In-Person Learning Amidst A Global Pandemic…

I’m not really sure how to start this topic because so many people are starting school again and there is a lot of “nervousness” in the air. There have been emails after emails sent from the schools to parents and students that are detailing strategies to not spread COVID – 19 and new safety procedures, check-in procedures, the possibility of everything being shut down if we don’t all just comply to all of the rules.

There were police officers at the entrances to my school, where we are supposed to show our school ID, answer one question about whether we have symptoms or not, and get a thermometer pointed at our forehead to ensure that anyone entering buildings isn’t sick. Then we get a colored wristband to show we are “safe”.

All of this makes sense given our circumstances and I know everyone is doing the best they can with what they have, but it is strange. Masked faces everywhere, more students sitting outside then I’ve ever seen before, half of the benches and chairs inside turned upside down. I didn’t even think to explore my library or bookstore yet, but I was so determined to find my classroom because it was a busy morning.

Entering a classroom for the first time since March was freakishly bizarre. I only have one in-person class this semester and the rest of my schedule is online or through ZOOM, so I was so curious to see how an in-person class would be set up during this pandemic.

There is only one chair to each desk (the desk itself is probably 5 feet long or so). The teacher was nice enough to buy everyone a composition notebook and have notecards and any other material she wanted us to have laid out on each desk. There was hand sanitizer spray, sanitizing wipes, spray, any kind of disinfectant you can imagine.

This teacher is fantastic and even tried using the face shield she had too because it was a bit easier to hear through, plus we could actually see her face. I can tell already that this is a teacher I am going to like because the second thing she discussed on her long list of discussion topics for the day was a bit of a woman’s history with the 19th Amendment. She had my respect from that moment on, I can tell she cares about teaching because she was taking every precaution, then some.

She expressed how hard it was for her students to adjust to online learning in the spring and how she wants to try everything in her power to keep us learning in person. This class requires a lot of in-person activities and projects, (it’s Introduction to Education), and now I see why this was the only one of my classes that stayed as an in-person class this semester.

Nonetheless, it is a jarring scene to witness your instructor present her speech through a plastic face shield that has bulky padding around her head that pushes her hair up unevenly and leaves some hairs poking straight out. Everyone’s voice is muffled with cloth in front of our mouths as we try to introduce ourselves, even though we can’t show so much of our expressions hidden behind the masks.

This is a vastly different experience compared to my first year of college which began completely normally but ended with a stay at home order. Now everyone is trying to find a sense of normalcy among the new CDC guidelines along with our own state guidelines. The staff is trying to make everything as safe as possible; the students seem to be following the necessary steps to stay on campus safely, and all the while faculty are passing out freebie bags all around campus.

My level of commitment is far more limited than that of my instructors because I only have to be on campus for about an hour and a half (including travel time). I am following all of the guidelines and wearing my mask of course but I also have four other fully online classes so if this doesn’t last all semester long, I will be okay.

I feel for the instructors who are working their butts off to be able to educate the students (me) in the best way possible, they are pulling out all of the supplies and are always willing to adjust to help us (the students). If the school isn’t able to continue in-person learning through until the end of the semester, that is who I will feel for, the teachers who are trying everything they can to continue teaching their students valuable lessons.

I’m not sure how this update on my schooling experiences for the 2020 Fall Semester turned into an appreciation post for teachers, but oh well. Thank you, teachers, instructors, professors, whatever you may call yourselves thank you for not letting an entire generation of young U.S citizens miss out on a year of education.

How is everyone else acclimating to the new learning style in 2020? How are people from outside of the U.S. handling this new school year? I would love to hear from you all in the comments below! Thank you for reading my blog, and happy reading to every one of you.

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.

Preparing for a New Semester | Fall 2020

This semester is all kinds of new regarding mandatory masks as well as the fact that I am switching from doing schoolwork in notebooks and on loose-leaf paper to doing schoolwork on my iPad and going paperless. I have so much to do to be properly prepared for this new semester online and I decided to bring you guys along with me! You can learn everything I’ve done to prepare for a primarily online semester in this blog post and in the video, I posted on YouTube.

This is my second year of college and the first year I will be taking only classes that are applying to my major, which is Elementary Education. I am taking five classes, one is in person (of course with mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing), two are remote learning classes (meaning we will meet during scheduled class time in a zoom chat), and two fully online classes.

I know I may sound a little crazy, but I am actually excited for this upcoming semester! I feel more prepared than ever before with my iPad for schoolwork and on top of that, I am excited to have the chance to be back in a physical classroom again.

