[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As students begin to return to school this year, many parents and students still have questions about whether it will be in a virtual classroom, hybrid classroom, or in person. Families have been significantly impacted by the pandemic since early 2020. Since that time COVID-19 has continuously changed the way teachers and students handle challenges in teaching and learning across various platforms. By the end of September 2021, many Texas schools who opened up with in person learning opportunities quickly found that a spike in the transmission of coronavirus meant they could be switching gears again only weeks into the fall semester. Because younger children aged eleven or younger were not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and were concerned about being in person, many schools hastily opened virtual academies for this particular demographic. This too brought challenges in making the system work and securing the staff to man the program. As the pandemic began, school districts, teachers, and students were all asked to “pivot” and change the way they approached learning as Americans stayed at home. Now, as a new school year begins in 2021, the word of this school year seems to be flexible, as schools navigate the hybrid classroom model with increasing frequency. With the world of education largely incorporating hybrid classroom models this year, we thought it would be helpful to talk to schools to see what has worked and what has not since the pandemic forced changes in the way teachers educate and students learn. Our hope is that the lessons learned by a private San Antonio school can help others as they look to the rest of the school year and beyond.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
How COVID Forced a Hybrid Classroom[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/2"][vc_column_text]Most schools in Texas started the March break of 2020 with one eye on the coronavirus situation, but never expecting it would impact them the way it did. Many in the education industry refer to that as the year spring break never ended because most students never returned to the classroom before the school year concluded. However, in the interim between March and the last day of school, educators felt compelled to do something to facilitate some level of education and routine for children. A private school in San Antonio pulled together a team of professionals to find a way to take education virtual. This was a challenge for them for several reasons:
- At this time in educational history, cameras were not a normal part of the classroom model.
- Educators did not have experience with cameras and preferred not to use them unless necessary.
- Some subjects such as coding or science labs were near impossible to teach virtually because it required years of planning, and in this instance, they had none.
Meeting the Need for Professional Development in Technology[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/4"][vc_single_image image="4212" img_size="300x300"][vc_single_image image="4213" img_size="300x300"][vc_single_image image="4214" img_size="300x300"][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width="3/4"][vc_column_text]As virtual learning became the status quo during the spring semester of 2020, the main obstacle became getting educators comfortable with new hardware, software, and platforms. Specifically, the school did the following:
- Got teachers comfortable with various learning platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. For roughly three full days, teachers did professional development training to better understand how to handle issues such as logging into a Zoom session or teaching over a voice line instead of in the classroom.
- Change the hardware. Essentially teachers’ laptops became their classroom, but the school found that most of the laptops the teachers had were subpar for accommodating virtual learning, primarily because the machines’ cameras and microphones were lacking. Although the school quickly placed orders for new Microsoft Surface machines, it would take time to get them. In the meantime, educators did they best they could to find webcam deals and minimize background noise that often occurred when communicating through the laptop.
- Obtain the right software. With professional development and new hardware also came the need to obtain software that would enhance virtual and eventually hybrid classrooms.