Philly teachers learn how to conduct online classes through end of school year

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — With school buildings closed for the rest of the year, the School District of Philadelphia has been teaching its teachers how to conduct the online classes that start next week.

Philly teachers will be using Google Classroom as the online platform for the virtual classes that start next Monday. Superintendent William Hite says only 15% of teachers have used Google Classroom before, so teacher training has been underway, and refresher courses are available on demand.

One teacher who has used Google Classroom before is Michelle Gainer, a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher at Bayard Taylor Elementary in Hunting Park. 

She says it may not be a smooth rollout at first, as students forget their passwords and teachers go through their own learning curves.

"I certainly think that there are going to be challenges at first getting acclimated. Like anything, people need to practice using Google Classroom."

Gainer says at the very least, she wants her students to come away from this school year with basic computer skills they can use in the future.

"My students — something they're all going to need to build is fluency with technology. When I did my calls home, I found out that about 90% of our students in fifth grade — and we have about 80 kids in the fifth grade at Taylor — don't have computers."

Gainer says when everyone gets up to speed, the value of a virtual classroom may just be in harnessing the power of those district-issued Chromebooks.

"What skills can we teach our students now that all of them are going to have access to a computer? Now that you have more students with a computer at home than ever before, what sort of technological fluency can we build into our lessons so that even if they can't master all of the content we'd hoped for them to get this year, that they can go into next year with some improvement in skill that's going to help them moving forward?"

Apart from that, Gainer says, a virtual classroom will give her the chance to reconnect with her students.

"So that they realize that we may not be able to see each other in person, but we're all still there for each other. And that we're all sort of grieving the loss of the school year together," she said.