With all of this excitement and anticipation in mind, I am going to show you what I have done to prepare for this unprecedented semester and how I am preparing my digital space for paperless learning.

The first step in preparing for an online and paperless semester is to download all of the apps I will need to be able to take notes, store files and images, edit assignments, and upload assignments. The first and in my opinion, the most important app is Goodnotes 5, which you can purchase on the Apple App Store for $7.99. I know for many broke college students like myself this may seem unnecessarily pricy but believe me, it is worth it. I tried many of the free note-taking apps similar to Goodnotes, but none compare to this. It allows you to create notebooks, folders, import pdfs (which makes doing homework and tests a breeze), add images, and so much more (not to mention, all the different pages, pen, and color options).

The other apps I know I will be using during this semester are Pages, Grammarly, Google Drive, and of course Zoom. Pages automatically come with any Apple device and are just a basic word processing platform like Word, I’m sure I will be using it for writing papers homework on my iPad. Grammarly is a fantastic app that allows you to edit and correct documents, and if you allow access to your keyboard the app with the edit as you type in any other app on my iPad. The app also has various settings or filters you can set when editing a document to better match the needs of the paper.

Now that I have become familiar with the apps, I want to use this semester I can begin creating files and notebooks for my classes and organizing my documents on my iPad. For each class this semester I created a file folder, and, in those folders, I created three notebooks, one for notes, another for homework, and another for tests. I figured I could upload any homework and tests into the notebook and simply export a single page to be able to turn it in for credit.

For each class, I created covers for the digital notebooks in Procreate and then added class labels in Canva. To make it the cover of a notebook in Goodnotes all I had to do was add the pictures I created as the first page of the notebook. I decided to use these covers as a way to color-code my classes so that color coding in a planner is easier to keep track of! My Intro to Literature class is a purplish-blue cover, Intro to Education is a bright teal or turquoise color. I made my Cultural Anthropology class orange-red, my Women’s Studies class a pink color, and my American Government class green. I was agonizing over these colors for a way to long, but I think I ended up with some colors I will be happy with for the entire semester. This leads me to the next step in preparing for the upcoming semester…

In this app Goodnotes, you can edit the order and color of all the different pens (ballpoint, fountain, and brush), as well as the highlighter colors. So, with that, I decided to find all the colors I would want to use with the pens to write and order them into an aesthetic pastel rainbow. For the highlighters I decided to make these correlate to the class colors I had coded with the notebook covers earlier. I also made sure to adjust the automatic pen and highlighter sizes with the slider bar. My main goal for customizing and organizing the drawing set in the Goodnotes app was to just make it easier for when classes start in a few weeks.

The next step in organizing my schedule for the upcoming weeks of class in August and September was to block out my time in a digital planner. Goodnotes has amazing planner pages in their page templates that allowed me to create a really easy online planner that shows hours of the day so that I can block out my time with the highlighter tool. I love this time blocking planning technique because with just a glance I can see how my time will be spent throughout the week.

I simply used the highlighter presets I created earlier to block out each class in the first week of school then I labeled them for this first week just so it is easier to remember in the future. I specified which classes were zoom meeting and the time each class started in this first week as well. After I fine-tuned the color choices and placement, I created a little color key at the top of the page and copied and pasted it to the following weeks. With the color key at the top of the page, I will be able to block out the time without wasting time writing out labels every week.

Even though this is a primarily online semester I knew I would need some physical items for my one in-person class, not to mention the different storage devices I will be using throughout the semester. I will be using a small little backpack to take my iPad to class along with the much-needed masks I need for in-person learning this semester. Another really important item for this semester will be my flash drives and external hard drive, these are used to hold pictures, documents, and any past schoolwork. I went through all my devices and moved all my pictures and old documents to flash drives so that I can start the new semester with plenty of storage space.

This is how I have prepared myself for a new semester this fall, by organizing digitally and physically, becoming familiar with the applications I want to use for the semester, and planning my time efficiently and creating systems for planning in the future. I am sure I will be updating organization practices and such as I learn more about paperless schooling, but I am excited about the foundation of learning I have laid.

In these coming days, I encourage everyone to take some time to rest. The semester will come and go so soon, so we must take care of ourselves in the calm and unbusy moments we have. I will be enjoying my last weekend of the summer in the mountains, breathing in nature and taking a break from the hustle and bustle, before it all starts up again. Thank you for taking the time to read this story of how I prepared for the new fall semester, and let me know in the comments what you have been doing to prepare for the new semester!

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.