Over the last several weeks, American K-12 classrooms have shifted from in-person instruction to online learning as the nation closed schools to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Ball State alumni leading these classrooms reacted quickly, moving from teaching in front of smiling faces to connecting with students online.

These educators share their tips for shifting to teaching online, how they have learned to keep educating as simply as possible, and how they are building in as much contact as they can.

Jen Scholtes has one goal: learning stays the same

Jen Scholtes, ’04, MS ’09, has one goal every day: to make sure her students are learning just as well online as they would in the classroom.

Jen Scholtes
Jen Scholtes

“When making my online lessons, I am mindful of my students and their families, ensuring the work I create and assign can be done from home. As the teacher, I want to know that my students are still learning, so my methods for checking for evidence of their learning has changed.  Student evidence that I look over and give feedback on are: pictures with a captions, a recorded video, a drawing, a typed note, or even a normal paper and pencil activity that have been made digital.” 

The first-grade teacher at Pleasant View Elementary School in Yorktown labels herself just another educator trying to think outside the book to make sure her students get the best possible instruction.

“This means making countless instructional videos and read alouds for students that I upload to my YouTube channel” Scholtes said.  “It means giving instruction from my home and using any and all resources I can find as well as materials I was able to gather before buildings were closed.”

Scholtes said that instead of modeling concepts with her classroom with her students, she is using her own children to help model concepts and make videos. 

I am incorporating real life into these videos and showing students that we can make this work. Each day, I welcome my class with a warm good morning video. I then take students through lessons that incorporate reading, writing, math, science and social studies with a few surprises like virtual field trips added in for bonus.

“Amidst a time with a lot of uncertainty, I try to be the constant that lets kids know that we are still learning and doing our job even if it does mean we are all working from home.”

Allyson Oakman reads aloud to first graders to spark learning

Allyson Oakman
Allyson Oakman

In her first year of teaching first grade at the East Washington Academy in Muncie, Allyson Oakman, ’18, quickly turned to her 24 students and their parents for advice when her class went online shortly after local officials closed schools.

She created a Facebook page to engage to come up brainstorm ideas on ways to engage students.

The youngsters and their parents suggested the young teacher to simply read out loud.

So, Oakman incorporated the tactic the first day of online learning

I once heard the expression ‘if reading aloud went out of style, audiobooks wouldn’t exist’ and it is so true. My kids love to sit and listen to me read a story. They’re engaged, entertained, and lost in the reading. With all of that in mind, I began doing daily readings. Sometimes they include a mini-lesson in which I dive deeper into the text and ask thought-provoking questions, and sometimes they’re just fun stories to enjoy

Oakman, who studied elementary education at Ball State’s Teachers College, also provided her students with nightly bedtime stories that are solely for entertainment and relaxation before bed.

“I fully believe that when this is all over, everyone will come out with new skills, a new appreciation for each other, and a new appreciation for our very hectic, overwhelming, amazing school year.”

Comic book ‘nerd’ Jordan Kerkhoff converts his interest into the basis for learning history

Jordan Kerkhoff, ’10, 13, often refers to himself as the “Comic Book Teacher of East Central Indiana” because he was incorporating publications into the classroom to allow children to better understand the American Revolution.

Jordan Kerkhoff
Jordan Kerkhoff

“If you’re going to give yourself a ‘prestigious’ title like that, then you better back it up in the classroom with some nerdy ideas,” he said.

When it was decided that we would continue with the school year from home, I felt that it was important that we continue with this project and our school feels that it is important to try to maintain authenticity during E-learning. Meaning whatever we would be doing in the classroom is what we should try to achieve virtually.

Kerkhoff has been using Zoom to regularly to chat with his fifth-grade students and to provide instruction. He also invited comic book mentors and Ball States graduates Christina Blanch, owner of a Muncie comic book store, and Alex Dandino, writer and podcast host, to join the meetings to share some tips.

As the project continues, the Kerkhoff, Blanch and Dandino provide writing feedback for the students through Flip Grid, which is a website that helps facilitate video chats. To design their comics, a majority of the students are using a program called Pixton. This site allows users to create comic books, using a wide variety of clip art options and text features.

“Ultimately, I hope to have a number of comics about the Revolutionary War that can be enjoyed by future fifth graders,” Kerkhoff said.

Pets and jokes help Mark Kosisko’s students connect

Mark Kosisko
Mark Kosisko

For the last 26 years, Mark Kosisko, ’89, has been part of a major transition as classroom teacher at Randolph Southern Elementary School  in Lynn, Indiana. His school corporation has been proactive with eLearning and is its second year of full eLearning implementation. Teachers work one-to-one in grades K-12 utilizing the Chrome platform with tablets and Chromebooks.

He also has been hosting Google Hangouts with his student on a weekly basis to get students to connect in an era of social distancing. Each week the group meets online to tell jokes, show off their pets, share lunch, watch movies and even dive into Chromebook/eLearning Troubleshooting.

The students really enjoy seeing one another and talking to each other. Sometimes it gets a little noisy with everyone wanting to talk at once.

But, for those students  that do not have internet access, he makes packets that closely coincide with the work that students are doing on Chromebooks. School bus drivers and paraprofessionals deliver and pick up Packet work on designated days.