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Buffalo Ridge remote learning

Article and photo by Celeste McNeil

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Photo of Andrea Gale reading to her kindergarten class via video call.

Andrea Gale reads her kindergarten class a bedtime story over Google Meet. Video calls have been an essential part of class connections for students participating in remote learning.

Staff and teachers at Buffalo Ridge Elementary (BRE) school are diving into technology to make the best of remote learning. Everyone at the school has been discovering a new way of interacting and learning. Weekly staff meetings are being held via video conference. These meetings allow for discussion about how staff and students are adjusting to the new normal in education and to gauge appropriate workload, effective specific platforms and new turn-in procedures for students’ work.

“Kudos to the amazing staff at BRE,” said Principal Jen Murdock-Jacoway. “They are taking incredible risks regarding the increased and new technology they are learning to make this work for everyone.”

BRE’s Culture and Climate Committee got straight to work when it became apparent that students would not be returning to the brick and mortar building after spring break. The collaborative has produced several school-wide videos collectively made by staff. These videos emailed to families and posted on the school website are meant to continue fostering the BRE community bond. They give the community a fun way to stay connected and engaged with one another.

The first video was a mash-up of various teachers lip-syncing to “My House” at home. Some videos feature students or their artwork made at home, others are teachers doing car karaoke (using editing magic to keep following social distancing rules).

Individual classroom teachers have autonomy to use various technology to interact with their classes. Google Classroom is the base and other platforms like Flipgrid or Seesaw are being used for students to turn in work and connect with one another and their teacher on a regular basis. Teachers and support staff are connecting regularly with classes or small groups of students by posting videos or hosting live video calls, some daily, and others at regular times throughout the week. Some of the interaction is education driven while others are more social. Many teachers are hosting virtual bedtime stories where everyone wears pajamas and brings a stuffed animal friend to listen to the evening video call.
Classes are celebrating birthdays, student of the week and show and tell over Google Classroom and Google Meet apps. Art teacher Tim Ryckman and third grade teacher Terra Shaffner have hosted virtual field trips. All teachers are connecting with students beyond the work. Many chat, email or text one-on-one as students need, talking about anything and everything. A few teachers have even done a drive-by to wave or leave small tokens on front porches for students who are struggling to shift to remote learning.

Murdock-Jacoway continually looks for the positive as her role and responsibility has shifted. She said, “Our number one focus is aiding the kids’ continual growth and for everyone to stay healthy, feel supported, know they are missed and live in the positive.” Always a cheerleader for individuals and the school, Murdock-Jacoway is grateful to be part of such an amazing school. “I’m just so proud and lucky to be part of this community!”



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