Contributed by Barry Joyce, Professor of History
For the past three years, we have collaborated with Academic Technology Services to offer Civic Engagement in America (HIST316), a course that encourages future teachers to simultaneously consider civic engagement in the context of the present, the past and the future. This course maintains a section on both the Newark & AAP-Dover campuses that meet simultaneously via Zoom. We employ various distance learning technologies and strategies to form small communities of engaged learners. There is a UD faculty member and an undergraduate teaching assistant on each campus, while Angela Hoseth, Stacy Weile, and Rich Copley facilitate the connections between the two locations. Not only are students able to see their opposite campus classmates and instructors at all times during the class meeting, they also work together in Zoom breakout rooms, discussing reading and collaborating on projects via google shared drive. Each group then goes into 4th and 8th grade classrooms to help those students articulate and plan for service projects that are designed to benefit their community and the state.
For more on this collaboration, see https://sites.google.com/udel.edu/getting-involved/home
Our successful HIST316 partnership with Academic Technology Services has paid HUGE dividends this past semester in enabling our student teachers to overcome the COVID-19 challenge. Once it became clear that our student teachers were not going to be allowed back to their school placements, their prior experience in HIST316 enabled them to quickly mobilize and transform their teaching in ways that even their assigned classroom teachers never dreamed of doing. They were able to do so by applying the instructional technology skills that they learned in HIST316 in order to connect with and teach middle school and high school students–whether it be through synchronous or asynchronous instruction. Indeed, it was difficult for them to remain patient while Delaware schools very slowly came to grips with the realities of the virtual classroom.
Some of their most exciting work has taken place in “mini-classrooms”—akin to social studies “maker spaces”–where they challenged each other to create high level, engaging, and innovative lessons that they actually teach and received feedback on within these virtual classrooms. Their synchronous lessons incorporate the latest social studies instructional technologies within the Zoom platform. This creative space has allowed them to move beyond the more restrictive curriculum of Delaware schools and into new areas that build upon new content, concepts and skills acquired through our program. It was a much- needed opportunity for them to teach relevant topics that are too often avoided in current dated curriculum–but are essential for today’s students to learn from.
Students valued highly the collaborative aspects of the synchronous mini-classroom experience. One student teacher commented that “being able to watch my peers teach opened my eyes to new approaches to teaching.” Another appreciated being able to experience technology tools “from the perspective of the teacher and the student, which I believe also contributed to strengthening my Zoom skills. When I sat through other lessons when I was (in the role of ) a student, I was able to see what I believed to work well and not work well. My classmates taught me so much throughout their lessons.” An award-winning student teacher summed up the experience of all of our mini-classroom participants:
As someone who depends on collaboration and creativity in my lessons, I initially felt limited moving online. Yet, after working with my cohort, I felt empowered to try new things. I sought out new strategies and methods that engaged students remotely. I maintained the inquiry aspect of my planning with activities such as Image Hide-and-Seek, Stock Market simulation, jig-saws, and virtual gallery walks.…This step out of the physical classroom enabled me to be confident in two classroom settings and plan and prepare lessons equipped for online or in-person use. Lastly, never before have we had the chance to observe our peers. Just as we want our students to learn via collaboration, I feel we have, too.
So thank all at Academic Technology Services for providing the opportunity and space to grow in our knowledge and conceptual understandings for teaching through technologies—our student teachers couldn’t have done it without you!