Week One: What Digital Learning Looks Like Across Cobb Schools

“The parents have expressed appreciation for all we are doing while school is closed and to me, personally, it has increased home-school communication in a positive way.”  – Dr. Timeka Cline, Principal at Bryant Elementary

This week, Cobb students, teachers, administrators and support staff took on the challenge of learning in a new way—online from home. It was a challenge shared by schools all across the country in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, but once again, the Cobb team stepped up to show why Cobb is the best place to teach, lead, and learn! 

Educators throughout Cobb found creative ways to keep the school routine going during this time of social distancing. Morning announcement time, recess, physical education, art, and music, in addition to regular lessons, were all available to students to make home-based learning resemble the school day as much as possible.  

“One of the best tools for me and my classes have been the Microsoft Teams video conferences,” said South Cobb High School Science teacher, Rammon Spann. “It’s allowed us to have the face-to-face time that some students really need in order to understand the content. The students love it because they still feel connected to the class and they can ask questions and get real-time feedback.” 

At Hollydale Elementary, principal Jennifer Ridgway has been using the time to teach the students about how the community is coming together and helping each other.  

“Every morning and afternoon we’ve been video-taping the announcements and sending to the kiddos through Blackboard,” she said. “Today’s message was especially amazing. We told the story of how food is being distributed at Hollydale and how the District and MUST Ministries are working together to do this. The word of the day was ‘Community!’” 

South Cobb’s Health and PE teacher Bobbie Isom said she was learning just as much as her students.  

“It really tested my creativity to get the lessons to my students without being face-to-face,” she said. “I’ve learned how to use different technologies and online tools. I have been recording lessons in PowerPoint and sending them out to students. As a Health and PE teacher, combining audio and video in PowerPoint has been effective to clearly communicate the lessons. It’s also a way for students and parents to be involved together.” 

Creativity has been the name of the teaching game during this time. Teachers, students, and parents have all taken up the challenge and made the most of it.  

“The most important part of digital learning is the learning that we are able to do outside of our four walls,” said one parent. “Breaking the monotony of the day by doing school work in the backyard or going on a scavenger hunt for objects of nature has also been a fun ‘recess break.’”  

Isolation from friends was the real worry of many students. But teachers are finding ways to make sure that students still get to interact with each other.  

“During our office hours in the morning and afternoon, you can make a group call, where students can participate,” said Simpson Middle School teacher, Matt Brown. “They get to interact with both students and the teacher, get clarity on assignments, and decompress about their quarantine.”  

Bryant Elementary Principal, Dr. Timeka Cline, has also taken advantage of popular social media platforms to bring the community into her students’ homes.  

“Each morning we do announcements via Facebook Live to share the character word of the week and how to get needed resources,” she said. “Each night at 7 PM we also gather for a bedtime story. The parents have expressed appreciation for all we are doing while school is closed and to me, personally, it has increased home-school communication in a positive way.” 

Supporting all of this technology and getting 113,000 students online with such short notice is also a challenge.  

“We have 27 Technology Training Integration Specialists and myself,” said Instructional Technology Director Cristin Kennedy, “and we have been busy working 12-14 hour days: answering emails, getting on team meeting calls, training teachers one-on-one and in groups, meeting with principals. We’ve been providing support non-stop.” 

More than half of the 8,000 teachers in the District were already certified as Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE), which helped alleviate much of the fear of the unknown for them.  

“The teachers feel very empowered because of this,” Ms. Kennedy said. “So, they were excited and ready to use digital tools for remote or blended learning. It has been challenging but very, very positive overall.” 

All our educators continued work to help students succeed is one reason why the Cobb Board of Education voted this week to pay all salaried and hourly employees while schools are closed. 

“Our families have reached out with very positive feedback, appreciation, and some great suggestions, too,” said Dodgen Middle School Principal, Dr. Patricia Alford. “With all we’ve learned this week, next week will be much smoother for everyone. As the instructional leader, I’m sharing one digital tool a day with the staff to try, and we are working to keep our lessons fresh and engaging. I’m certain that when this is all over, the teachers will have hundreds of more tools in their strategy toolbox. I’m so proud of our staff and our students!”