Sep 29 2020

Q&A: Andrew Arevalo on How Remote Learning Paves the Way for Innovation

The fourth-grade teacher and esports director discusses how moving to remote learning pushed educators in his district to rethink how they’re using technology.

Pivoting to remote learning in the spring presented schools and districts with new challenges, some of which they’re still working to resolve. But every hurdle has a silver lining.

Many educational institutions realized they can no longer just rely on the traditional classroom to educate future generations. Now, they’re exploring other systems and strategies made possible by the power of technology, helping them better prepare students for a rapidly evolving world. School leaders, teachers, IT teams and other departments are also coming together to reassess, learn and engage with technology in new ways, with a shared goal in mind: improving the quality and reach of education.

Andrew Arevalo

That work is more important than ever for Andrew Arevalo, a fourth grade teacher and esports director for California’s McCabe Union Elementary School District. Arevalo, who was recently named to the EdTech 2020 K–12 IT Influencers list, uses social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to engage other educators in conversations around educational technology. He shared with EdTech how he has adapted his classroom for virtual learning and why it's crucial for educators to be confident with educational technology.

EDTECH: What are educational technology trends or opportunities for innovation that you are exploring because of expanded remote learning?

AREVALO: I’m exploring additional project-based learning opportunities that are rooted in digital pedagogy and media literacy. My hot glue guns, cardboard and mobile makerspace are all confined to my classroom. As a result, my pedagogy had to shift to create the same type of authentic PBL experiences without the typical PBL materials. And I’ve had so much fun doing so!

Also, I’m definitely much more inclined to try new technology in general. I think that once we are comfortable with technology, we tend to rely on that level of comfort. Unfortunately, that can actually leave us behind. But distance learning has shown us that relying on comfort simply can’t get us to where we need to be. Hence, I’ve been much more open and receptive to growing through the real and raw discomfort new tech brings. COVID-10 pushed all of us educators to look at how we are using technology and how we can use it more efficiently.

EDTECH: How are you recreating a classroom environment for virtual learning?

AREVALO: I’m making it much more interactive. At the same time, I’m putting myself into the perspective of students and families, in particular. Overcomplicated isn’t what parents need right now. They want simple, easy-to-access and user-friendly experiences. I’m getting rid of complicated additional layers while focusing on brevity.

READ MORE: Here are 4 tips for supporting parents during remote learning.

EDTECH: How has the pivot to remote learning permanently changed the way you do your job?

AREVALO: I’d say my priority has always been establishing relationships and fostering a true sense of community with my students and parents. However, now, that takes even greater precedent. The reality is that our students are suffering from varying degrees of trauma, and our instruction must be rooted in empathy. We must have a deeper focus on building social and emotional learning opportunities for the years to come. COVID-19 may go away at some point, but the trauma that has been inflicted will linger.

EDTECH: How are you, or the teachers you work with, using existing technology in new ways?

AREVALO: We’ve all had to adapt and modify our use and understanding of existing technology to meet the demands of distance learning. Having a strong fluency in digital pedagogy has allowed me to app-smash and problem-solve my way around specific distance-learning problems. I think a strong foundation in educational technology will allow teachers to make real-world connections while problem-solving in the digital space.

EDTECH: How are you encouraging your peers to use technology for teaching and learning, now and in the future?

AREVALO: Well, in short, COVID-19 has done that for me. My father recently started his 43rd year in public education as a fourth grade teacher, and he has gone above and beyond to put himself through the professional development that would get him to the point where he felt confident with educational technology. His story echoes that of so many other educators. And now, he’s coming to me to build off of the knowledge he has. We must be supportive of all generations of educators while making sure no one is left behind.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A is part of a series featuring educators and technology experts from our 2020 K–12 IT Influencers list, weighing in on the innovations happening in their school community and in education at large during remote learning. Check out the first and third articles of this series. 

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