With teacher shortages increasing across the country, elective classes are often likely first on the chopping block when schools and districts prioritize scheduling.
In response to this, one school in Ohio is getting creative to make sure students aren’t missing out on opportunities, especially when it comes to learning new languages.
Meet Michelle Carlyle, the coordinator of distance education at the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ESC) in New Philadelphia, Ohio. In Ohio, educational service centers act as collective human resource agencies for school districts. Educational service centers exist to share specialized service staff or training as directed by the Ohio Department of Education. The East Central center currently serves five counties geographically with a total of 19 school districts collectively.
Michelle’s team delivers world languages to school districts throughout the state as a purchase service. Here is a snippet of our conversation:
Tell us about your world language staff!
Of my 15 current teaching staff, 13 teach from their home every day and have done so since 2009 or when they came on board. We are definitely pre-pandemic in terms of home base delivery model, especially when it comes to the American Sign Language (ASL). It’s very difficult to find an ASL world language teacher. And so when I find them geographically, they’re never close to one of our offices, so we set them up to teach from home.
Your students are in person but the teacher is virtual, can you explain what that looks like?
Think back to your college days in a large mandatory elective when you had a lecture hall of 300 students, and they were sharing that professor through three or four regional campuses.
Traditionally, with very little exception, our students attend through lab settings. That’s our model. Within our school building, students are in a single brick-and-mortar classroom where they’re using either a display device that has a PC attached to it or the capability to connect with the teacher via computer. The classroom where the students reside also has some type of more robust camera so it’s a little more than a desktop webcam because we are able to see every student and engage with every student through that room-based camera. Our students typically access their class daily through a true room lab base setting and then have the ability at any point to jump in or out with a single device headset, Chromebook microphone, and a camera when they need to, whether they’re off campus for the day or as rolling quarantines hit last year, they were able to bounce in and out.
A student could be in a fully in-person traditional class for English, and then maybe they’re taking the world language course in the lab, and then they’re switching right back to math back in person.
Because your program has been around long before the pandemic, did you feel prepared for emergency remote learning?
We felt prepared and yet there was still an opportunity to pivot because our model is remote live instruction, so it’s a single online teacher teaching students within their brick-and-mortar day. They were used to walking down the hall, going into their classroom, and having their live American Sign Language or Chinese class with their remote instructor. The pivot was making sure students were able to access their class from home now.
Can you share how Class proctoring has helped your ASL classes?
Class will allow our American Sign Language teachers to better proctor signed portions of exams and assessments.
Currently, in a whole group setting, students are accustomed to performances where they’re either speaking the language or in the case of a sign language class, they’re signing the conversation or the skills attached to that assessment in a whole group setting, or they’re submitting a video offline to be assessed as part of that.
Class has really demonstrated for us that we’re going to be able to, even in that whole room model, just go through each student. The whole class can still work collaboratively in the same setting they’re used to every day, but now our teacher can utilize the tools in Class to continue to work one on one without leaving that meeting or breaking out the breakout rooms.
How has the Class whiteboard been beneficial?
The whiteboards within Class are allowing us to better evaluate daily character writing in our Chinese language class.
So, in terms of the Chinese language, the students do have to have a fair amount of characters at each of the Chinese language levels. And historically, character writing has been difficult for our teachers to evaluate in class because digital shaping is:
A. not every district has the same technology, and
B. not the same when writing digitally with a stylist rather than with a traditional writing tool.
Whereas the whiteboard Class has really started to show our Chinese teachers how quickly they’re going to be able to evaluate holistically all while not having to leave the whole class meeting.
How has the Class in-app browser sharing affected how teachers share content?
Teachers have noticed that the ability to share within the browser keeps students more engaged. We’re able to share materials more meaningfully. It allows for a completely asynchronous opportunity when needed. Allowing the teacher to share the browser tabs through class is really powerful in terms of continuing to maintain high engagement in that remote learning environment for our staff.