted to work on assignments in a setting where they knew their peers were doing the same to dropping off materials (and snacks) at the homes of students who lack online access.