A strange time for schools

By CONNIE NOLEN | Guest Columnist

The strangest Spring Break ever has taken place for the school systems of Shelby County in 2020. My teacher email fills with notifications from educational technology companies.

A few are still attempting to sell their wares, but most of these companies have a philanthropic side and former teachers on the payroll. They know that schools are not generating purchase orders or spending money now—and they’re offering normally paid services for free to assist teachers with online instruction.

College Board, the corporation who administers Advanced Placement courses moved many of their resources online at the beginning of this academic year into virtual AP Classroom sites for all teachers and students—complete with lessons that teachers can choose to incorporate for many classes. The company also maintains excellent communication directly with teachers.

By March 16, College Board emailed teachers promising extensions for AP Portfolio requirements and tests. The company also promised a more complete response by March 20th  revealing detailed plans.

“Thanks for letting us know Mrs. Nolen!” Pelham High School Junior Shaun O’Neal replies when I send the information to students over Remind—the app that allows teachers to send a single text from phones or computers to all students and parents who’ve signed up for the service’s texts or emails.

What would we do without Remind during this crisis? How wonderful that this academic year is the year that College Board launched their additional online resources for teachers and students.

“Surely the university realizes that online instruction will not be as effective as classroom instruction?” Peyton Strickland said to me as he prepared for the University of Alabama to reopen following their Spring Break and the start of virtual instruction.

“So much learning in classrooms happens through student questions and discussions,” I respond. We both fall silent. Remembering illuminating student interactions, I’m wondering how we’ll recreate compelling student interaction online.

Together, we’ll find our way.