ST. LOUIS – Schools say online teaching will be better this year and look different than it did at the end of last school year.
We’re consistently hearing from parents that online learning was difficult and sometimes disappointing.
“It was horrible. Nobody knew what they were doing,” said Lorrain Tallevast of west St. Louis County.
Tallevast says her grandkids fell behind in the spring.
“It got a little bit better at the end,” she said. “If they could do a little bit more, have the teachers go to the classroom and go through the room or something like that and do it, I think I’d be ok, but me having to guide them makes me nervous. I’m not a teacher.”
Sentiments echoed by Tequila Griffin of north St. Louis County.
“I didn’t sign up to be a teacher and so now it’s harder because I have to have a new routine of sitting down, trying to get them to understand, you know? … Just reading the information,” she said.
That’s exactly what many districts are doing; moving from what’s called asynchronous learning, which means learning online at your own time with limited teacher/student interaction, to synchronous learning, which is online education that happens in real-time.
Bill Bass, the innovation coordinator for the Parkway School District, says his district is striving for a little bit of both.
“We heard from parents that that’s something their students need to make sure they stay engaged and continue to do their work,” he said. “Kids are going to engage not just with content but with each other and their teacher.”
They’re implementing new online learning management systems like Google Classroom, Canvas, and Schoology. They look like social media sites to help students organize and communicate.
“This is what Schoology looks like inside of our classes and you can see going through here that things are now organized in folders,” said Bass.
For years, Hancock Place School District in south St. Louis County has supplied every student with a computer. But they still had the challenge of getting students connected to the school from home.
“Our kids missed their teachers, our kids missed their school families, and so we needed a place for them to safely get on, be able to see their friends and be able to get the content they needed and be able to turn in their work,” said Michelle Dirksen, Hancock Place School District’s director of technology.
They found many families don’t even have WiFi.
“Getting parents to admit they need the help is also a little hard,” said Dirksen.
In some cases, it took personal visits from school counselors, like Sherry Rischbieter.
“We were getting reports from teachers left and right that they were concerned about students not responding to phone calls, not getting on their computers,” said Rischbieter.
Through a grant from Step Up St. Louis to purchase WiFi hotspots, Hancock Place claims 100 percent of families are able to connect with their schools.