As Teaching Happens Online, College of Education Helps Schools and Parents

As public schools across the country began closing to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19, clinical professor of education Michelle Scribner-MacLean watched as teachers, education businesses and nonprofits release resources online teaching.

She started thinking about how to quickly bring all of these resources together, from information about the New England Aquarium’s daily animal demonstrations to live-streamed story readings by authors and illustrators, in one place for teachers. from kindergarten to 12th grade.

With the help of two edtech friends – Kara Wilkins of Lowell Public Schools, who is also a teacher ambassador for PBS, and Kathleen Pantaleo of William Floyd School District in New York – Scribner-MacLean started a Facebook group : K-12 Resources for Online Teaching.

On Monday, March 16, they started posting resources and tagging them by category. They invited teachers and principals they knew to join the page – and it took off. Within 72 hours, the group had grown to 1,700 members, with hundreds more joining every day.

“That honestly could be my full-time job now,” says Scribner-MacLean. “There’s just a ton of stuff there. I wanted to put everything in one place so teachers could find it. Parents also join.

Photo by K. Webster

Clinical Professor of Education Michelle Scribner-MacLean has started a Facebook page, K-12 Resources for Teaching Online.

The center normally hosts over 40,000 students in grades 3-12 for hands-on educational experiences. Today, instead of accommodating busloads of students, staff at the center are starting to post online lessons, historical photos with background information, and short videos made by national park rangers and digital media students at the university, says Ellen Anstey, director of the center. responsible for administration and engagement.
The center also offers a few interactive resources, including “Bringing History Home,” a choose-your-own story about a fictional mill girl, “Eliza Paige.” Students can read historical letters from friends and relatives of Eliza to help them decide what Eliza should do, or explore more reference documents and other historical resources. The center also shares these resources on the Scribner-MacLean Facebook group.
Sheila Kirschbaum, director of the center, has seen her own family struggle since her granddaughter’s school closed. And her sister, a teacher, works hard to keep her students on track using online tools.

“I see the need for these resources,” she says. “I’m watching closely and I know what parents and teachers are trying to do during this difficult time. We plan to help them.

Working under a $163,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that brings together teachers from across the country for week-long workshops to learn practical teaching methods this summer, the center is also bolstering its site website.

This year’s workshops focus on Lowell and related landscapes in the 19th century. Center and park educational staff will work with UMass Lowell history and English teachers who are the primary presenters of the workshops.

Their presentations will be enriched with new digital collections of materials on the connection between slavery on the southern cotton plantations and the cotton mills of Lowell, as well as Native American life in the Merrimack Valley before the arrival white settlers, says Kirschbaum. On a tour of Lowell’s “Acre,” educators will also learn about the landscape of 19th-century immigrant communities and related public health issues.

“The people of Lowell during this period gained a heightened awareness of how work and landscape intersect,” says Kirschbaum. “We were not only a leader of industrialization in Lowell and around the world, but we learned hard lessons about public health and pollution, and that forces us to examine how Indigenous peoples lived and viewed the land. before the arrival of white settlers.

Leslie Marrero, junior education major at UMass Lowell
Photo by K. Webster

Junior education major Leslie Marrero is bored of her teaching students, but says professors are always available to talk.

As College of Education faculty and staff support teachers and schools in Massachusetts and beyond, they are also transitioning their own students to online learning for the remainder of the spring semester.

For their undergraduates, education faculty members will take turns hosting daily open virtual office hours for undergraduates – and escalate their concerns to the other faculty.

“For first-year students in particular, we want to be there and answer their questions. First and foremost, we want to show them that we support them and that we are going to be flexible,” says Scribner-MacLean. “First you go from high school to college, then you’re asked to pack up and leave your dorm and, by the way, take all your classes online. It’s traumatic. »

Junior education major Leslie Marrero really misses teaching students, but she says the transition to online learning has been smooth so far. She is taking the Scribner-MacLean course in Methods of Teaching Elementary Math, and she says Scribner-MacLean has done everything possible to relieve students’ stress as they adjust to online classes.

“Teachers have always had an open-door policy, and now they have a ‘call me anytime’ policy,” Marrero says.

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