Wednesday May 31, 2023

Whew – Virtual School.

Still around. Still alive. Virtual school has been an adventure.

Certainly no regrets since we both believe it helps protect BB from the Rona. There have been several students and staff that have tested positive (including a teenager who knew they had it and went to school anyway…and please note I did not say they caught it from school. I am saying they knew they had it and went to school anyway thus exposing everyone else…just like kids do and that sometimes parents allow children to do: go to school sick).

As someone experienced in instructional design, our district made some poor choices. I can say the following from two perspectives but before I do:

I am not blaming the teachers.

The teachers did not get any say so in choosing the e-learning platform or any control over how it operates.

  1. The chosen e-learning platform requires a web cam to log-in, but the kids don’t actually use the web cam. In fact, the morning roll call meeting is done through Zoom and not the e-learning platform. So, BB uses my laptop for all of his schoolwork because he can’t use the desktop we initially allotted for his use. We knew he would need the laptop for Zoom roll call, but now he must use the laptop for all of it. In the end, it isn’t that big of a deal. It’s a poor design choice that I’m sure affects the majority of families involved in e-learning.
  2. The e-learning platform can be used to turn in assignments, but that portion isn’t used. The district requires the use of an external texting program that requires taking pictures of the completed assignments. In BB’s case, it doesn’t really matter. Being developmentally delayed, he does a lot of worksheets that reinforce basic math, reading, etc. We just number basic paper and line it up with the worksheet. If the morning worksheet is to write his name, we use plain paper and do it. I use SmallScanner on my phone and take a picture and send it to Bull who then uploads it through the district sanctioned app…but all the extra steps are just silly. I don’t know how families who do not work from home manage all the extra steps. Some of his assignments have instructions (and, again, I am NOT blaming the teacher as we are in a functional special ed class) read, “Use the APP NAME and tell me how many he got correct.” I understand the need to do this. I am not sure how families who don’t work from home manage all the extra steps. Between his school work and my business, I’m now staring at a screen 13 hours per day (hence my radio silence last week…extra screen time for me equals more headaches because I can’t use Dark Reader on his school site).
  3. The link for his daily check in was buried. Again, that’s not the fault of the teacher. That’s the design of the e-learning platform. As someone with several years of instructional design experience, parents and students should be able to find what they need in fewer than three clicks. It took us three fucking days to find his daily roll call link. Once I found it (a recurring Zoom link), I added it to my Evernote.

And, no, it is not acceptable to say that the districts had limited time to do this. Colleges have done e-learning for years. I completed my bachelor’s degree online over a decade ago. I worked on my Master’s online almost a decade ago. Online learning has been around for two decades. Schools knew in the spring that this was likely to occur. They had months to implement a system that worked. And again, not blaming the teachers. In fact, BB’s new teacher is fantastic and patient. Teachers are rock stars. This is purely an issue that should have been better handled by the district at an administrative level. Period.

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