- Kiran Seeff ’23
Since the beginning of the shelter-in-place, the Sacred Heart community has faced many notable changes. Among those, the necessary implementation of remote learning as a response to COVID-19 is crucial in allowing SHP to experiment with new technology. Fortunately, Sacred Heart is not coming into this period of remote learning unprepared. To get a better idea of the technology that Sacred heart is now using, members of the tech department have answered a few questions about this groundbreaking technology.
“In many ways, we’re doing what [other schools are] doing right now,” says Dr. Diana Neebe, Director of Teacher Development at Sacred Heart. “What’s different for us is we got there faster… most schools had to close for two weeks, and give teachers an opportunity to regroup and shift their curriculum online… our teachers, in four days, spooled up a whole online school.” Dr. Neebe partly credits the school’s fast and smooth transition into online learning to the school’s anticipation that a shelter-in-place would happen. Dr. Neebe also mentions that teachers and the tech department feel “really grateful to be in a position where we have a ‘dream team’… and that we’ve got ‘dream circumstances,’ where all of our students have technology, and we have the ability to make sure that everybody has access at home to Wi-Fi… it makes for ideal circumstances for us to be able to make a shift.”
Dr. Neebe also mentions that a plan written by the tech department was distributed among faculty members to help make the transition more seamless. “On March 4th, we had a faculty meeting, and that was the meeting [where] I presented our flexible model for instructional continuity… we got the schools blessing to share out [the plan] pretty widely. Typically, you might not share an internal document, like a crisis plan, widely because there might be proprietary [information], in it, but we got Mr. Dioli’s permission to share it… Within a couple of days, it had gone out to about 10,000 schools.” Dr. Neebe mentions that the plan is even being “used on a global scale. Our plan is being implemented around the world. It’s been translated into Dutch, it’s being used in Malaysia, and it’s all over the place.” This crisis plan is also being edited across the world, by global collaborators that know best how to navigate their own country’s technological landscape. “It’s been really exciting to be able to hear back from colleagues around the world about [the plan]… We’ve heard from colleagues around the world about some of the changes that they’re making, and we put into the document as well.”
Dr. Joy Lopez, the Director of Technology at the prep was also able to provide some input on the transition into online learning. “For the most part, SHP…[is] already using the tools we need to conduct remote learning. SHP students use Schoology and the Google Suite on a daily basis. What we are doing with remote learning is expanding on these tools and adding a couple of others.” Dr. Lopez mentioned that this may come in the form of making use of Schoology tools, such as discussion boards. Teachers “are adding in more resources into your classes and expecting more online submission of assignments. They might also expand the use of collaboration in Google docs, sheets or presentation.” Dr. Lopez explains that these tools are referred to as “asynchronous tools. Asynchronous tools allow students to work at different times. In other words, you do not have to be working at the same time on something.
In contrast, synchronous tools are also being implemented to “facilitate classroom-style learning.” Dr. Lopez adds that, “adding to the tools we already have, teachers are doing Zoom sessions to have synchronous time with students. Synchronous means [both students and teachers] are [online] together at the same time.” The benefits of using synchronous tools, according to Dr. Lopez, is that they preserve a personal and “physical” connection of being in the same room with another person. They also provide the ability for a fast response, compared with a posted asynchronous assignment that takes a certain amount of time to respond to. Collectively, using both synchronous and asynchronous tools provide for a “fuller virtual experience for both students and teachers.” In addition to Zoom, Schoology, and Google Suite, programs with screen capture technology, such as Screencastify, are being used to project lectures. Screencastify works so that both teachers and students can share screens with one another when the need arises.
This time of confinement and social distancing can make our community miss learning at school. However, Sacred Heart is not coming into the realm of remote learning unprepared. Many people in our community have done outstanding work to allow for a smooth transition into online learning. This is a time when Sacred Heart needs to stick together, so that hopefully, this beautiful community of students and teachers can emerge from this crisis stronger than when it came in.