In the picture above, a student shows off his planet poster, part of an optional project in Mrs. Medina's distance learning class.
#JoyfromAfar: A Look at Online Learning with Christina Medina
By Christina Medina, Learning Specialist
When The Joy School adopted the online learning model in response to COVID-19, Christina Medina, Learning Specialist for lower school, created a weekly program for her class that combined live instruction with recorded video sessions. In this #JoyfromAfar blog post, Christina explains how she developed an online learning program that worked best for her students, striking a balance between providing social opportunities with learning opportunities through live and on-demand videos and giving students chances to find the joy in learning, even at a distance.
Within the world of education, there are two types of distance learning methods: asynchronous and synchronous. In synchronous learning, students are learning live, in real-time, through a method like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. In asynchronous learning, students are learning independently while watching videos that have been recorded for them. Often, asynchronous learning gives the student more time to think through concepts and instruction than real-time video allows.
Christina found that a hybrid between these two methods was important for her students to continue practicing their social skills and to stay on track with their academic learning. The on-demand videos were a way for Christina to explain concepts and material they were learning about in their Zoom class. Often, she would pair her on-demand videos with live instruction during her Zoom meetings, helping students work through issues they faced after reviewing concepts in the on-demand videos.
Christina's classroom management strategy called CHAMPS. "This was really helpful to start each Zoom class session," Christina said. "The kids knew the expectations at the beginning of each class time. Super helpful for them to know how the class time was going to be used."
Christina also used her live sessions to help students socialize with her and with one another and let the recorded videos serve as a time when students could independently work on academic concepts. "Even though recording the videos was a lot of work on my part, it gave students more time to talk to each other in the Zoom class," Christina explained. "They really missed each other and needed that time to connect with each other."
Christina also used her live sessions to bring in special guests for her students helping make her sessions more fun and to keep classes interesting. She invited grandparents to read to the class, and one time, Head of School, Shara Bumgarner, even joined in on her live class to read. "It was a total surprise each time to students," Christina said.
Christina also worked in a sharing time at the end of each live session to help students connect with one another. Students independently chose what they wanted to share about and then presented that to the class. Students shared about their specific interests and things that were important to them. Christina gave a few examples of what students shared saying, "one student shared his reading nook and creation of The Sydney Opera House, and another student shared about her cat and showed how to do a handstand."
There were also a few optional projects that students participated in during the online learning program. Before the school closure, students were learning about the solar system. A lot of students decided to partake in an optional planet project. They created posters and then shared those with the class, which was an opportunity to work on presentation skills, and students listening to the presentations learned from the students who were presenting.
Ultimately, Christina made about 30 on-demand videos for her class and noted that all parents used the videos differently, with some parents using the videos more than others. While she notes it was a lot of work for her to put the videos together, she thought parents appreciated having the on-demand video option for their kids. Christina shared that a specific family really appreciated having the videos. "One parent said that her son watched all the videos, and it brought a big smile to his face, and it helped her, the mom, too," Christina said. "Each family did what worked for them."
"One parent said that her son watched all the videos, and it brought a big smile to his face, and it helped her, the mom, too," Christina said. "Each family did what worked for them."
Christina was adaptable with her online learning model and tailored it to the needs of her students. One size does not fit all, and Christina was especially flexible in understanding this about her students and families' distance learning needs. By putting together a thoughtful online learning model, Christina helped her students continue to work toward their academic and social goals while also finding opportunities to have fun in the process.
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About the Author
Christina Medina was born and raised in Houston, where she earned a Bachelor of Education from the University of St. Thomas. She is certified to teach early childhood through fourth grade as a bilingual generalist and holds a teaching certificate through the Texas Education Agency. She previously taught in the private school system and most recently in Aldine ISD. She loves working as an educator at a unique school that supports its students and allows them to excel in all areas of life. Outside of school she enjoys visiting the arboretum with her family, reading to her son and trying out new restaurants.
Bachelor of Arts in Education and Bilingual Education from University of St. Thomas