This Apple Distinguished School has been enhancing teaching and learning with the Apple ecosystem since 2012. When the news of school closures and the need for distance learning became an eminent reality ILS knew they had all the tools they needed to ensure continuity of learning so they began to overlay e-Learning strategies to their EdTech foundations from the past 8 years.
The plans and preparations came together quickly, everything began on Friday, March 6th. The school administration developed a virtual learning plan which included the school schedule for distance learning. On Monday, March 9th, the administration and curriculum committee further brainstormed the Virtual Learning Plan and came up with further amendments. The following couple of days was focused on needs assessments which surveyed all stakeholders to make sure any gaps could be addressed before making the shift to virtual learning, this included identifying who might need hotspots for home connectivity and establishing a tech support hotline.
In order to prepare teachers ILS turned to one of their long running professional development sessions “Campfires.” Here groups of teachers met with the Dean of Faculty, a member of the innovation team, and a member of the technology team during planning periods to review the Virtual Learning Plan along with all of the resources the school would be using to accomplish distance learning. New applications were installed automatically via the MDM prior to the meetings.
Teachers also worked with their students to begin to give them a better idea of what to expect when they went virtual. Student Gabriel X. (Class of 2021) said that teachers were encouraging them to create a space for learning in their house or in their room.
English teacher Ana Roman models her work from home space encouraging students to create their own.
Preparations to go virtual also included an effort from the tech team to ensure everyone was ready and more importantly devices were ready. Eric Taggart, Director of Technology, made sure the appropriate apps were added to devices and also leveraged the MDM to update the iPads to the latest operating system to take advantage of all of the management profiles and restrictions available. Working with the Mosyle team they were able to ensure the transition would be seamless.
All aspects of the school were preparing to move virtual from athletics to even guidance. Marcela Aguilar, head of the guidance department, said her team made preparations to continue providing emotional and academic support to the students and families. Leveraging a variety of digital tools students would be able to make virtual guidance appointments and course selections for next academic year continue with parents using video conferencing and email.
Teacher, Milly Beltran, said that her main focus in preparing for the switch to virtual learning centered around the question “How do we get ourselves out to the students in a way that is practical and efficient.” So with only 5 days to create a plan, assess needs, provide additional training, and communicate the plan to all stakeholders ILS was able to flip the switch in record time. On Monday, March 16th as school closures began in Florida they opened up their virtual doors.
Monica Orelle, Dean of Faculty, said the goal of their Virtual Learning Plan was to “create guidelines for students and teachers, expectations for all, and to keep everyone true to the learning and the routine.” So to get everyone into a digital routine the first day was like an orientation day everyone signed in, checked in, attendance was taken, teachers practiced video conferences, walked through certain apps and workflows etc.
Creating an atmosphere that continues to build on student/teacher relationships is no easy task and teachers have been hyper aware of this as they were kicking off the first week of online instruction. Dr. Lauren Gomez said that for her social studies courses her driving question is “are you having meaningful interactions?” She makes sure that she is not losing the energy she creates in her physical classroom by mixing lecture and purposeful conversation while avoiding creating “empty time or space.” Senior Jacques C. felt “overwhelmed the first week since it was all new” but as the week went on he felt like life and learning went on, “even clubs are meeting after school online and sports teams are doing virtual workouts.” There are a lot of ingredients being used by the Immaculata-La Salle community to make this digital recipe work and open dialogue is certainly alive and well, every other day departments are meeting, department heads and administration are meeting. The discussions help evolve the work they are doing.
Immaculata-La Salle has been leveraging the Apple app ecosystem for many years. Mosyle Manager efficiently installs all of the applications the school needs and manages the updates automatically. For paperless classrooms, ILS has relied on tools like their learning management system for all things from assignment submission to discussions to audio/video feedback, and more.
Even the fine arts are alive and well in the digital space. LTV, the school news program, is modeling what we are seeing from our own news stations across the country. Teacher Tony Menedez says they were ready on day one, students are filming their segments from their homes on their iPad or iPhone and using iMovie to edit their footage and send it to him where he finishes everything off in Final Cut Pro X. They send out the daily show to the school via their YouTube channel.
Art classes have leveraged apps like Notability, Procreate, and Adobe Sketch to create digital masterpieces as well as using the iPad’s camera to take high quality photos of sketches.
A sample of student created art.
Physical education still has its place in digital learning as well. Anthony Vuono, P.E. Department Chair, shared that they are putting together workouts for students that can be done safely around the house or in front or backyards. They will either meet via video conference and have the workouts introduced or video recordings are shared. Student’s then use their iPad camera to time lapse record the workouts and upload into the LMS to show they were participating.
There is some much being leveraged on iPad at ILS including the incredible built-in tools like screen recording that teachers are using to capture lessons and post in the school’s LMS so students can revisit the lesson as often as they need. Providing the ability to rewatch lectures and key concepts is just one way that ILS has been trying to meet the needs of all of its learners.
Math teacher Julie Anne Cannon strongly believes that “you can’t undervalue the student-teacher relationship, that will help in the long run in keeping students engaged.” She also says her strategy for having more accountability in the work her students are doing is to make it “challenging enough that they can’t cheat but can use the resources they have to research the solution.”
Student shares their home setup.
As a premium customer Immaculata-La Salle also has access to our Class Manager which plays a role in providing peace of mind to teachers since it runs entirely on wifi and devices can be anywhere in the world! Locking students into a series of apps, a single app, or even a website ensures students are focused on the content they need to be. Feel free to open your account today and try out these great features.
So now that several weeks have gone by what is the Immaculata-La Salle community saying about their digital learning adventures? Senior, Isabella F., said she was very skeptical that it was going to be a productive experience. She felt that “everyone was going to cheat and sleep in but now that we are doing it, it’s very structured deadlines, it works. But, there’s still a lot of room for independence. I feel like I’m in college already.” Teachers are also overall pleased with how things are going so far. Yvonne Alvarez considers ILS to be very lucky to be able to “allow the students to have their routine continued and learning continued.” Dr. Lauren Gomez also found herself reflecting during the week of spring break that teaching will always be her passion. She feels re-energized on the importance of what she is doing and feels “incredibly fortunate that we are here and students are showing up, really the whole community is showing up for each other.” The general perception is that “it’s working better than expected,” shared Monica Orelle, Dean of Faculty, “everyone’s voice was part of the initial creation of the plan so we had whole group buy-in to make sure that it works for all stakeholders.” Even though the academic buildings might be empty, principal Sr. Kim Keraitis says one thing is clear - “the spirit of the ILS community is alive and well represented by each member doing their part” to achieve academic continuity.