In this episode of The Prep Period Podcast, Lindsay Smith, a veteran social studies teacher shares some tools to help you navigate your digital classroom and shares how to improve your class culture on and offline.
BRIAN: Welcome to the Prep Period podcast. My name is Brian Bean. I’m your host as always. Uh, in today’s episode we’re going to discuss navigating the digital classroom. We’re also going to look at some technology tools to help with that and the thing I’m most excited about we’re going to talk about how to get your students more involved with each other since they’re not in a live classroom anymore. Our guest today is Lindsay smith from Stuart W Kramer High School. Welcome Lindsey. We are recording.
BRIAN: All right, so first things first let’s get our listeners a little bit more familiar with you Lindsay. Uh so Lindsay Smith is originally from Connellsville, Pennsylvania. Did I say that right? Connellsville, Pennsylvania just outside Pittsburgh. Uh, but has been a social studies teacher in North Carolina in the past for about the past 10 years or so. She is a graduate of Muskingum University. Did I say that right? All right, with a master’s degree in secondary education. Lindsay is married with a daughter and two dogs. She enjoys learning new methods of technology for the classroom management and curriculum development. So I’m super excited to talk about this particular topic. Let’s just dive right in right? Uh so this has obviously been a major issue on everybody’s minds this last year and you know the tail end of of uh 2019 and it seems like it dominated 2020. Obviously the name of the year that will not be spoken of right? Uh but it seems like plenty of teachers out there are still struggling. They’re still trying to you know they still feel helpless when it comes to just trying to navigate the the hybrid model or even the fully virtual classes. But you seem to have gotten a good grasp on that. So what has worked for you you know when it comes to things like structure organization? Any tips that you can share what has worked for you?
LINDSAY: Okay so it’s gonna sound a little bit weird but one of the things that I have learned from March up until now is that you really need to be as detailed and as simple as possible for your students. When I talk about details that comes more in your instruction and you want more detailed bullet points walk them through as if they were sitting right in front of you. If you are doing it remote or virtual um you know step them through what they need to do when it comes too simple. The less clicks your students can make to get what they need to do the better. Um so we have a program we use Canvas which you know really works out. Right on the home page of their course I have a chart schedule with Monday through Friday with the dates and they click you know Monday’s assignment it takes them right there. But you could easily do it with any type of hyperdoc whether you use Google docs or Word. Um you know have it set up for them a chart that takes them right to the assignment. Once they’re in the assignment that’s where the detail part comes in. I’ve also learned that things as simple as I use emojis um things are graded by percentage at my school. So like tests are worth 60 percent of their grade whereas quizzes are 20 of their grade. So I have a big like boom sign on any assignments that I give them that are test grades so they know virtually if they’re looking at their schedule for the week they can see right just by the pictures without reading anything homework homework quiz test and they can prioritize.
BRIAN: You know uh it’s interesting when you you mention the the clicks the simple is better. You’d be surprised how big of a deal and what a difference maker that is just to give them that quick uh navigation process to get into what they’re doing. If that process itself is bogged down you lose so many of the kids.
LINDSAY: They just – you lose them. You can give them more things once they actually get into the assignment. Uh but you know their initial thing like a lot of these kids they log on they look and they just want to… What do I do today?
BRIAN: So it sounds like it might take a little bit of extra work for the teacher but that the back end reward of just taking the time to get that little bit extra organization that a little bit extra structure. It sounds like it’s worth it. So now obviously I’m not in the classroom anymore right? In fact I like to joke around that I got out just in at the right time right?
LINDSAY: This is the best time. This is where you really get to put your your skills your knowledge you know all that stuff to the test.
BRIAN: I’m really glad I’m going to teach during chrome open. But uh I do miss it in many respects. I miss being in the classroom. But you know I’d be lying if I didn’t say I got out the right time. But when I think about it when I think about just trying to teach and all this craziness um like I get what you’re saying about being able to to put things in the LMS and whatnot. But I think about the way that I taught and I was very interactive in person. We had a lot of – my style and the things that I did were just – I mean it’s built for a live setting right? How do you convert a live lesson a lesson was contrived for a live setting – how do you convert that to a digital format and still have it be effective? Do you have any tips for listeners because I got no tips for them because I don’t know how I’d be able to do that. What are your thoughts?
LINDSAY: All right I don’t know if there are tips or tricks or um you know? Just kind of how it’s worked for me um essentially it takes time and it takes patience. Um I’ve been able to get my kids to do a gallery crawl even though we’re not there. BRIAN: I don’t know what a gallery crawl is.
