Online learning (and teaching)
Each morning at 8:00 am, my two young boys put on their headphones and login to their Webex classroom. Caleb is welcomed by the “Booms Shaka Lakas” teacher and Tad greets the rest of the “Mindful Dragonflies.” Usually, they start with games and sharing. Yesterday Caleb showed off our two dogs, and Tad told the class about the bump on his head. Every so often I hear Caleb yelling excitedly at the iPad screen- thank goodness he is on mute. Sometimes they jump up and down, engaging in some sort of brain break. They move between teacher “rooms” and subjects, pulling out different materials from the bins that were sent home in the first week. They color, they write, they record video messages on the Seesaw app, and they bang metal water bottles during music time. There are also frustrated tears and moments of exasperation. It can be hard when you can’t find the app you are supposed to be working on or the login isn’t working. Five minutes wasted not realizing that the “C” in the password was a lower case. The boys wish they could be in their real classrooms, chatting with friends or sprawling out in the classroom library.
Meanwhile, my husband and I, both teachers at Punahou, have found different corners of the house to be with our own group of students. I am lucky to have two devices, allowing me to use one for a full view of my students, and the other to toggle between the various lesson apps and documents. I can now use Canvas, Padlet, Flipgrid, Seesaw, and Peardeck with ease. We smile at our screens and laugh into our microphones, building connections despite the distance. Sometimes sites load slowly and my students wait patiently. Other times, we have to completely adjust course.
Teachers and students want to be in classrooms, but we are making the best of a bad situation. We are privileged to be at a financially and administratively strong school. It is exhausting for all of us, but we are also finding moments of joy, and learning is taking place. Meanwhile, we are all crossing our fingers hopefully that we might reopen in a few weeks’ time.
An update - back to school
Since the time of writing, conditions in Hawai’i are significantly improved. We are hovering around 1% positivity rate on Oahu. Punahou welcomed students back to campus in late October with numerous safety measures in place.
Dr. Robyn Vierra is the Director of Global Education at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Her experiences living overseas in Fiji, Brazil, New Zealand, South Korea, and China, inspired her passion for global citizenship education. Robyn works to develop globally competent students who know their world, skillfully interact in their world, and have a disposition for action. In addition to this work, Robyn has taught kindergarten through graduate school.