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Creativity and innovation: how teachers are making the most of online tools to support students’ continual learning 

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Although teachers in the Vancouver School District have been adjusting programs for out-of-class learning for several weeks, many are continually expanding their own abilities to find more ways to keep their students engaged. The results are innovative while mindful of a child and family’s comfort level with technology. 

When in-class learning was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the District selected Microsoft TEAMS Classroom as the online collaboration space for teachers and students. Since then, many teachers logged on for weekly sessions with the District’s Learning and Information Technology team to make the most of the program. Recently they learned about the creative and inspiring work of some of their colleagues – a true demonstration of one of the District’s guiding principles of learning together! 

The biggest focus for Carrie Gelson, Grade 2 and 3 teacher at Florence Nightingale Elementary, is connecting with her students. She thinks of assignments and check-ins on Microsoft TEAMS like the carpet in her classroom. 

“I want this to be a place where they can come, they can find activities to do, they can connect and interact a little bit, and, they can go away and do some stuff or have a break, or go for a walk, and then they can come back,” she explains. 

Gelson adds there are private channels for her students in TEAMS where they can connect with her individually, and she can offer feedback. 

“And sometimes, if they’re online and I’m online as well, and they really don’t understand something, then I have little one-to-one tutorials,” she says. 

When Lisa Evans, Grade 1 teacher at Tecumseh Elementary began her work on Microsoft TEAMS, she started with individual student meetings introducing the camera, microphone and ‘end call’ button. Since then she increased meetings to groups of four students and implemented routines, like ‘hands-up to share’ and thumbs-up or down to indicate feelings. She will soon grow the meetings again to make larger groups. 

“We start off with some quick hellos and do a feelings check-in. We have some time for a story and story talk. And then I either will have two really quick, or, one longer class meeting activity,” Evans says, adding assignments have included math activities, and writing tasks that follow-up on books the students have read. 

Tami Ogura, district literacy and enhancement teacher supports students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 at Waverley Elementary and Sir Sandford Fleming Elementary. She takes a slightly different approach – choosing to make use of Microsoft Sway, to present her lessons in the style of a blog. She starts each lesson with a recording of her own voice giving direction. 

“I do this because the families may be too busy to do this with their child and also the students in Kindergarten may not read the instructions, and they like to hear a familiar voice,” Ogura explains. 

Meantime, in Katrina Wong's Grade 4/5 class at Florence Nightingale Elementary, the children were instructed to create art pieces using everyday objects.

“Students are learning that they can use their imagination to create things that they enjoy, even when they are unable to visit with their friends,” says Wong.  

Once the art pieces were complete, students shared their work online in Microsoft TEAMS with the entire class and provided feedback to one another. 

The IRL (in real life) results of the assignment are as diverse as the students themselves. One student created an art piece showing the ocean and its creatures, while another student created a peacock out of pencil shavings.

Parin Morgan, principal of Florence Nightingale Elementary says, “I believe one thing that has surfaced for many during this pandemic time is the realization that we need to slow down and truly smell the roses. We need to remind each other to pace ourselves and continue to be heartfully connected.”

These are but a few examples of how students and teachers together are continuing to learn while in-class instruction is suspended. There are more than 10,000 classes and 12,000 teachers currently teaching online in Vancouver. 

For more information about the District’s supports for continuity of learning, click here.

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