When describing how her school district is handling remote learning, Melissa Lim uses a word some might find unusual: opportunities.
It’s well documented that public schools across the country still are wrangling with challenges of remote learning — everything from securing devices to engaging students online. But despite those problems, some educators see opportunities to approach education in new ways.
That’s one reason why EdTech chose Lim as one of our 2020 K–12 IT Influencers. Lim, a technology integration specialist at Portland Public Schools in Oregon, recently answered questions from EdTech about how she and other educators are finding opportunities for innovation during remote learning.
EDTECH: What are some of the educational technology trends or opportunities for innovation that you are exploring because of expanded remote learning?
LIM: The shift to remote learning compelled Portland Public Schools to finalize a digital toolkit. This collection of purchased applications is available to all PPS students, teachers and staff. These are foundational digital resources for technology-enhanced instruction during face-to-face and distance learning. We are using the pandemic as an opportunity to almost go fully one-to-one with Chromebooks and address technology and internet access issues for our families, attempting to close the digital divide.
EDTECH: How are you encouraging your peers to use technology for teaching and learning, now and in the future?
LIM: Our standard district videoconferencing tool is Google Meet, so teachers are trying to gain more experience and comfort using that tool and eagerly await the changes from Google to bring in more functionality. Teachers have been doing some great work incorporating social and emotional learning practices into their virtual class meetings. Our district has a two-week “soft start” of school to establish the classroom routines, best practices and familiarity with the technology resources, for students as well as families.
EDTECH: How has the pivot to remote learning permanently changed the way you do your job?
LIM: Our district closure in mid-March forced teachers into distance learning and using technology they may not have had experience with before. As a result, teachers have become more familiar with digital resources and tools and less tech phobic. Now, starting the year off in a virtual environment, our district has the opportunity to do things differently during the upcoming school year. Teachers have had a brief experience with these new technologies, and they definitely saw the benefits. They will be more prepared and will incorporate these new resources into their teaching, whether online or in the actual classroom.
Editor’s Note: This Q&A is part of a series featuring educators and technology experts who are K–12 influencers, weighing in on the innovations happening in their school community and in education at large during remote learning. Check out the first, second and third articles of this series.