I am Jennifer Byer at Bernice Hart Elementary ECP School which is part of the Northeast vertical team. This is my third year as CIC. I am also the librarian and co-webmaster at Hart. I have been a librarian on and off in Austin ISD for 13 years. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, cooking and reading. Twitter: @hartreadersroc1
It seems like the beginning of the school year has gone by quickly. However, when I think back to the beginning of the virtual school year, followed by students arriving on campus, I realize now what we should have done. The beginning of this year for teachers was a struggle, and training or attempting to train all students and parents on technology issues was quite the endeavor. It still is on certain days.
I remember constantly having my phone and emails blow up at the beginning of the year with Blend questions, wifi questions, Seesaw, etc. I found it difficult to keep up with everything, but wanted to fully assist my teachers. I learned so much in a short amount of time, but most of that was filing where to find information. In retrospect, I wish I would have set virtual office hours and offered specific tips to campus from the beginning. As the year wore on, teachers would have issues, sometimes the same issues, but I wouldn’t be keeping track in a specific way. I finally developed a spreadsheet to keep track of the issues.
Finally, In October, we did MAPS testing and that was the first time we offered office hours via zoom to our students. This helped the teachers tremendously because they could focus on the test and not the tech issues. Students would pop in and we could troubleshoot. It wasn’t something “new”, not a new idea, but one we hadn’t tried.
The virtual office hours were so successful, the school counselor and I decided to offer daily office hours to our students through Thanksgiving. Teachers could send face to face or remote students to join zoom office hours directly from our school web page. We could walk them through problems step by step and then decide if devices needed to be exchanged or not.
Our front office was also overwhelmed with the amount of device exchanges. We set up a form to help keep up with the devices and issues. Then, we had a spreadsheet of problems and if the same students were exchanging devices or damaging them.
In addition, we finally set up a curbside help hour after school where we could troubleshoot devices and exchange them. This has saved the office lots of hours as well. Teachers and staff know when to send parents for help. Obviously, we will assist parents when needed, but offering the hours has been a way to cut back on the constant interruptions throughout the day.
Any way that our campus can help lessen the load for teachers, we are up to it.
We know that students will grow more proficient with devices, but we will always have a new round of students and parents in PreK. We will have students new to AISD. We must provide a way to be accessible to students and parents so their frustration isn’t so bad. We are all working together to build successful students.