Transitioning back to the classroom

15 May 2020 | By viviedu

Whilst many schools around the world have closed their gates under emergency conditions and done their best to adapt to remote learning, the transition back to the classroom is one that presents a whole new set of challenges.  

Factors may include socio-economic status, ethnicity, geographic location and aptitude. During scenarios of prolonged remote learning, the discrepancy of technology access will be even more prevalent.  

The focus on student-centered learning is going to be more important than ever as schools stagger the return of students to the classroom.  While some students will be able to attend, many will still be required to learn remotely and for the foreseeable future, as blended learning becomes the new norm. 

To deliver a successful blended learning model, traditional classroom teaching and online instruction must complement each other. We spoke with two Vivi-enabled schools about this and to learn what they believe the foreseeable future may look like.  

Director of Professional Development at Cardinal Gibbons High school in North Carolina, Amy Ernenwein, and Benjamin Russell, Director of Technology at the East Providence School District in Rhode Island both agree that ensuring educators and students remain connected is one of the main challenges schools will face.

“Educators are working hard to find ways to provide interaction and to not only keep students engaged, but to also help maintain morale,” said Ernenwein.

A blended learning model will require educators to be mindful of those students that are not in the classroom, and to find ways to effectively engage them and ensure they feel connected.

Russell adds, “We can also see how Vivi can work in a blended learning scenario, where educators can live broadcast lessons to those students who are still learning remotely by combining Vivi with technologies like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams.” 

When combined with online video call software, Vivi can be used for screen sharing in-person and online at the same time. The teacher simply pushes ‘Present my screen’ to show their device on the classroom display then shares their screen using the online video call software so students at home can also see what is being displayed.   

Ernenwein continued, “What I think Vivi will be able to do really well, is help us create learning experiences that are equitably accessible, whether in the classroom or at home. Scheduling and accountability is really important for both teachers and students during a blended learning model.”

Vivi ‘s new remote learning tool provides a structured way for students to receive content remotely and for teachers to deliver coursework in the same linear schedule as when physically in school. Vivi also supports equity in education because students can use their mobile device to receive coursework directly in the app. This helps where students may lack personal computers or broadband (where a mobile plan may be their only connection).

For those students that do return to bricks and mortar classrooms, the importance of maintaining consistent and constructive messaging across the school will be imperative. 

“We already have plans on how to use Vivi’s Digital Signage feature when students begin to transition back to the classroom,” said Russell. “We currently have about 50 displays and we can see how they can be used to inform students and family about social distancing, hygiene and daily updates as things progress.” 

And according to Ernenwein, “Our Digital Signage feature is going to play multiple roles once students begin to return. Obviously, it’s going to be informational in terms of hygiene and sanitation and being mindful of spacing, but we also see it being used to increase morale and convey positivity. We see it being used to be uplifting, providing light-hearted jokes and messages. Just to make people smile and understand that we can still have a positive outlook.” 

Vivi’s Digital Signage capability means that targeted messages can be communicated to any Vivi-enabled display or monitor throughout the school. Tailored messaging can be scheduled to play at certain times throughout the day to remind students to wash their hands, refrain from touching one another and to sit 1.5m apart. And yes, even the occasional Dad joke! 

Ensuring students and teachers are not in close contact with one another will be important to prevent a potential coronavirus outbreak occurring within the school grounds. This includes limiting large gatherings and maintaining physical distance within classrooms. 

“We see Vivi as being integral to how students transition. Features such as Live Broadcast will enable students to maintain social distancing by receiving the same instruction via Vivi-enabled displays in different locations,” said Russell.

Ernenwein went on to explain how Cardinal Gibbons plans to use Vivi to ensure the safety of teachers and students. “There is going to be a huge need for live broadcasting. It can definitely serve a lot of purposes. At our school, we hold around 2,000 people for our daily mass in our gym, and that’s just not going to be feasible for at least the next year. So being able to livestream that into classrooms will be really amazing and create a semblance of shared experience without having that many people in one space.”

Vivi’s Live Broadcast feature accommodates live streaming via Play Video Direct or Digital Signage, which means that school assemblies or principal announcements can be live streamed direct to any Vivi-enabled display within a classroom or on campus. 
By using Vivi’s
combining rooms feature, the same content can be shared on multiple screens simultaneously to create flexible learning spaces in traditional classrooms with classroom displays, learning environments with multiple screens, huddle spaces, and in common spaces using screens for digital signage.

Now, more than ever, the health and wellbeing of students is paramount. During the staggered transition back to classrooms that will involve a blended learning model, it will be important for schools to monitor student wellbeing to identify individuals who might require support. 

“We see a need to conduct student check-ins to ensure engagement, health and wellbeing for students in the classroom AND for the students at home,” said Ernenwein. 

Vivi’s Student Feedback Tool provides teachers with an efficient and discreet way to check in on all students by encouraging them to share their feelings in a nonthreatening manner.  

Likewise, Vivi’s How R U tool is a simple, emoji- based poll that can be used to check in with students working remotely. 

During the period of remote learning, many teachers and students have had to embrace new ways of using technology. As they return to the classroom, there will ultimately be a need to continue this digital transformation. An often-overlooked barrier to tech adoption, however, is digital literacy and engagement.  

Both teachers and students will inevitably have varying degrees of tech-savviness and ensuring an equitable learning environment requires this to be addressed. 

Vivi was developed by educators for educators so it is simple to install and easy to use. “Educators who are not tech natives, and have no interest in becoming tech natives, find Vivi to be so simple to navigate and easy to use,” said Ernenwein. 

Russell followed up by saying, “We evaluated a lot of technologies – at least a dozen – and found Vivi to be incredibly easy to use and an exact fit for what we need to do. 

Vivi encourages digital literacy by giving students and teachers the ability to use and communicate digital information via easy-to-use tools. Students are able to share digital content, with teacher permission, encouraging greater engagement and creating a more collaborative learning environment.  Content could be a student-created Google document, an image that would help with contextual understanding, or an instructional video applicable to the content. 

We know that there are going to be rough times ahead. That’s why we are continuing to develop new features to complement our existing solution to help schools and students navigate this world-changing pandemic. 

We asked Ernenwein and Russell what they would tell schools that are considering an EdTech solution to help with the transition back to classrooms.

“I would just say, you have got to try Vivi. It’s just such a great tool. You guys have designed the tool that fits my needs, and I believe, the needs of many others. They just may not know that the right product for them exists yet,” said Russell. 

Ernenwein followed with, “Everyone at Gibbons finds Vivi extremely easy to use. The support and help we receive from the people at Vivi is fantastic. It’s been a phenomenal experience”.