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Distance learning becomes CCISD's new canvas for teaching

Posted at 9:10 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 09:22:18-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Many parents are facing new challenges this week as they try to manage their child's time and education from home. Area school districts are doing their best to fill the gaps.

Corpus Christi Independent School District Director for Instructional Technology Cary Perales said that blended learning is something CCISD already has been using in its classrooms.

"You take your teacher, your content, your best teaching strategies and then you pair it with technology," she said. "That's what blended learning is."

When Spring Break was extended, CCISD added a list of learning resources to its website.

"Our expectation is to expose anyone to content -- for those who want to continue the learning, until we have more guidance on where we’re headed with this," she said.

There also are offline options available, such as worksheets and activities. For instance, a Literacy Choice Board was created by the district's reading specialist.

“Take some time to read a book together and do some offline activities," Perales said. "It’s nice to have that personal connection. We don’t, by any means, think everything needs to be done online.”

But during times like this, learning at a distance becomes necessary, and technology makes a huge difference.

"We have lots of tools that are available that different teachers are comfortable with for kinder all the way through 12th grade," she said. “Canvas, Nearpod, Learning.com for coding and learning how to keyboard, and how to create spreadsheets. All of those are accessible at home."

But a learning management system called Canvas is what Perales calls their main learning hub. This is CCISD's second year using the system, and many teachers and students already are familiar with it.

"Canvas has announcements it can do," she said. "They can post assignments. They can do online discussions, so they can post a question and have everybody respond to it. They can even give video feedback. “If a student submits an assignment they can actually video tape and say 'Hey, you did an awesome job!' or 'I need you to go back and read paragraph number two.' So they can provide feedback that way."

Through Canvas teachers and students are able to interact outside the classroom. Parents even have access as "observers."

“A positive thing that will come out of this is that more people will start utilizing Canvas because they now see the relevance of it," Perales said. "How important it is to be able to connect whether you’re in a classroom or beyond the brick and mortar."

And the importance of that connection has grown as the district announced schools will be closed until at least April 14.

Perales said they are working with their leadership and experts to design a plan. Curriculum specialists and teachers are working together to create new online content for the coming weeks.

CCISD is also working on a solution for students who may not have access to technology at home.

Wednesday, the Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers held a virtual question-and-answer session about the coronavirus' impact on schools.

Rebecca Palacios, a long time educator, stressed the importance of consistency.

“Having a schedule -- sticking to it as much as they can," she said. "Sticking to that routine, just like they did at school. Having a reading time, a writing time, a tech time, a creative time."