LINDSAY: Okay, so gallery crawlers generally – I teach history so you may have pictures hanging all around the room and I would give them let’s say a reading about a historical event and then they’re supposed to go match the reading to the image. So the kids are constantly moving around the room. Um so literally crawling around the gallery. Um but obviously when you’re virtual you can’t really move uh they’re not there. So one thing I had to do is I would give them – it takes a lot of links a lot of hyperlinks, but they would have a reading and then there would be a question on the reading where they could match it up with the picture but they have to have the right answer to get the next link for the next reading. So they can’t progress until they actually get it correct. Um but it takes I mean trust me it’s a lot easier to tape stuff up on the wall and hand them printouts of the reading and say you know this is what we’re going to do. I mean it probably took me a couple hours to set it up but the benefits outweigh it. Instead of my kids listening to me lecture them through the camera if you’re fully virtual um or listening you know lecture to the kids on the camera that are home and to the students in person they got to interact.
BRIAN: And we’re going to talk more about the interaction here in a second but you brought something up to my mind like as I’m thinking about that activity specifically you just described one of the values of that activity in a live setting is that kinesthetic component right? Get up move around get out of your desk. Walk around get some of that energy out. Uh how do you do that virtually okay? Or is it even as much of a need virtually because they’re at home and they can move around anytime they want.
LINDSAY: Um it sounds a little bit weird uh but there are still games that I played um last March when we were all locked down. No one was leaving their houses and people were getting a little stir crazy. I happened to be teaching AP World at the time and so we did review games. Pretty much all of our live class sessions were review games one of which was basketball. And so I had that I know I had them broken up into teams and the teams would have to answer the question. And it was the first one to buzz in you know when you’re doing Zoom or Google meets. You can have it set to talk. The first part of the talk would pop up on the camera and that’s how I would know who it was. If they got the question correct then they could shoot a basket for an extra point and I give out what they call I call Smithbucks. And Smithbucks can be used to help you with the essay if you’re writing an essay or phone a friend during a test or even extra credit down the road. So they really want those Smithbucks um and so for them to shoot the basket I literally had them get their trash cans, bring your own a different kind of b-o-yb right bring your own basket and ball up whatever your parents didn’t care about. What you bought up to toss it they didn’t aim the camera and their team would be who you know they had to select which one of their players was going to shoot the basket for the extra points. And you know there you go.
BRIAN: I like that idea and the other thing about that is it allows kids to interact still. Some you know I think that’s one of the biggest uh I mean I don’t know teachers might feel a little differently uh looking inward. But looking outward at the students I think that’s one of the biggest tragedies of the covet education component is that the kids don’t get to interact as much anymore right? They’re missing out on that. So I like that you’ve incorporated some interaction. Can you think of any other ways that you can really allow these kids to interact more?
LINDSAY: Okay so again a lot of this takes time and I know teachers are really stressed and overworked and and so you don’t have to do something every time you’re in class. I try to at least once a week do something that’s a little bit you know more fun now that I am you know we’re into our second semester my school is hybrid so we have a group of kids that are in school Monday Tuesday and a group that are outside of school Monday and Tuesday. Then the ones that were out the first of the week come in Thursday Friday.
BRIAN: Um so y’all are all sorts of messed up?
LINDSAY: Yes we’re all kinds of crazy there. But one of the nice things um that I worked with my one of my colleagues on doing um and she she was her idea and so I give props out to Mindy who I worked with because she it took her a lot of time. Um but she did an assignment she usually does in school called speed dating and she also teaches history so she was doing civil rights activists and all of them whether they were home or in school were given um civil war activist members different people from that time that they had to research ahead of time. And then the kids that were in class logged on to their Google meet and they were assigned an original partner and they go through and have a discussion. So the person in school is talking to someone at home and they have this discussion going back and forth talking about um you know who their activist was. You could do it for anything though and whether or not the person that they were representing would get along with the other person she said she uses emojis for that and they have to also create their own emoji for how they were that person would feel. It’s all about really getting into character. And then the students at school got up and moved after a couple minutes remember speed dating so after a couple minutes they got moved to the next seat uh the computer stayed where it was and so they were seeing someone else from home and work their way around the room. She left out she had 11 and 11 so you know it was an even number there and then what she did to make sure that all the people for uh that were in person still got to talk to each other um they had an in-class discussion uh and then the people that were home all logged into a joint Google meet and had what she called singles bar and they kind of talked about each other. You know talk to each other and got the information from everyone that was virtual and it was really neat. I actually went into her room while she was doing it because her and I had discussed it and everything else um you know kind of picking each other’s brains on how technology-wise she could she could do it and the kids um that were home all meeting at the same time were pulled up on the uh smart board or you know led screen I mean you could see them all talking in their characters and and everything else. And then so they were you know they got to communicate not only with the ones at home that were in school you know they paired up but then they got everyone who was at school got to talk and everyone that was at home uh had their own meeting. And then they they broke out into groups where they were able to um they made groups of people uh parties and they can up to two to like four people and you do ones that may get along ones that won’t get along and then they create their own kind of rally posters and things like that. So it’s really just I mean it’s thinking outside the box. And it is like I said it’s a little bit time consuming.
