Development sessions give Grandview Heights teachers taste of home learning

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
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Grandview Heights Schools teachers got a preview of the new year's distance learning Aug. 5 and 6 -- only in this case, they were doing the learning.

The district will open the 2020-21 year Monday, Aug. 17, with all students learning from home full time.

Its annual summer professional-development program was held online, as well.

"With the COVID situation, we had to rethink how the format was going to work," chief academic officer Jamie Lusher said.

The past three years, Grandview has coordinated the Big Think, a two-day professional-development conference for teachers and administrators, in partnership with the Hilliard and South-Western school districts and the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio.

"We had already planned our summer professional-development event to be a Grandview-focused program this year, even before the pandemic hit," Lusher said.

The topics covered during the two-day program, titled Launch, were organized based "on the areas our teachers told us they needed or wanted to know more about," said Marc Alter, director of 21st-century learning.

Otherwise, the remote professional-development sessions "really weren't too different from a typical program, except we were using an online platform," he said.

It was important to ensure teachers could engage in reflection and collaborative discussions with each other even if they would not be gathered together physically, said 21st-century learning coach Jessica Fields.

"The best kind of professional development is when you're empowered by others' ideas," she said.

During both days of Launch, time was set aside for teachers to reflect, interact and share ideas with each other, Fields said.

The online platform in some ways enhanced the collaboration between teachers, said seventh-grade language-arts teacher Carl Acton.

"It made it easier to interact with teachers from other hallways and other buildings, so it broadened the breadth of the ideas and input we were able to get from each other," he said.

Out of the Launch program, staff members who teach grades 6-12 English have agreed to hold regular collaborative sessions every two weeks during the school year, Acton said.

Engaging in professional-development sessions online will help teachers improve their own remote-teaching practices, high school math teacher Emily Meister said.

"I was learning remotely myself, and it helps me understand more what my students are dealing with as remote learners," she said. "I can make adjustments to enhance how I'll provide instruction and material to my students online."

The first day's focus was technology and included sessions on digital applications, remote synchronous learning and exploring how teachers can best use Schoology, the district's learning-management system for remote and hybrid learning models, Fields said.

The second day's focus was "the kind of school culture we want to have," Alter said, "so it was less about teaching and more about building students' social skills."

The day began with a keynote address by Sean Ross, chief operations officer/chief learning officer of Professional Consulting Associates.

Ross spoke on the issues of equity, inclusion and diversity, Alter said.

This school year, the district will provide each staff member with an iPad, "a second device for them to use at their disposal," said Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School principal Quint Gage.

"Their main device can serve as a teaching tool and they can use the iPad as a video tool," he said. "It will serve as a virtual SMART Board where you can display material or an image while still seeing the students in front of you" using a laptop computer.

The second device can also serve as a backup to allow a teacher to continue their lessons if there's a problem with their laptop, Gage said.

About 116 staff members out of 170 participated in the two-day Launch program, Alter said.

Teachers were not required to attend the virtual program Aug. 5 and 6, he said.

"Those dates didn't fit in everyone's schedule," Alter said.

However, Hayley Head, executive assistant to the superintendent, said the district's 140 teachers, administrators, aids and Kids Club directors were especially encouraged to participate.

Lusher added that 99% of certified staff members took part in Launch

Teachers who did not participate in the program will have the opportunity to engage in the material on professional days scheduled Oct. 23 and Nov. 3, Lusher said.

Grandview delayed the start of school by two days so teachers could use that time to prepare for the school year.

Teachers will be able to use those days to come to their buildings to hold small-group collaborative sessions, Lusher said.

"They will also be using those days to get their classrooms ready for when we move to a hybrid model," Gage said.

The district's hybrid model will have all students attending class in their school buildings in the morning or afternoon each day and spending the rest of the day engaged in learning activities at home.

"We have to have the classrooms ready so we can pivot quickly from remote learning to hybrid," Gage said.

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