Posted on Aug 18, 2020
Rotary Club of Needham Newsletter August 18th, 2020
In Our Community:
Watch for an email list of our club's typical, annual community projects, so we can discuss re-imagining and re-purposing them in the context of a pandemic and recession at out August 25th meeting.
Speaker: Stacy Gauthier (photo below), Consultant for Pedagogy and Technology, spoke of "Understanding the Modern Classroom: Challenges and Solutions for Remote Learning"
Stacy has been a science educator since 1997, and she is currently the Middle Grades (5th - 8th) Science Department Head for the Town of Natick as well as a private consultant. She is married to Charles Nelson. She discussed the challenge of teaching in remote learning environments imposed in response to the coronavirus. She used "pedagogy", the method and practice of teaching, to organize her presentation. She  contrasted traditional with best current teaching practices. Traditionally, a teacher lectured to a class while standing at the front of the room. Under current best practice, several teachers facilitate small group discussions among students using laptops within the classroom. But that is not socially distant, and Zoom doesn't facilitate collaboration. So, the lack of interaction made it harder for today's teachers and students to adapt to remote learning.
Stacy demonstrated a teaching technology called "Pear Deck" that allows students in a remote learning environment to interact with their teacher's slide presentation at their own pace. We learned about a worsening achievement gap between affluent and poor school districts due to the cost and shortages of remote learning technology. We discussed different approaches to the problem of kids that have not been logging on to keep up with their remote educations. Schools in Massachusetts will return to mandatory attendance in the Fall. A punative approach to "truancy" by threatening parents with a charge of "neglect" is unlikely to improve remote attendance or learning outcomes, given the problems imposed by pandemic and recession. Those problems include a lack of childcare for essential workers and a shortage of laptops when parents and children are all working from home. Instead, when a student repeatedly fails to log on in Natick, it triggers out-reach to the family by school-based social workers. Finally, Stacy reminded us to be sensitive to teachers' legitimate fear of becoming sick in a return to an in-person learning environment before the rollout of a vaccine.
Next Week's Meeting (8/25/20): Discuss re-imagining our Club's projects during the pandemic