While the pandemic accelerated the demand for virtual learning, it’s clear that online pedagogy is now an integral part of an educator’s toolbox. As part of this shift to hybrid or virtual learning models, today’s educators face a new set of demands – it’s not just about teaching the curriculum; it’s about understanding and leveraging the tools that make learning possible and beneficial.
As many of our interactions move online or become increasingly integrated with the digital world, teachers and the universities that prepare them need to shift as well.
Expanding Possibilities with In-Person and Virtual Learning
I spent 10 years working in classrooms as a substitute teacher, but I decided to advance my career by becoming a certified middle school math teacher. I student-taught for two semesters through a program at Lewis University in partnership with Proximity Learning, a company that makes it possible for certified teachers to live stream into classrooms around the country. When structuring my education, I felt that teaching one semester in-person and one virtually would best prepare me for an unpredictable educational field.
I selected this program because it provides student teachers with the coaching and experience to thrive in any educational setting. In order for me to feel prepared to teach in both in-person and online classrooms, I wanted the mentorship, tech skills, and learning strategies to build my confidence in connecting and engaging with students.
Many teachers can attest that the energy of the classroom inspires them on their toughest days. There’s nothing quite like the spirit and collaboration of in-person teaching. I was a little hesitant to teach online, worried that virtual teaching would dull that spark.
However, after collaborating with my mentor teachers and learning how to use technology to engage with students, I was amazed at the possibilities.
Fostering Cross-Country Classroom Collaboration
Guided by my Proximity Learning mentor teacher, Elizabeth Dodds, I dove into new tech tools and remote learning strategies.
I tackled platforms like Nearpod, Google Classroom, and Kahoot, learning how to use them to encourage meaningful conversations and learning opportunities that mirrored what I experienced in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Elizabeth showed me how to cultivate confidence and comfort for both students and teachers in the virtual classroom. Through her expertise in lesson planning and technology, I learned how to implement remote learning strategies into my instructional practices.