Why are the schools not providing on-line teaching?

Is the concern over digital equality stopping the district from allowing the teachers to actually teach?

How long can we go on with distance work assignment and not distance teaching?

If we as parents organize, and divide classroom assignments and teaching times, can we engage with the class leveraging WebEx/Skype/MS Teams?


There are two key issues

1.  technology - do the students and teachers have the equipment and high-quality wifi to support synchronous instruction?

2.  daily schedule - are students and teachers available to follow a regular school schedule?

Many students are taking care of siblings while parents work from home and cannot attend classes.

Many teachers have children of their own who cannot be left unattended for hours at a time.

Also, not everyone has a home situation that allows for video conferencing.  I've watched several colleagues struggle to find a quiet corner for a 30 minute parent conference.  Not everyone has a living situation they want broadcast to their classmates/students.


I disagree with the idea behind this post.  My son has had a good deal of work, and every teacher has responded to his questions quickly.  The zoom stuff has all been optional.  In at least two cases he has been the only student to join in.  There is plenty of learning going on even without face to face stuff.


andrescools: is the district preventing teachers from doing the zoom stuff? FilmCarp's experience suggests the answer is no.

FilmCarp: you indicate the zoom stuff is all optional. For teachers? If it's not mandatory for teachers, then  andrescools' point about absence of distance face to face teaching is a good one. No?


I think FilmCarp's point was that students are not joining Zooms, perhaps for the reasons Bennett mentioned.


My kids are long since graduated from SOMA schools, but my spouse is a teacher in another district, with many lower-income families.

That district gave devices to students who needed one.  Lessons are posted each day, for students to work on.  My spouse grades them and gives feedback.  She can email with each student through the same program on which the work is exchanged, to respond to questions.

I can understand why someone might wish that there were more video meetings, with everyone "in class" together.  But as others have noted, it can be difficult to synch schedules, especially if the students' households have multiple people trying to be online for multiple meetings at the same time.


I guess my point was more basic.  I believe that there is effective teaching going on without video classes.  Some subjects are stronger than others, but everyone is reachable.  


EBennett said:

There are two key issues

1.  technology - do the students and teachers have the equipment and high-quality wifi to support synchronous instruction?

2.  daily schedule - are students and teachers available to follow a regular school schedule?

Many students are taking care of siblings while parents work from home and cannot attend classes.

Many teachers have children of their own who cannot be left unattended for hours at a time.

Also, not everyone has a home situation that allows for video conferencing.  I've watched several colleagues struggle to find a quiet corner for a 30 minute parent conference.  Not everyone has a living situation they want broadcast to their classmates/students.

 District did a tech survey, and asked if anyone wanted Chromebooks. Chromebooks were made available and could be picked up from school

Internet, I understand that not everyone has a broadband connection or the ability to support a standard class schedule. So let's discuss and compromise on what can be done? What about half day or an hour or two of instruction, that is recorded and can be replayed.

We have technology solutions that enable true distance learning so let's consider them, but do so in a manner sensitive to the needs/abilities of all students.


FilmCarp said:

I disagree with the idea behind this post.  My son has had a good deal of work, and every teacher has responded to his questions quickly.  The zoom stuff has all been optional.  In at least two cases he has been the only student to join in.  There is plenty of learning going on even without face to face stuff.

I respect your viewpoint and recognize your disagreement. Perhaps your child is older? We have school work, but no instruction or guidance. How does the district provide guidance? My wife and I divide our time, and we do have assistance. How do we measure progress or correct mistakes? How do the kids learn from one another? My kids are early elementary so I have one learning the letters and sight words, and another learning maths and performing reading comprehension activities.

Our teachers were told not to use any conferencing solution for the class. They may engage 1-on-1, but not with the class. Is this strictly over digital inequality? If so, may the parents organize and divide teaching times/dates?


dickf3 said:

andrescools: is the district preventing teachers from doing the zoom stuff? FilmCarp's experience suggests the answer is no.

FilmCarp: you indicate the zoom stuff is all optional. For teachers? If it's not mandatory for teachers, then  andrescools' point about absence of distance face to face teaching is a good one. No?

 We spoke with the teacher, and the school was advised not to engage with the class and provide instruction. They can provide responses to direct questions, using phone/zoom but may not instruct as it may exclude. Anyone have a different response in the district? Perhaps the teacher or the school misunderstood? I have emailed the district, and the superintendent directly. We have exchanged emails on scheduling, and what my concerns were, but I am not making progress in getting real answers after 3 weeks.


andrescools said:

Our teachers were told not to use any conferencing solution for the class. They may engage 1-on-1, but not with the class. Is this strictly over digital inequality? If so, may the parents organize and divide teaching times/dates?

Could you explain what you mean by dividing teaching times/dates?

Essentially are you asking for teachers to record a video lesson?  Besides the challenge of finding somewhere to record uninterrupted, that is not something everyone is comfortable with for a variety of reasons.


