Digital classrooms have potential

By CONNIE NOLEN | Guest Columnist

Screens are saving many from isolation as our community and our country battle COVID-19. Last spring, pivoting to virtual instruction suddenly as the pandemic invaded, teachers and students still maintained connection. Established routines of working on devices and submitting assignments on Google Classroom allowed us to manage the spring.

My opportunity to engage as a remote learning student arrived in late June as AP Research virtual training began. As the student, I wondered if my attention would stray.

My service center was in Georgia, but my instructor was in Miami. My classmates were from as close as Hoover and as far away as New Jersey, Texas, Nevada and California.

This summer’s AP Research training used the online teacher virtual training week, not only to cover AP Research instructional techniques, requirements and skills, but also to allow teachers to experience the virtual tools assembled to instruct remotely.

Those tools included everything from old-fashioned snail mail to Zoom to Google Jamboard to Google Slide decks.

Assembled on a Canva for Education login platform, our AP Research instructor course took participants from a landing site to our complete course repository in a Google HyperDoc.

Sharing instructional techniques and tools that would work for both face-to-face and remote instruction, the course organization was inspiring.

Experiencing Zoom’s group tools allowed teachers to imagine our own students connected in virtual small groups. Our instructor formed groups easily. Timers and countdown windows provided notifications before booting us back into large group.

While I would have preferred experiencing in-person instruction with my new friends, the formats that college board professionals employed to create our digital classroom were powerful.

We had class show-and-tell on our last Advanced Placement Summer Institute day to meet our classmates’ partners, children and pets—the providers of background noise and comic relief.

Friendships formed during AP Research training proving that digital classrooms have the potential to be exciting points of connection and community.