FORESTVILLE — It didn’t take educator and administrator Bryna Moritz long to tire of using technology at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just four months after serving as superintendent at Pine Valley Central Schools, Moritz was leading her team through an international health crisis while tackling what was a big unknown that brought the 2020 academic year to a close: the online learning.
Being connected while working in the buildings and classrooms of many area schools was easy. There were certain structures and boundaries that were understood as part of the school day.
The separation, however, brought a looser set of guidelines. School officials and teachers were using many channels to communicate with each other and with students and parents through remote learning in a very difficult time. These options included traditional phone calls to today’s most common options such as text messages, Zoom, social media and other platforms.
Moritz and his team at Pine Valley quickly realized that the transition from in-person to virtual learning needed some guidelines. “In this learning, it became a digital frenzy when I felt like I was connected all the time – morning, noon and night. … I was overwhelmed and thought, I can’t survive this work and neither do they,” she says.
Moritz spoke with Carrie Davenport earlier this month during a TIF Talks presentation at Forestville High School’s auditorium and attended by about 60 regional educators. It was the first such event – hosted by Andrew Wheelock, Technology Coordinator at Erie 1’s Cooperative Educational Services Council – since 2019, which aims to provide short, focused presentations made by real, “in the trenches” teachers. Most of the speakers on this day focused on the increased use of technology in classrooms and communicating with students.
For those who have been out of the classroom for over a decade, you’ve missed how much things have changed. There are definitely more bells and whistles being used to keep students engaged.
During these times, it’s more than just a lesson plan for teachers who are on the front lines. It means having engagement – in the classroom and outside of it through a number of platforms that keep kids interactive while being on time with homework.
But the digital overload is real – and to this day, there’s no turning back. But there can be limits, which Moritz and Davenport, director of special education and curriculum at Pine Valley, sought to point out.
“We now have a very good method of communicating,” Moritz said, noting that it relieves staff of believing they have to respond to students, parents and colleagues around the clock.
Towards the end of the discussion, Moritz then touched on something almost everyone can relate to: the use of social media for good and bad. Slowly, districts in the region are building their profiles on Facebook and Twitter. A big part of it is highlighting daily happenings, happenings and highlights featuring those behind desks and in classrooms. For parents and families, this use is welcomed.
Moritz, however, issued some caveats that come with the social media jungle. Grammar and punctuation errors reflect poorly on the individual, especially those seeking employment in a school district. Also, retweeted political statements – even with a disclaimer in the profile that “opinions are not mine” — remain a reflection on an individual.
“If you’re applying for a job, you’re probably being harassed on social media and I mean harassed to the nth degree,” she said, referring not only to the education sector but also to all the others. “We want to know who we’re hiring before we hire them.”
For many in America, the resume is only part of an individual’s story. Today, through the use of social media, many people are happy to be an open book. Even during a national labor crisis, this can hamper opportunities.
John D’Agostino is editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pennsylvania. Send your comments to [email protected] or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.