“Now that every teacher in the district uses Microsoft Teams, Schoology, and can make informational videos, teachers are able to turn to each other for support and advice. Schoology will allow us to communicate more effectively as educators with each other and with students and parents. It really is a whole new world,” explained superintendent James Morse in response to the new technology teachers and students have developed in going remote.
With the switch to remote learning, teachers and students at ORHS were forced to learn new technology including Microsoft Teams and Schoology in order to carry on with the school semester. For more information about remote learning as a whole, check out Emily Hamilton’s article, ORHS Transitions to Remote Learning, at https://mor.news/2020/04/03/orhs-transitions-to-remote-learning/. With the development of Teams and Schoology, teachers and students are modernizing the way students learn and are taught.
ORHS Spanish teacher Mary Beaton has never used Schoology or Microsoft Teams before. She explained, “these new tools in my toolbox help make me a more well rounded teacher and hopefully, make my lessons more diverse and interesting for students.”
Like Beaton, Ella Stasko (‘21) explained how learning Microsoft Teams and Schoology has been beneficial for her as a student and will also benefit her moving forward. “I think that learning how to use Microsoft Teams and Schoology is helping with developing independence. Remote learning is really putting a lot of faith into students to manage their time and do the work on their own which I think is a skill that will be really helpful in college.”
With the development of technology under remote learning, Morse explained that this situation is opening up a world of growth for educators and students. “Young people historically have been the early adopters and drivers of new technology. The younger teachers simply see technology as a tool, not a threat. Most of the staff in my age group have learned to ‘deal with’ technology but it is not native to them. Remote learning has jump started universal technology use like nothing we’ve seen before. I believe remote learning will equalize the playing field between students and teachers and adults and thus create unthought of and new learning opportunities for all.”
One of the new opportunities Morse is referring to is possibly getting rid of snow days. In the cold winter months when snow storms arise and school is cancelled, students must make up that time at the end of the year in June. However, now that teachers and students have learned how to carry on with school via Microsoft Teams and Schoology, snow days don’t seem necessary. “I think the technology skills we’ve all learned could make snow days prehistoric. A generation from now, snow days will be a thing nobody remembers,”said Morse.
Agreeing with Morse, ORHS math teacher Katie Johnson said, “I would love snow days to be remote learning. Students would already be comfortable using this set up for snow days, so there wouldn’t be any learning curves to implement this idea.” Although the removal of snow days is not official, it is definitely something that will be discussed in the near future.
Whether we have snow days or not, the transition to remote learning has given teachers the opportunity to learn how to blend their styles of teaching with technology. Filippone explained that using blended teaching and learning is, “really helpful for kids that have extended absences or have something going on where they aren’t able to get into school.” Filippone also added that the sudden switch to remote learning has helped move along the preparation for when the high school goes one to one with computers next fall. One to one means that every student at ORHS will be given a laptop provided by the school. “One of the goals that the faculty had created in terms of technology was getting ready for one to one, so I think that going remote has shortened that timeline of learning,” said Filippone.
Although going to a remote learning setup full time is not ideal, the amount of progress the Oyster River community has made in terms of implementing and using technology effectively is a step forward in modernizing their education. With teachers and students learning how to use and teach from Microsoft Teams and Schoology, education within the district is expanding as there are many new and creative ways to teach and understand lessons through programs like Teams, Schoology and video making.
Morse explained that besides the technology benefits, “a less tangible benefit is the sense of community remote learning has developed across the district. Strangely, teachers feel more connected to each other and I believe that this is true for families as well. Teenagers who come to school faithfully, and do what has been asked of them have a new appreciation for traditional school. Even teenagers have reached out and said, ‘we miss school, we miss our teachers!’ Who would have thought that was possible!”