Teachers familiarize themselves with technology for remote learning

An exploration into the paradigm shift of education


Photo courtesy of Jay Greenlinger

The diagram outlines the positions and responsibilities of the OPUSD technological hierarchy.

Not every teacher is comfortable with technology or feels the need to use it as a tool in their brick and mortar classroom. However, recent technologies have been of vast help in the last few decades, especially in the education field, but during this quick transition to distance learning, teachers needed support.

The biggest problem of distance teaching for me is not [being] able to ‘feel the room,’ i.e. not [being] able to gauge how much students are learning in online classes,” Oak Park High School Chinese teacher Sherry Hung wrote to the Talon. “[There is a] huge difference. I miss seeing my students and chatting with them.”

Teachers at Oak Park Unified School District have been divided into groups of four to eight. These groups are led by a grade-level or subject area Team Captains (or Corona Captains) whose job is to support and communicate the needs of their group, according to Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jay Greeninger. 

“Since I was already integrating technology into my teaching for close to three years pre-COVID-19, supporting other teachers in their efforts to launch their own distance learning plans felt within the scope of my wheelhouse,” team captain and English teacher Jennifer Hankins wrote the Talon. “Throwing in a pandemic during my time as an educator has definitely put a new notch in my teaching belt. I figure that if educators can survive teaching during a pandemic, we can teach through anything.”

A level above the team captains are the four team coordinators. Kindergarten teacher Heather Sloan deals with grades DK-2, Technology TOSA Keenan Kibrick with Grades 3-5, Medea Creek math teacher Brittany Ulloa with middle school, and OPHS Science Department Chair Winnie Litten with high school.

“Have you watched any late night comedians lately? Have you watched as they try to ‘do a show’ and only have a computer to interact with?” Litten wrote to the Talon. “They can’t read the room or adjust or know how long to pause. As teachers, we are not comedians, but we are in the business of relationships, education, encouragement, listening, teaching, revising, modifying and that is quite difficult to do when we can’t ‘read the room.’”

Litten juggles the responsibilities of simultaneously being a team coordinator and science department team captain, leading several virtual meetings weekly. Litten’s work entails assisting teachers and employing different strategies, as well as providing feedback to higher-ups about what is occurring or what teachers are needing for support.

“How can we effectively communicate at all times? How can we support students best? What are the best types of assignments and assessments that are both authentic and challenging to the student?” Litten wrote. “The corona-quarantine has forced us to address these issues head-on and have tough conversations about education. I am confident that the forging process will generate an even stronger program at OPUSD and I am proud to be any part of that process.”