Lakota Staff 'Zoom' into Remote Learning

Lakota Staff 'Zoom' into Remote Learning
Posted on 04/08/2020
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Zoom call in background with "ZOOM" text in foregroundDuring a time when the preferred classroom setting is not an option, Zoom has quickly become Lakota’s go-to tool for keeping staff and students connected. In the district’s first seven days of remote learning, teachers and staff used the video conferencing tool to collectively host more than 1,600 meetings that were attended by more than 10,000 individuals. 


“At Lakota, we place a lot of emphasis on the importance of relationship building to the entire instructional process. To continue that momentum, we realized early on that this kind of tool would be a necessity for remote learning” said Lakota’s Chief Technology Officer Todd Wesley. “It’s certainly been a game-changer so far and I commend the staff and students for embracing it and learning something new.” 


Like any new technology tool added to Lakota’s menu of approved instructional resources, Zoom was only authorized after it met the district’s strict standards and training and support resources could be provided to all staff. 


Unlike the free or personal versions of Zoom, Lakota’s adoption of the “Education Pro” version ensures that all Zoom sessions are forced to use current best practice settings. These include required passwords, limited screen sharing and the “waiting room” option, which allows hosts to review attendees before permitting them to join. Zoom is also integrated into Canvas so that students simply click a link in their protected digital course to access class sessions as a guest. Students are not able to initiate Zoom sessions.


“We take the digital safety and security of our students and staff very seriously,” Wesley said. “We continue to work closely with our partners, staff and evolving industry recommendations to offer a safe platform where our students and staff can maintain their critical face-to-face connections during these unprecedented times.” 


The staff’s quick and creative adoption of the tool is a signal of its effectiveness during an unprecedented time of remote learning. At all grade levels and across all subject areas, students have the opportunity to at least “see” their teachers and classmates and participate in live dialogue. 


So far, Lakota East Spanish teacher Annie Cantrell has used Zoom for intermittent and optional review, as well as an opportunity for clarifying questions. “But I think the most meaningful part of using Zoom has been the real-time, face-to-face, human connection,” she said. “It allows students and teachers to maintain the relationship and rapport piece that is difficult to foster in a remote learning environment.”


Independence Elementary fourth grade teacher Jenny Garwood notes some of the non-instructional experiences Zoom has made possible - like meeting each other’s pets, singing happy birthday, playing games and just laughing. “Interacting with my kids on a video call may not be the same as getting to see and hug them in person, but the next best thing, and I’m so grateful!” she said. 


Hopewell ECS kindergarten teacher Kristin Peoples is using Zoom to replicate her morning meetings, which includes a read-aloud and an opportunity for everyone to share something meaningful happening in their life. Above all else, she too appreciates the interactive component of the tool that has helped her overcome some of the latest disruption to relationship building. 


“It’s a smile and a chat about what they did yesterday. It’s a sweet way to let them know that their teacher is still there and that I love them. Some consistency in a world with very few things that are the same,” Peoples said. 


Virtual art critiques and even author visits are among the many other ways Lakota staff have leaned on Zoom so far. Lakota East language arts and speech teacher David Honhart appreciated the ability to personalize learning for his students, giving those who preferred it the option to present to a live virtual audience. And Liberty ECS counselor Dana Hallgarth is even using it to reconvene her “Liberty Leaders,” the school’s second grade student council. The group will meet weekly to brainstorm how they can still be leaders during this time of remote learning. 


“Zoom has been so helpful to be able to check in with students individually that may need additional counseling support. It has gone well and has given me the pleasure to know the entire family much better,” she added.