Pictured: Middle School history teacher Judy Rogers practices working with a colleague using a D3 telepresence robot.
Throughout the summer, Lakeside’s technology team has been fine-tuning the technology resources that students and teachers have access to during the coming school year. The team, and the school, is preparing for every eventuality.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is have continuity of learning,” says Director of Technology Jamie Britto. “We did well on that front last year: Our students received the content, knowledge, and skills to progress to the next level.” That’s important. But, he stresses, a Lakeside education isn’t just about that. “Feeling seen and heard, feeling like you’re part of the community – that’s different, and equally important.” That will be a major focus for the school this year, he says. “We did pretty good on feeling part of the community, and we’re working on improving students’ feeling seen and heard – not just on a technical level but on a psychological level.”
Britto often talks about the technology team’s work in three areas: technology, people, and process. Here’s a brief overview of what the Lakeside community can expect in each of these areas this fall, with this goal of supporting students’ learning, connections, and sense of belonging.
In addition to the technology tools that students and teachers had at their disposal last year (Zoom, Teams, a more rigorous use of PowerSchool Learning), the tech team has expanded their fleet of D3 telepresence robots. For a detailed look at these robots and how they work, check out Edward Y.’s blog.
Additionally, every classroom at the Middle and Upper schools has the capability to support hybrid learning, where some students are learning remotely.
Lakeside teachers are taking full advantage of a series of technology workshops before the start of the school year. In addition to half-day workshops focused on organizing class information in PowerSchool and Teams, Britto is running a design lab for teachers to explore how they can use time, teaching strategies, and technology to create a meaningful experience for students who may need to learn remotely for short periods of time due to quarantining.
Figuring out the role of technology in a pandemic is an iterative process, says Britto. Members of the tech team, as well as Lakeside teachers and students, actively participated in this process last spring and during the summer, as they refined the school’s implementation of new technologies.
“We learned from student surveys that being on Zoom all day was exhausting and tough. Kids who were remote sometimes felt self-conscience because they were on the screen,” says Britto. “Even though they could technically be seen and heard, they didn’t feel seen and heard. And so, we’re trying to refine the instructional approach so that there’s more flexibility and creativity in engaging the student but reducing some of the negative aspects of hybrid.” Addressing the psychological aspects of technology in learning is part of Lakeside’s focus on creating a culture of care, adapting practices and programs that support students’ social-emotional development and health.
There’s an opportunity for design thinking, says Britto. Based on the students’ preferences, what’s being taught in the class, and the teachers’ preferences, each student’s learning plan may look different. Students may use one of the telepresence robots to have a presence in class; the teacher may use a video camera focused on themselves and the board, that a remote student can watch from home; or the teacher may restructure the student’s learning so that they don’t need to be on-screen except for when they’re participating in group work. There are a wide variety of responses. For example, in a summer school class taught by Lakeside math teacher James Lajoie, a remote student connected with Lajoie ahead of time on Teams about independent work, and then connected with the class for group work.
So, who gets to use the robots?
Britto references a pandemic paradox related to one of Lakeside’s health and safety goals: Ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for our students and employees. “Because we want everyone to be together, occasionally, some people will have to stay home.” The goal of all this technology, training, and process is to make learning at home, when it’s necessary, as engaging and easy as possible.
It’s not just giving a student a robot. Like all student support at Lakeside, it’s a personalized plan, customized to the student, their teachers, and the classes they are taking.
As of the start of school, the plan is as follows:
- If a student needs to quarantine but feels fine, the division offices work with the technology team and the student’s teachers to determine different ways for the student to continue learning and engaging in class.
- If a student is out of school with a non-COVID-related illness, they should focus on resting and regaining their health for at least three days. As they would have done pre-COVID, the student will work with their teachers to determine what essential content they need to make up. Lakeside’s student support team will work with students and their families in situations where students need to be out for more than three days.
As in every area of school during a pandemic, everyone will need to remain flexible and resilient. The tech team will continue to support students and teachers throughout the year, being responsive to public health requirements and the needs of the Lakeside community. “Our students advocate for themselves,” Britto says. “They’re invested participants in their learning.”
“We have confidence in our teachers and their flexibility and creativity and in our students. Working together, we think we’re ready.”