I am guessing that it might be nearly impossible to get the union to agree to substantial modifications at this stage in the game. But here's a slightly different  model being used by a well ranked district which has a diverse** student body:

https://www.hcpss.org/continuity-learning/

**Equity was a key consideration in their planning.


berkeley said:

I am guessing that it might be nearly impossible to get the union to agree to substantial modifications at this stage in the game. 

 First - that district's plan looks impressive.  I suspect that they have been doing online instruction for more than 6 weeks.

Second - why blame the teachers' union?  There are so many other factors at work here.  I don't think that contractual issues are the main obstacle.


I'm sorry if it came across as though I am "blaming" the union. My point was it's not going to be easy to change right now, there are so many stakeholders involved in coming up with a workable solution.

Howard County actually took a break from teaching to prepare for distance learning, and just recently started this program (maybe a couple of weeks)...

BTW, I'm sure HoCo parents have complaints of their own. Perfection is not an option at this time.


berkeley said:

Perfection is not an option at this time.

 This is the right attitude.  

I hope that over the summer districts spend some time improving their delivery of online instruction.  There is so much that needs to be done to help teachers prepare and to make sure students have what they need.  It looks like HoCo is working to make sure parents know what they can do to help their children.  I'll admit that I am a bit jealous.  

As someone who is relatively new to online instruction I am overwhelmed by all the options and wish I had time to experiment.  It takes so much time to prepare a lesson, even using the software I use regularly, that I have no time to explore.  It takes about 20-30 minutes to embed questions and notes in a 10 minute EdPuzzle.  Creating a slide show with 5 minutes of narration (the limit on the free software) takes about an hour.  It takes substantially less time if it is a topic I already have a slide show on.  

Then multiply that by 3 different preps (total of 5 classes) for each day and add in the time it takes to grade their work.  And my grading time has grown exponentially because I write a lot of comments so they know I am reading their work and care.  

Oh, and did I mention that there is a modified form of the AP exam so I have to help my seniors prepare for that as well?  I've attended multiple webinars and spent a lot of time adapting materials so they can practice.

Sorry, it has been a long week.  I'm going to go for a run and work off some of this anxiety.


EBennett said:

Could you explain what you mean by dividing teaching times/dates?

Essentially are you asking for teachers to record a video lesson?  Besides the challenge of finding somewhere to record uninterrupted, that is not something everyone is comfortable with for a variety of reasons.

Divide instruction between the parents. We form a cooperative between the parents in the class, Example I can teach for an hour from 11-12 on Mon. Some parents won't want to or can't participate, maybe we only get 50% participation, but that would be 12 hours of instruction/week.


andrescools said:

Is the concern over digital equality stopping the district from allowing the teachers to actually teach?

How long can we go on with distance work assignment and not distance teaching?

If we as parents organize, and divide classroom assignments and teaching times, can we engage with the class leveraging WebEx/Skype/MS Teams?

 To any SOMSD families struggling with the distance “learning” (other than the OP who did this) please email the Superintendent Dr. Ronald Taylor.  He thinks everything is going very well, without taking any kind of survey to see the inconsistencies between teachers.  We can’t have perfection but we can, and should, learn from what other NJ districts with similar demographics are doing well and bring it here and not just wring our hands and say “Oh well, this is a lost time.”  Rtaylor@somsd.k12.nj.us


Private schools are doing full time education with video apps, 815-3pm ; it can be done safely and the assumption is the students would be in school anyway, and there are scholarship students as well as anyone who would be unable to do so who are offered tech equipment.  granted it's private school but your taxes still pay for a full education.  I understand other household factors and not judging one against the other; only that neither teachers nor students and their families should settle for anything less than what should be expected, providing all other financial matters/salaries stay the same.   Obviously colleges both state and private are doing the same.


Colleges are not doing everything as live streaming. 


@Starsong

In a perfect world, education would continue during the scheduled school day.  But we are trying to educate during an emergency.  People's lives have been turned upside down.  Parents have lost jobs, families have lost homes, people have lost loved ones . . .

In the real world we are all trying to do the best that we can with what we have.  To suggest that what the teachers are doing is less that "a full education" is an insult to their heroic efforts.  Are students getting everything they need?  No they are not.  We are treading water here.  When the district closed we expected this to last for 2 weeks.  

Can we do better in MAPSO?  Yes.  An article in the NYTimes described how one NJ district is soliciting constant feedback.  The comments from other parents make it clear that we need better communication.

https://nyti.ms/2KrJZQX


Just to put this in perspective, my two brothers each live in different states.  Both states shut their schools down about the same time that NJ did.  One state still has no distance learning in place, so his kids do basically nothing.  He thinks that it will remain that way through the end of the school year.  In my other brother's state, they had one month without any distance learning before beginning it last week.  The assignments given are very generic and simple, and take about an hour for his child to complete.  So, I think the SOMSD is doing pretty well, all things considered. 


RichardR said:

Just to put this in perspective, my two brothers each live in different states.  Both states shut their schools down about the same time that NJ did.  One state still has no distance learning in place, so his kids do basically nothing.  He thinks that it will remain that way through the end of the school year.  In my other brother's state, they had one month without any distance learning before beginning it last week.  The assignments given are very generic and simple, and take about an hour for his child to complete.  So, I think the SOMSD is doing pretty well, all things considered. 

