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East County Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2020 2 months ago

Manatee County teachers hone online skills

E-learning has forced them to teach in a different way.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

When Laurie Rahn, a second grade teacher at Robert E. Willis Elementary School, began to use online learning to educate her students during the COVID-19 crisis, she had to find a way to keep the rapport she had developed with her 20 students.

Rahn spent late March familiarizing herself with Schoology, a social networking service and virtual learning environment that was chosen by the School District of Manatee County.

Much like the students, East County teachers have learned new skills and lessons while adjusting to online learning. 

Laurie Rahn, a second grade teacher at Robert E. Willis Elementary School, conferences with her students every day. Learning how to video conference was a goal of Rahn's when she found out she had to do e-learning. Courtesy photo.

Rahn had never used Schoology conferencing before and was a bit apprehensive, but she knew it was pivotal to learn how to use it.

“The students are used to coming to school every day, walking into Mrs. Rahn’s classroom at 8:20 [a.m.], getting a hug, getting a special handshake, doing the pledge and starting their day,” Rahn said. “For me, it was so important to make sure that I could keep that personal connection and do the videoconferencing with them because I felt like it would be the next best thing to being there.”

Nancy Wittner, a fifth grade science teacher at Gene Witt Elementary School, learned how to adjust her lessons. For example, in class she might be having her students working with bones or birds nests. At their homes, she sends students into their backyards to find lesson materials.

Wittner encourages her students to learn from one another as they find different ways to conduct assignments.

“I’m learning from them, they’re learning from me, and they are most importantly learning from each other,” Wittner said.

Chris Robinson, a history teacher at R. Dan Nolan Middle School, realized he’s more organized through online learning. He has had to outline his plans and think weeks in advance because he can’t ad-lib like he would in the classroom.

Patience has been at a premium as students, parents and teachers have to communicate more with e-learning.

“The challenge is [to] create a meaningful assignment that anybody with any computer literacy abilities can do,” Robinson said.

John Frank, digital photography teacher at Braden River High School, said communicating can take longer online because they have to call, email or chat rather than having a conversation.

Sarah Steckling, an English teacher at Nolan Middle, is teaching “Romeo and Juliet” and found the Globe Theater in London was livestreaming a performance of the play, so she was able to share it with her students.

“These resources have given students new ways of interacting with the curriculum, especially more real-world experiences,” Steckling said.

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