At the direction of Governor Cuomo, we joined other New York schools in closing our school building as of March 11, 2020 to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Although this situation is not something we wished for, we respect that the health experts are doing what they believe best for the safety of our community.
We are now conducting distance learning. Because Ursuline already had integrated technology in a systemic and cohesive way, the transition to distance learning has been rapid. We closed the school building on Wednesday, March 11th and began distance learning on Thursday, March 12th.
What does distance learning look like? It is not students sitting at a computer for 6 hours straight. It is a creative combination of live video conferencing, various software platforms, students completing work offline at their own pace within a given timeframe, reading, hands-on projects, and independent study.
Mrs LaBella's Photoshop and Photography Classes viewed a presentation on the work of photographer Annie Leibovitz, best known for her expressive portraits. Then students created their own expressive portraits over several days.
The Italian 2, 3, and 4 students joined their teachers and facetimed with a businesswoman from Rome, a teacher in Milano, an IT person in Rome, and students from Naples. Our students practiced their conversational Italian and also gained knowledge about life in Italy. They each shared their experiences with the current situation in Italy, how Italians are coping, and how they may be changed as people. Our students prepared questions ahead of time and translated the interview for one another. They loved the class and found it relevant and interesting.
Lauren and her classmates in Mrs. Boselli's Spanish 4 class used Google Meet to read the play "El Delantal Blanco" by Chilean author Sergio Vodanovic. The play shows the socio-political reality in the author's home country.
Maggie '20 practiced her Engineering skills outside of class time, as she and her father cut, sanded and began to prime a table.
AP Painting & Drawing and Advanced Drawing student Mary '20 took advantage of the nice weather and gained inspiration in her "outdoor studio".
Our long-time learning management system, MOODLE, has many interactive learning features that now support distance learning. Math teacher Ms. Wolff created lesson screencasts and posted them on her MOODLE class page for her students to watch. Spanish teacher Sr. Brenda Buckley and Religious Studies teacher Ms. Smyth, and many others, are creating online lessons by finding videos and in some cases interspersing the video with questions using Edpuzzle. Edpuzzle keeps track of whether or not the student watches the video, it grades the answers to questions and because it is integrated with MOODLE, puts the grade in the MOODLE gradebook automatically.
Distance learning is not without its challenges such as the absence of the school community, distractions inherent in a home environment, and anxiety about the current health situation. We have discovered that starting the day with our Daily Prayer brings a sense of community and familiarity. Rather than hear the Daily Prayer over the P.A. system, students are creating short videos of daily prayers that are emailed to students and teachers. We are also posting the Daily Prayer on our school homepage.