BRIAN: Would you do that every week? Okay that’s you’d get burned out and I think the kids would too but I love the idea. I think these are fantastic suggestions and I can see a bunch of different ways that you could just play off the same similar concept a little bit and do a different kind of activity. I love it. I just had to think of the you know our listeners are probably wondering you know what’s the overall theme of how teachers deal with Covid teaching and and whatnot. Well, so far we’ve talked about bringing your own beer, singing singles bars, speed dating so yeah the answer to Covid is alcohol for you know. Some teachers maybe like the subtle undertones of this podcast and I’m gonna get fired. So all right next week you’ll have a new new host.
LINDSAY: Yes and maybe a new teacher in my classroom. Catchy names even is a way to get the kids you know going.
BRIAN: Say that again I was over talking over you. Say that again.
LINDSAY: Catchy names is a way to get the kids you know involved in it. If you call it the “Imperialism Review” you know that’s that’s not as exciting as if you know you call it the “Imperialism Match Point Game” or the you know the “Super Bowl of Imperialism” or you know and you make the game kind of based on you know –
BRIAN: I think traditional thinking sometimes would be like you know teenage kids they’re they’re two grown up for that or they at least want to be too grown up for that kind of stuff. But that stuff works. Those little things like that they make a big big difference. Okay we’ve got time for one more quick question. We’ve talked about Zoom you’ve talked about Google meets you’ve talked about how to use Canvas and powerpoints and different things like that. Do you have any other technology tools that you found that work really really well that you could kind of just as a recommendation tell people to go and take a look at?
LINDSAY: Um there’s so many. You can Edpuzzle is huge. I use Edpuzzle. It’s actually um you can track so I’m not allowed to um be lecturing my students on the computer and live at the same time um so it has to be a little bit more controlled. So a lot of my students on some days while they’re home will watch a pre-recorded lecture through Edpuzzle. I can add in questions. I can prevent them from skipping. I can track how much they’ve watched of it even before Covid hit I had a flipped classroom so my kids were doing the lectures at home and in school we were doing all kinds of activities and um so I had already been very familiar with Edpuzzle. But it’s a great great too. Near Pod is another one that I really like.
BRIAN: What’s that one?
LINDSAY: Near Pod – uh it’s you can actually add games right into it have a partner off and um essentially they log in and you control what they see on their screen. So it’s almost like a powerpoint except for it’s got way more bells and whistles to it and so they can’t skip ahead if they close out of the browser and try to open another window it tells you uh-huh there’s like one person not on screen uh and then you can start again. Who’s not there?
BRIAN: Well that’s wonderful. This has been fantastic. Thank you so much for coming onto our show. Thank you. Okay I want to thank Lindsay for coming onto the show. She mentioned a lot of really great resources that you could utilize and check out. Uh one of the things that really stood out to me as she was talking is how much practice it probably took for her to get some of these techniques down or some of these technologies. But it sounds like it was really worth it. You know by the time she kind of started getting in a groove there knew what she was doing it was worth it. I couldn’t help but think back with my own teaching model and how many things that I tried to do that just just did not work uh at the beginning and how many times I would have to sit down with my students and be like “Look that didn’t work and all that sucks. Please come back to school tomorrow but we’re gonna work through this. We’re gonna find something better.” And by the end you know I had something special and my students really really benefited from it. You know and it’s that hard work. And more than anything it took a lot of patience with myself to be able to keep trying keep trying something different keep trying something new you know? Not being afraid to fail and as teachers do that they take that attitude that’s where special things come from. And so uh I think we just need more more teachers like Lindsay out there uh and and our students are gonna benefit from it. So all right with that uh if any of you know anybody or if you yourself would like to be interested in being on our show please email me directly at [email protected]. That’s Brian with an “i” Bean, just like the vegetable. With that thank you very much. Appreciate having you.
Lindsay Smith is originally from Connellsville, Pennsylvania, but has been a social studies teacher in North Carolina for the past ten years. She is a graduate of Muskingum University with a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. Lindsay is married with a daughter and two dogs. She enjoys learning new methods of technology for the classroom, classroom management, and curriculum development.