The Future is a Tab Waiting to be Opened
Jody Talbot's 5th grade class is thriving in the digital environment.

Like every class in Page, in Arizona and throughout America, the beginning of the school year was challenging for Jody Talbot and her fifth grade class. Mrs. Talbot teaches an ELL class. English, Navajo, Filipino and Spanish are spoken in her class.

During the opening weeks of the 2019-20 school year, instruction, curriculum and everything else was moving slower than usual as students, as well as their parents, were handed the additional task of learning how to use the Chromebooks, how to navigate the Google classrooms and other digital platforms. But now, seven months into the school year, the students have learned the necessary technology, and Talbot is watching them doing some amazing things with it.

“I’ve seen my students grow a lot in regards to technology this year,” Talbot said. “What they’ve learned in that regard is pretty impressive. I have students who are creating digital posters, digital art and making and sharing their own Google slideshows. Some of them are surprisingly sophisticated too.”

Using Google classrooms allows students to move into break-out rooms where groups of students can meet and discuss assignments or collaborate on projects. This was all confusing in the beginning, but now that students have it figured out, they’re making great use of it, said Talbot. “It’s been interesting to watch,” she said. “It’s interesting to see kids step up and take charge of the discussion or the project, become leaders and presenters.”

One of her classroom leaders is Stiles Christiansen.

“He’s very tech savvy,” said Mrs. Talbot. “After he learns how to do something, he teaches the other students who don’t understand it yet, such as how to open a new tab, or set up a bookmark.”

From the beginning of the school year, Talbot and her students have been taking virtual field trips. Most of the virtual field trips have taken place at various museums, which have added virtual tours to schools and the public during the pandemic.

Talbot has discovered that the prospect of attending digital field trips is a great tool to motivate her students to participate more in class, which leads to better performances on tests and more bridges the homework gap. The class can earn points for such things as coming to class on time, showing kindness and keeping their cameras on. That one, says Talbot, is particularly important.

“Having cameras on is a big thing,” she said. “It improves a students’ engagement a lot. They do better on test and they do a better job turning in their homework.”

Mrs. Talbot’s class has been working toward a virtual Disney World tour, and just this week the students met the necessary objectives. The class will begin their virtual tour this Monday and continue during the week during Social Studies class.

As slow as classroom instruction moved at the beginning of the school year as students and parents familiarized themselves with the new technology, Talbot thinks having the ability to understand and use that knowledge will accelerate learning for students in the future.

"They can be working on a project on one tab, collaborating with fellow students on another tab, and researching information on Google or YouTube on another tab," said Mrs. Talbot. "I've seen them become a lot more self-reliant learners this year, and that will help them be better students in the years to come."

Another important lesson teachers, students and parents have learned during the pandemic school year is striking a balance between the digital life and real life. Doing everything remotely can turn into a grind, especially for kids, Talbot said. “Taking breaks to walk around, or play helps a lot.

Despite how nimble her students have become with technology, it still can’t compete with in-person learning. Mrs. Talbot has 27 students in her class, 16 of whom are attending in-person. As much as her students have improved at their on-line abilities, the students attending in-person are performing better all-around.

“Since kids have come back, I have seen improved test scores,” said Talbot. “Having paper packets and using paper and pencil have helped a lot.”

She and her class are at their desks for 50 minutes, then go outside and play for ten minutes.

Mary Stahl, Desert View Intermediate Principal, said Mrs. Talbot’s blend of online and in-person instruction is nicely balanced.

“Mrs. Talbot has great relationships with her students, and focuses on their success and achievements” Stahl said “I was just in her classroom today. They’re studying the Industrial Age right now and her students were eagerly telling me all about the lightbulb, the telegraph and the assembly line.

“We’re very fortunate Mrs. Talbot chose to be a Bobcat.”

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keep your cameras on

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Creating a Productive Home Study Area

During the time of Covid-19 and remote learning, having an effective home study space has never been more important for your child’s academic success. Even after the school district moves to a hybrid model on October 15th, with students returning to their classrooms for part of the week, students will still be attending class virtually three days a week.

With that in mind we have put together a list of things you can do to create a productive study space at home.

 Have a Designated Study Area

 It is beneficial to your student if you have an area in your house set aside specifically as the place your student goes when he or she logs onto their device and attends class virtually. Having a specific study area will help keep that area clutter- and distraction-free.

The study area should be at a desk or table. Sitting at the desk or table will help your student pay attention, stay engaged and stay on task. Try to avoid letting your student attend virtual classes while sitting on a couch or while lying in bed. This promotes laziness and leads to inattention. A student may have a tendency to fall asleep if they attend their virtual class while lying in bed, or leaning back on a couch.

The study area should be quiet, spacious enough to contain the computer device and study items such as pens, notebooks, rulers, etc., without feeling cramped.

Try to set the study area off from the rest of the house. If your child has their own room, you can turn part of it into their study area. If your student’s study area is in their room, check in on them from time to time to ensure they’re at their desk, and participating in the virtual classroom.

If you set up the study area in a room in the house that is shared space, try to enclose the space with furniture, plants or portable walls.

The study area should have ample, comfortable lighting.

 It’s okay to let your student personalize their study. Allow them to have fun items in your study area such as posters, artwork, banners and plants. 

Keep Your Study Area Clean and Clutter Free

The study area should have its own small waste basket.

As part of the preparation routine, empty the wastebasket at the end of each day.

Prepare for Class Ahead of Time

Have your student take a few minutes before his or her class begins to get it ready. Have them clean it, and organize their study supplies.

Fill a water bottle ahead of time so they won’t have to leave to get a drink in the middle of class.

It’s okay to have a few snacks available. Try to avoid snacks that are messy.

Remove Distractions from the Study Area

The study area should contain no toys. Your child’s phone should be kept in a separate room so they’re not tempted to look at it. Only have open tabs on your device needed for the classroom.

If the area around your child’s study area is too noisy, have them use headphones during class time to block the outside noise.

Other family members need to be mindful of the student and not make the surrounding environment too noisy, too busy or too chaotic. Remind the family members to be respectful of the student’s space and time.

Dress for Success

Since you’re attending class on-line, it may not seem important or necessary to get dressed up. But studies show that students who dress as if they’re attending in-person school, treat the virtual classroom experience more seriously, and makes them feel prepared and ready for the day. This should also include attire that won’t be seen on the monitor, i.e. pants, shoes and socks.

Stay Organized

Find a method that works for your student to help him or her stay on task and keep track of their assignments. Have a list of their classes and what days and times are taught. Keep a to-do list.

Some students do better with traditional paper calendars and planners, while others do better with an online planner, such as Google Calendar, Google Docs, etc.

As a parent, check in with your student regularly to determine if they’re turning in their assignments, completing their tests and participating in class. PowerSchool, which is used by PUSD schools, has several tools for parents to track all of the above and more.

Create a Routine and Stick to It

Creating and maintaining a daily routine is a great tool for helping your child stay organized and focused. Wake up at the same time every day. Eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and take a shower if that’s a part of your normal morning routine.

In the afternoon or evening, have designated times to do your homework.

Going to bed at the same time every night will set up the following day to begin successfully.

Leave

One great advantage of in-person learning is that your student can leave it at the end of the day. Even though your child may have homework to do when they get home, attending in-person school helps create a healthy school/life balance. When attending school virtually from you home, attaining that school/life balance is harder.

Another advantage of having a separate and designated home study area is that it is easier to find that school/life balance. When classes are done, have your child go outside and play, or engage with family members in an activity and in an area outside the home study area.

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