When Susan Fletcher began teaching 37 years ago at the school she had attended, she never envisioned that someday she would be instructing students on a computer, from her living room.
In fact, she said, she wouldn’t have imagined it even as late as Christmas of 2019. By that point, she was a veteran educator, but a technology newbie. She had heard the term “Google Classroom” in passing but had never seen the technology and had no idea what it was. Her classroom had just five computers, all “ancient dinosaurs,” Fletcher said.
That changed last March when school shut down for in-person instruction because of the pandemic. Fletcher and her colleagues at Aycock Elementary School in Henderson, N.C., were given two days of training on virtual instruction. “Then it was, get it up and running,” she said.
A year later, Fletcher can create a Google classroom, use Google forms, Google slides, and Google documents. She can develop interactive lessons using Nearpod. She starts each day by showing her students a “bitmoji” of herself (a tiny digital avatar), usually wearing or doing something that reflects what the class is studying or the time of year. (Her avatar rode a rocketship during a space unit, and recently popped out of an Easter egg).
Fletcher also set up a digital library for her 3rd graders, many of whom don’t have their own books at home. And her students, nearly all of whom are eligible for free or reduced lunch, now each have their own digital devices. That helped enable the school to be fully virtual for much of the 2020-21 school year. (The school district was planning to shift from the hybrid model it is currently using to mostly in-person instruction sometime this month.)
Her teaching, she said, has transformed for the better just in a year, even after decades in the profession. “We will never get back to what once was,” she said. “We can only move forward.”