In Brazil, where I teach primary and secondary school, 82% of students are in public schools. Due to regional social differences, some of us have to deal with adverse situations. But all regions face related problems and connect in different ways.
I work in a community of extreme poverty, with few resources. Together with teacher colleagues, I have mapped out the best way to work with these students, in view of their social and economic reality. Infrastructure and connectivity resources are lacking, but most families have mobile devices, such as cell phones.
We conducted and made available a study guide to be carried out at home with printed curricular guidelines so that parents could withdraw their children from school at alternate times, so as not to create agglomerations that would pose a danger due to Covid-19. The guidelines included information about the platforms that would be used, such as WhatsApp and social networks, including a Facebook group that we already had for all the classes in the school.
So, in addition to the printed guidelines sent to homes, I started using WhatsApp and Facebook with my classes to disseminate short videos. The videos give them guidance to carry out activities, such as work on various topics from digital literacy to computational thinking and problem-solving skills, but also socio-emotional skills, such as creativity, self-management and self-care.
I proposed to the students some reflections and suggestions for hands-on activities. For example, we made a mechanical hand. I made a sequence of short videos, talking about creativity, telling the story of Leonardo da Vinci and also of sustainability , and the three Rs (recycle, reduce and reuse). Another video talked about the importance of the mechanical hand for industry, saving lives and giving quality of life to people who have lost limbs. Finally, I encouraged them to create a robotic hand using cardboard, string and glue, with a hashtag to post a photo on the Facebook group when the work was done.
WhatsApp also works as a channel to clear up doubts, so I organized daily schedules for my students to let them know when I am available to remedy difficulties and clarify points. This has been effective in helping students to continue their studies.
In addition to my work as a teacher, I write two columns on education in major media. I have used this moment to write to teachers and educational managers about using technology to teach, pointing out information about tools such as Google Classroom, Zoom, Blackboard, Century Tech, and EkStep, among others. I have also written about planning, about designing and applying activities, about assessment and hybrid teaching. I have also provided guidance for class recordings, on topics such as voice intonation, didactic sequence, time, cell phone handling, sound and light, as the vast majority have prepared classes without interactions, only with forums.
I help parents and family with tips and suggestions on how to organize the home study routine (offering practical examples) and how to increase the repertoire of activities. I show them the importance of creating lists of books, films and virtual places, such as museums. I also offer guidance on how to help students to understand whether they have managed to reach all the learning objectives, with such questions as:
- Does the exercise that I got wrong have to do with the content of the previous learning?
- Was there any factor that took my attention away from studies?
- Did I understand the question?
- Did I answer what was asked?
- Did I study the whole topic?
This is a period of new learning for all, in which it is necessary to learn from each other, to listen and find ways to overcome difficulties.
Débora Garofalo is a technology teacher in the public education network and a technology manager at the São Paulo State Education Secretariat. She is an education columnist, a winner of national awards and was in the top 10 of the Varkey Foundation's Global Teacher Prize 2019.
This piece is part of the Teacher Task Force’s #TeachersVoices campaign, created to bring forward the experiences of teachers working every day to ensure their students continue to benefit from a quality education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. To participate, go to our dedicated webpage.