As a teacher, I often hear from people outside of the education world that I “have my summers off.” Those of us that are educators know that this is far from the truth, especially with the uncertain road that is ahead of us. Last school year, in the spring, many of us were thrown into the world of distance learning.  Few of us had any experience with this type of learning environment, and it was a shock to the majority of us.  This summer I have spent time thinking about how to be the most effective teacher in each type of learning environment. I know that my students and I will have to be flexible, and learning might have to occur in many different ways.

As I start to plan for this unpredictable school year, I am going to make sure that I have a couple of edtech tools that I can rely on for both inside the classroom and distance learning.  I will also need to be aware of the number of tools that I use, because I do not want to burden my students with learning a myriad of different tools.  After some trials and failures, I have settled on using:  Desmos, Graspable Math, and Google Jamboard. In my experience, these tools help me cover the topics that are necessary as an Algebra 1 teacher and educators can integrate them with their school learning management systems for ease of use. Desmos is amazing for exploring and connecting representations, Graspable Math works well in working with expressions and equations, and Google Jamboard is a great tool for notes and working with students. When we transitioned to distance learning last year, these tools allowed me to adjust rather quickly because my students already had experience using them in the classroom.  

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I have also spent significant time thinking about the effective use of time with students. We have all heard the phrase “close the gap” frequently these last several months.  This led me to start thinking about how to best use the time that I have with my students. Whether it is a few days per week with my students in school face to face, or meeting with them in an online meeting, I want the time we spend together to emphasize learning rather than assessing. If my school chooses a hybrid model for part of the school year, days spent in class with my students will be dedicated to creating rich learning experiences.  Their days at home will be designed to practice the new skills we learned while together.  I plan to minimize the amount of time I spend assessing and also preparing for assessments, in an effort to maximize instructional time with students.

This school year is going to be less than ideal for all of us. Developing a plan and using tools that work in various models of instruction is imperative if we want to offer students the opportunity and support that they need to learn. Good luck this school year with the new challenges we all have ahead!

About the author: Nick Corley is a middle school math teacher and has taught various subjects from Pre-Algebra to Geometry.  Mr. Corley is a Desmos certified presenter and he regularly shares his love of the Desmos tool at conventions, conferences, and professional development workshops for schools.  You can follow Mr. Corley on twitter @MrCorleyMath and online at .

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Nick Corley

Nick Corley

Math Teacher

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.