Inside the Classroom

How Cell Phones and Virtual Learning Can Help with Teacher Shortage

When I was a district administrator, I used to tell educators that Edgenuity® was a “multi-solution vendor.” Within months of adopting online learning as an alternative to traditional schooling, my district was able to meet a lot of student needs. Today, schools and districts all over the country still have problems that lead to special solutions and partnerships with Edgenuity. Recently I was involved in helping to solve such a problem at a Texas middle school. Early in January, I got a call from a district administrator about a Spanish teacher who was on maternity leave. Unfortunately, the district was struggling to find a long-term substitute who was certified to teach high school Spanish to 125 seventh graders. The district thought we could help immediately, but I wanted to make sure that a variety of people were involved so we could develop a plan focused on student success. Within days, our plan was in place and students were learning.

As the strategic account manager for the district, I was able to be on-site to kick off the plan. It was great to explain the plan to the students and to tell them that they were the first middle school students in their district to take an online high school Spanish course in a traditional classroom.

Several cool things happened during my visit at the school. First, while we built technology checks into our preparations, we had unexpected trouble with the district’s portal and laptops. After spending 20 minutes of class time struggling to get students logged into the course, with the principal’s permission, we decided to have students pull out their phones. In the blink of an eye, the kids had their phones in hand, easily logged into the course, and were working on activities. There was a buzz of activity in the room and everyone was on task. I still smile just thinking about how excited those kids were to use their phones in class.

The second highlight involves the long-term substitute, Mr. Teress. He taught school early in his career and has since retired, but he has been working at the school as a regular sub. He is not a native Spanish speaker, but has enough fluency to facilitate the students’ learning, and the Spanish teacher who works in the room next to him grades the students’ subjective assignments and acts as the teacher of record. After discussion and reflection among faculty, we all decided to start the students off with daily assignments. Each night, Mr. Teress develops his Edgenuity lesson plan, and then works through the assignments so that he is prepared to help students. Over time, students will be given the opportunity to move at their own pace, empowering advanced students to work ahead. We developed a student progress and achievement tracking form to help students set goals and give Mr. Teress a mechanism to conference with students and celebrate their successes. Needless to say, I admire Mr. Teress’ flexibility, determination, and passion for his students.

Because of our multi-solution courseware, our partnership with this district, and the tenacity of this special substitute teacher, cell phones and virtual learning are enabling 125 students to learn Spanish, the principal’s problem is solved, and parents can rest assured that their students are back on track to earning high school credit while learning a second language. And what could be better than that?

About the Author

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Susan Powell

Susan has an EdD in educational leadership with an emphasis on organizational change and school reform. She has experience with technology, curriculum and instruction, assessment, and program implementation, with a focus in online learning. She is a Strategic Account Manager for Edgenuity and works with large districts, consulting with them about online and blended learning to help districts, schools, and educators better serve their students with the use of technology.