ROSSLYN FARMS, Pa. (KDKA) — The butterflies were flying in the classrooms and in the bedrooms as teachers and students gathered for the new school year in the Carlynton School District.
A week later the butterflies have moved on and, “From what I’ve heard back from teachers and from students, even though it’s a virtual environment they are excited to see their friends, they are excited to see their teachers, and they’re excited to learn,” says Carlynton Superintendent John Kreider, Ph.D..
“It’s interesting to walk through the building and watch teachers interacting with their computer screens knowing they are interacting with students on the other side of the camera,” says Dr. Kreider.
“Many of them have two computer screens on either side where they can see their students and what they are presenting that connects into the computers and can demonstrate to our students what problem they are working out or different types of illustrations,” Dr. Kreider said.
Many school districts are returning to learning this week and next and Dr. Kreider says even with the best plans you can expect some hiccups along the way.
Especially he says on the technical side, “There were a few naturally. When you had out 1,300 laptops and chromebooks to students, there are going to be some issues. Some of those issues were on our end with not having user names and passwords properly configured for each students. Sometimes it was at the home with connectivity issues and making sure their routers were working properly and going through and hitting some resets. But what we found to be most effective is we had a call center in place, and then also an email address for our parents and students to reach out to.”
And he says those call centers were busy, “Our computer techs did spend the first two or three days relatively busy with high demands of calls but as soon as we got through our trouble shooting issues we had our kids up on line and running.”
Out of Carlynton’s experience, Dr. Kreider has some suggestions to other parents and school districts that might head off some of the issues.
Watch as KDKA’s John Shumway reports:
First he says test your technology in advance of the time when your child needs to be logged on and ‘in class.’
“Take a look at your power cord, take a look at your computer, whether it’s a district issued laptop or your personal device, make sure its working,” says Dr. Kreider.
“Do a test run. So maybe log into Google Classroom, or to Canvas, or to Blackboard or whatever learning system your district is using and make sure you have access to it, that your password works, that your user name is good. Then also make sure at home you have a good working environment. Make sure you have a desk that has supplies that has pencil and paper available, whatever you might need for your classwork.”
Dr. Kreider says, “What we found to be the most effective strategy here at Carlynton was to communicate often and try to give parents as much information as possible as we move through the virtual environment.”
As for advice to students entering the virtual classroom, Dr. Kreider says, “Be prepared to engage. Try to get used to talking into the computer. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your teacher and ask questions because you are going to have them. It’s a little different becuase you can’t stick around after the bell rings so take advantage of it. If you are thinking of a question in your head most likely there’s someone else in that classroom who is thinking of the same question. Don’t hesitate to ask your teacher. All teachers across Allegheny County and Pennsylvania they are here to help you learn.”
Dr. Kreider says they are monitoring closely how the system is working for teachers and students and that information will help determine what happens after the initial virtual period ends just after mid September.