Going the distance for his students.
Jose Gonzalez, a Verizon Innovative Learning coach, keeps his students engaged through technology.
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We all have a teacher who left an indelible mark and ignited a greater desire for learning. Nearly overnight, teachers were forced to overhaul their approach in response to COVID-19 and prove that a class is more than four walls, it's a community.
Jose Gonzalez, a Verizon Innovative Learning coach and educator at Bunche Middle School in Compton, CA, has adopted new activities to keep his students engaged while they learn remotely. It's been a challenge, but given the technology and support provided by Verizon, he has been able to create a new normal that keeps his students on the path to success. I sat down for an interview with Jose to learn how they do it.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: My Name is Jose Gonzalez. I am the 21st Century Learning Specialist at Bunche Middle School and a coach for the Verizon Innovative Learning program. In addition to providing support for our teachers, I also run the Student Tech Team with students from the 6th to 8th grades that meets twice weekly and even Saturdays and holidays during competition prep.
One of my hobbies is building models, so I started a class after school where students learn about history, science and engineering by creating model aircraft, tanks, spacecraft, ships and cars.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted the way you engage your students?
A: While this has not been an easy transition for students, John Dewey once said, ‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself,’ and that learning through doing is the best approach. With that philosophy in mind, I asked students to use technology to learn about themselves and reach out to teach others. For the majority, being home all day didn't allow them to express themselves creatively or release their tension.
Q: Can you share some ways you teach and connect with students remotely?
Using Fligrid, students shared their concerns, fears, and the future. Their responses were moving, and I learned a lot about them during the exercise. I use many interactive platforms in my lessons, like Ed Puzzle, Nearpod, and Flipgrid. For example, a recent project required them to use Keynote to create an app prototype that could be a game, quiz or informational app about coronavirus and the impact of the crisis.
Q: In a time of social distancing, what do you miss most as a teacher?
A: I miss not having in-person contact with my students. The dynamics of being in the classroom, the humanity and ability to read body language or expressions to determine if your students understand the lesson are gone. The overall energy that the team creates is reduced in virtual conferences.
I firmly support the use of technology in the classroom; it's integral to 21st Century learning. I am grateful that Verizon has provided opportunities for our students to learn beyond the walls of the classroom and reduce the great digital divide. However, I also realized that learning requires a human component to connect with our kids and express that we care about their well-being.
Q: What's one of your favorite memories or stories as a Verizon Innovative Learning educator?
A: One favorite memory is when we traveled to UC Berkeley in San Francisco and visited Lucasfilm studios. For many, it was a trip of a lifetime, as this was the first time they left Compton or stayed at a hotel. It was wonderful to see the excitement in their faces touring the studio and seeing their futures when they visited UC Berkeley. It's these moments, plus many others, that make teaching the best job in the universe!
There are many educators out there like Jose, who are going above and beyond during this challenging time. Even though their classrooms are empty, teachers are providing a sense of normalcy and connection to students. As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, join us by showing your gratitude for teachers nationwide.