Remote Learning Team coaches teachers, students and parents

Little did Neshaminy District Instructional Technology Coach Jim Gosser know how much things would change when he start­ed his new job three years ago, well before pan­demics were on any­body’s radar. He had always been inter­est­ed in find­ing new ways to use tech­nol­o­gy in his class­room as a sci­ence teacher for 18 years. In his new role, he was able to explore new ways to engage stu­dents, offer dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed instruc­tion and share his enthu­si­asm for tech­nol­o­gy with his col­leagues across the District.

While the District’s IT Department made sig­nif­i­cant progress inte­grat­ing 1:1 tech­nol­o­gy and new edu­ca­tion­al appli­ca­tions dur­ing that time, the onset of the pan­dem­ic in March accel­er­at­ed the process rapid­ly. After a few short weeks of prepa­ra­tion, teach­ers quick­ly moved their lessons online, and a little-known app called Zoom sud­den­ly took cen­ter stage. Using Canvas and a num­ber of apps, stu­dents and teach­ers fin­ished out the school year with­out see­ing their schools, or their class­mates and col­leagues, again.

With the start of the new school year, the District admin­is­tra­tion decid­ed that in order to tru­ly suc­ceed in this new envi­ron­ment — instead of just sur­vive — the use of tech­nol­o­gy would have to be at the cen­ter of every­thing, and every Neshaminy teacher and admin­is­tra­tor would have to be ready to use it effec­tive­ly every day. To that end, four more coach­es were added to help Jim form a Instructional Remote Learning Team. Brian McPeake from Neshaminy HS, Chuck Lumio from Maple Point MS, Katrina Hunt from Walter Miller ES and Adam Lorence from Poquessing MS joined him as “Instructional Remote Learning Coaches” in August. Each brought their teach­ing expe­ri­ence and love of edu­ca­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy to the task, and imme­di­ate­ly got to work prepar­ing for the chal­lenges of an unusu­al school year.


Their first goal was to solid­i­fy Canvas as the main Learning Management System for the District and Zoom as the pri­ma­ry con­fer­enc­ing tool. The group pre­pared train­ing videos for the teach­ers, sup­port staff and stu­dents. A Canvas hot­line for par­ents was set up, which was answered pri­mar­i­ly by Mr. Lorence. Mr. Gosser held inter­ac­tive Canvas webi­na­rs. The team set up a Professional Development web­site, which they loaded with train­ing videos for every­thing from lap­top set-up and Zoom best prac­tices to edu­ca­tion­al appli­ca­tions and assess­ment tools. Teachers can access these videos dur­ing train­ing days or review them as needed.

The next goal was to cre­ate a “vir­tu­al pres­ence,” shift­ing away from sim­ply post­ing work­sheets and lec­tures to cre­at­ing online class­rooms that use engag­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tive tools to keep stu­dents inter­est­ed in learn­ing whether they are at home or in class. This means that even when stu­dents are attend­ing class syn­chro­nous­ly online, they are able to have the same project-based, col­lab­o­ra­tive expe­ri­ence that they receive in school.


To accom­plish this, the Instructional Remote Learning Coaches trained their col­leagues in a vari­ety of appli­ca­tions includ­ing: Nearpod (a col­lab­o­ra­tion pre­sen­ta­tion tool); WeVideo (video cre­ation tool for stu­dents and teach­ers); iReady (a math and read­ing pro­gram that offers indi­vid­u­al­ized lessons and games that vary with a stu­dents progress and needs) and a vari­ety of Google and Canvas tools. They spend their days in class­rooms work­ing with teach­ers and stu­dents to make sure these tools are work­ing and these efforts are reach­ing every student.

Under their guid­ance, teach­ers who may have nev­er edit­ed a video or set up a live web con­fer­ence before are now man­ag­ing mul­ti­ple media con­nec­tions at once, cre­at­ing their own enter­tain­ing edu­ca­tion­al videos and shar­ing then with col­leagues across the District. Teachers and par­ents can use online tools to track stu­dent progress in real time on mul­ti­ple projects from mul­ti­ple locations.

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Such rapid progress does­n’t come with­out hic­cups and adjust­ments. According to Mr. Gosser, the Remote Learning Team is con­stant­ly look­ing for ways to make the tech­nol­o­gy eas­i­er, more effec­tive and even fun to use. The goal isn’t just to get through the cur­rent pan­dem­ic, but to cre­ate tools that will be used now and well into the future to keep stu­dents excit­ed about learn­ing whether they are in a class­room, in a cafe­te­ria, on the bus or in their liv­ing room at home.