Campus Technology

How Screen-Sharing Technology Can Transform Any Learning Environment

By Rachel Prince

It’s no secret that the world isn’t what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. March 2020 was a watershed moment for families, businesses, and schools, and no one emerged unscathed. Kids especially were impacted. The medical field is only beginning to realize the long-term health effects of COVID-19 on children, which include headaches, fatigue, fever, lingering cough, sleep problems, anxiety, and even depression. Additionally, teachers are discovering that this generation of “COVID kids” has endured a cataclysmic shift in their education, most dramatically those students who experienced fragmented schooling during crucial years. It will likely take years to fully assess all of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consider this: A child who lost the last quarter of their kindergarten year, and then had to navigate piecemeal schooling for first and second grade, is now facing that crucial reading-at-grade-level standard as they start third grade. A student who was just completing his sixth-grade year when schools closed missed all of his in-person education through middle school and is now starting his freshman year with virtually none of that junior-high academic or social experience. A current high-school senior could very well be attending her first year in an actual school building after having left it abruptly at the end of her freshman year. The lingering scholastic effects of the pandemic are just as significant for students as the medical ones.

We educators had our work cut out for us in the spring of 2020; we rose to the challenge and found ways to connect with our kids, no matter where they were. Nearly every tool we normally used to reach our students was wiped off the table–we were left in complete upheaval. With no choice but to use whatever we had available, we dug deep into our resources to help our students (and ourselves) survive distance learning. Amazingly, what we did served our purposes not only for the duration of remote teaching, but changed our classroom practices for the better now that students are back in the classroom.

young girl attending class on her computer

Are we back to “normal”? No, and we may never be. But this new normal may be a blessing in disguise. The pandemic shook us teachers from our complacency, requiring us to find new (and better) ways to connect with our students no matter where they were, and these new skills can make our post-pandemic teaching even more effective than it was before the shutdown.

Distance learning taught us how to increase the size of our classrooms beyond four walls. With students boomeranging in and out of the classroom (oh, contact tracing) we needed to keep those kids engaged, motivated, and learning at all times. The existing paradigm of a learning environment shifted, creating an exponentially larger classroom than we’d ever had before; exploring what educational technology had to offer became an absolute necessity.

The professional world had already taken steps into virtual meetings and working from home, so teachers took a page from its book to figure out how to make that work for students. One especially helpful tool came from DisplayNote. When all of us were quarantined at home (students and teachers alike) we used DisplayNote’s Montage app to stay connected. Through this app, kids could connect to classroom content through any device –a crucial feature because students who lacked a school-issued laptop were often required to use phones or personal computers, so teachers needed a path that didn’t rely on any specific hardware.

Though the two years of students learning primarily from a remote location are (hopefully) over, the benefits of what we learned are here to stay. As kids return to the classroom, they are in greater need than ever of teachers who can help them re-learn social and interactive skills. The educational technology we used during the pandemic is just as useful back in a brick-and-mortar classroom:

  1. Students who were isolated from their peer groups may be increasingly anxious about their re-insertion into school. Apps and other on-screen tools can help students engage through the medium of a screen, even while they’re sitting in the room with the other students. Students can benefit from sharing their work from their screen, casting to the teacher’s screen, rather than standing in front of the class. This type of social scaffolding can help shy students regain their confidence in a large group setting.
  2. Since the previously mentioned health issues aren’t likely to go away soon, teachers will be seeing more frequent student absences than before 2020. Students want to stay engaged, so making use of virtual meetings and educational connectivity is as valuable now as it was for the two-year shutdown.
  3. Teachers are equally impacted by residual health issues and often need to be absent from the classroom themselves out of an abundance of caution. Now that we can connect to our students virtually, we can use the same apps and other tools to work with our students, even if we need to temporarily quarantine ourselves.
  4. Teachers can now make even more use of educational technology tools that allow them to share best practices with colleagues and supervisors without needing to be in the same room (or even building). With an abundance of novice teachers entering the classroom, veteran teachers are being called upon to mentor and share ideas. We are all benefitting from new methods of getting the word out about lessons and activities that really work.

The world has changed. Schools have changed. But change is often something that shouldn’t be feared; it should be embraced. Many teachers have found the changes wrought by the pandemic are ones that are actually long overdue. May we never again have to experience the devastation of a global pandemic, but may we remain thankful for how it taught us to be better educators than we ever thought we could be.

A 30-year veteran of the public school system, Rachel Prince teaches English at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. She has played an active leadership role at Horizon High School in the areas of accreditation, curriculum development, department chairmanship, and technology implementation.