 I think a fairer comparison is SOMSD to other districts in New Jersey.  We pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation which fund our public schools.  My friend in another state’s ANNUAL property tax bill is less than my monthly taxes.  So I think it is fair to expect more from our NJ district than other states with much less resources.


Mom270 said:

 I think a fairer comparison is SOMSD to other districts in New Jersey.  We pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation which fund our public schools.  My friend in another state’s ANNUAL property tax bill is less than my monthly taxes.  So I think it is fair to expect more from our NJ district than other states with much less resources.

What state is that? And what are their income tax rates?

It is really not fair to compare state to state.

The cost of real estate and just plain living is significantly more here than most places.

Many of those lower cost states are much more homogeneous and less diverse economically and otherwise than here. That diversity is valued by most here, but it comes at a price.


And within NJ, some districts are wealthy and homogeneous, some are less wealthy and diverse. Still not fair to compare. Only somewhat fair comparison is within District Factor Group.


jimmurphy said:

And within NJ, some districts are wealthy and homogeneous, some are less wealthy and diverse. Still not fair to compare. Only somewhat fair comparison is within District Factor Group.

 That state is Hawaii, pretty high cost of living for housing, groceries and gas and very diverse (Japanese, Filipino, Samoan, etc.) but they don’t seem to spend a lot on their public schools, and I also know a family in Delaware, a low-tax state that sent their kids to private school because of the public schools there.  Yes, a comparison to similar districts like West Orange and Montclair is fair and maybe our district can learn from the NYC public schools.  


I don’t like the idea of video learning. Too many kids logging on to video lessons while in their bedrooms. Would you like your child’s teacher in your daughter’s bedroom? Would you like your son in his teacher’s house? Way too many privacy issues for me. 


For those asking the teacher to engage the entire class - that is where the problem with synchronizing schedules comes in.  How can we possibly expect every child in the class AND the teacher to be available at the same time in this situation?  BUT, the teachers can (and I hope do) record a lesson available for all of the class members (and parents if appropriate) to view at a time that works for them and then the teacher to be available 1-1 to assist with clarification on a flexible basis, etc.  It isn't really fair to compare to college instruction, because those students are already scheduled to be in class at those times and presumably the instructors are making themselves available and parental assistance is not an issue. Also, college classes take up fewer hours per week (typically 3-4 hours per week per course for 4-5 courses or 12-18 hours per week total in class) compared to K-12 education (5 days per week, 5-7 hours per day/25-plus class hours total per week.) The college students usually spend more time independently on the course material.  I'm sure that there are challenges there also, especially for those college instructors with their own children at home now, but not nearly as many as for the teaching of young children. Middle/High School somewhere in the middle, I suppose.


jedben said:

I don’t like the idea of video learning. Too many kids logging on to video lessons while in their bedrooms. Would you like your child’s teacher in your daughter’s bedroom? Would you like your son in his teacher’s house? Way too many privacy issues for me. 

 My children did not use computers in their bedrooms until high school.  That was partly due to the limitations of the technology we had in our home at the time, but also our desire to keep them in the public areas of the house when they were on the Internet, so it would probably have been a house rule anyway.


jedben said:

I don’t like the idea of video learning. Too many kids logging on to video lessons while in their bedrooms. Would you like your child’s teacher in your daughter’s bedroom? Would you like your son in his teacher’s house? Way too many privacy issues for me. 

 they have those background filters, my kids use. 


EBennett said:

berkeley said:

Perfection is not an option at this time.

 This is the right attitude.  

I hope that over the summer districts spend some time improving their delivery of online instruction.  There is so much that needs to be done to help teachers prepare and to make sure students have what they need.  It looks like HoCo is working to make sure parents know what they can do to help their children.  I'll admit that I am a bit jealous.  

As someone who is relatively new to online instruction I am overwhelmed by all the options and wish I had time to experiment.  It takes so much time to prepare a lesson, even using the software I use regularly, that I have no time to explore.  It takes about 20-30 minutes to embed questions and notes in a 10 minute EdPuzzle.  Creating a slide show with 5 minutes of narration (the limit on the free software) takes about an hour.  It takes substantially less time if it is a topic I already have a slide show on.  

Then multiply that by 3 different preps (total of 5 classes) for each day and add in the time it takes to grade their work.  And my grading time has grown exponentially because I write a lot of comments so they know I am reading their work and care.  

Oh, and did I mention that there is a modified form of the AP exam so I have to help my seniors prepare for that as well?  I've attended multiple webinars and spent a lot of time adapting materials so they can practice.

Sorry, it has been a long week.  I'm going to go for a run and work off some of this anxiety.

 Screencastify is free for their pro. Let me know if you want the code. This gives unlimited recording time. Loom is also free for educators now. I suggest you join the FB group called Teachers Using Google Classroom. It have gotten so many helpful hints. Yeah, fast, steep climb to own all this tech teaching!



In order to add a comment – you must Join this community – Click here to do so.