When schools closed in March, forcing educators to move to an online platform, Kingsway Academy’s information technology (IT) Teacher Ernesta Rodriques was better positioned than most for the switch to distance learning, having been an Edmodo user since 2014.
Edmodo’s free software allows teachers to set up virtual classrooms. They can post assignments, give quizzes and grades and use third-party apps to complement lessons.
“I thought it would be an easy transition,” she said. “I quickly learned that was not the case.”
The pandemic forced educators to re-evaluate their classroom teaching styles and find new ways to deliver content in a virtual environment, stretching many beyond their comfort zones.
At the height of the pandemic, Rodriques, a mother of three, became an Edmodo certified trainer.
Following her certification, the former Deloitte system administrator and Cititrust information security officer created an Edmodo training session for teachers. The goal was to help educators from schools across New Providence learn how to master the fundamentals of Edmodo’s online learning system and other tools needed to deliver great content virtually.
With the new school year beginning online for many, Rodriques offered advice to help ease educators’ transition to teaching remotely.
She first disseminated these tips last month during a presentation kicking off Edmodocon, a virtual conference for all teachers among the platform’s 87 million users from around the world. As of this report, just 300 were certified trainers.
In a major accomplishment for The Bahamas, Rodriques’ video was the first to be released in the ongoing professional development series.
To make content more engaging for students, she recommends teachers be versatile, mixing up their delivery method with infographics, podcasts and/or videos. Being concise is also important, the IT instructor said. Online videos should be kept under five minutes and podcasts under 15.
She urged teachers to be available and responsive.
“Students get frustrated and give up if they encounter a problem they cannot get clarification on. Always be available for your students to reach out to you,” said Rodriques, who prior to the pandemic designed and taught an introduction to computer class for adults. It was offered free for seven years at constituency offices in Marathon.
When it comes to remote learning, she’s a big fan of screencasting – recording lectures narrated over a slideshow. This she called “the tool for the new normal”.
“A lot of teachers chose to go with live video calls, and I do that as well, but I prefer screencasting. When recording your lessons, if you make a mistake or you forget something, you can easily make an edit or record the entire video again so when you present your lesson to your students, they get the best of you,” she said.
“Secondly, students are able to listen when they are going to be most engaged, rather than forcing your students to log into a live call during a time that’s convenient to you and not necessarily to them. Students are able to watch your videos when they are going to be most attentive. It allows you to create an archive of your best lessons which students can revisit time and time again.”
Not surprisingly, Edmodo tops her education technology tools for distance learning, followed by Screencastomatic.com which allows one to create quick and easy instructional videos with little editing.
She suggested Edpuzzle.com to make the leap to virtual learning more successful. It transforms teachers’ personal videos and those from YouTube into an interactive online assessment tool. A fourth recommendation, Adobespark.com, helps creates professional presentations, posts and videos with voice-overs.
According to Rodriques, educators who seek to successfully navigate this new normal must be willing to learn new things, be open to change and take full advantage of free learning resources available on the internet.