Can you smell the freshly sharpened #2 pencils? My daughter is one of the many children who have recently returned to school this season, and we are again faced with interesting opportunities and challenges at the outset of a new year.
To gain a better understanding of what school administrators are facing as they prepare for the unconventional hybrid-learning school year ahead, I spoke with Melissa Bisbo (M.Ed.), who is Poly’s Experience Program Theater Lead for the Americas.
Melissa’s perspective on the shift to hybrid learning and virtual technology education is special. As a former elementary school teacher, Melissa spent more than a decade in classrooms across America, from Pennsylvania to Texas to New York. Now in her role at Poly, Melissa consults with different school administrators across the country every week on how to make virtual learning easier for staff and students.
This conversation is a culmination of best practices and key learnings that can help school administrators prepare for the classroom of the future.
Q: In your conversations with school administrators over the past year, what were some of the challenges that came with the shift to virtual and hybrid learning? How did the school staff overcome those challenges?
A: One of the biggest challenges that educators have been facing with virtual and hybrid learning is how best to provide a quality education and keep students engaged in their learning, all while keeping students and staff safe. When many schools shifted to virtual learning, teachers and students were struggling with the lack of live instruction and how to adapt their teaching to be over video. We have been able to provide solutions for educators that improve the remote teaching experience by allowing them to step away from their laptops and teach as they normally would, whether they are in the classroom or instructing from home. Even those students who may be learning remotely have an experience on par with the students in the classroom because they are seeing and hearing the teacher clearly, which leads to greater engagement.
Watch as I demonstrate the Poly Studio USB camera technology – it’s perfect whether a teacher is in the classroom or teaching from home. With automated speaker training, educators can forget about the technology in the room and just teach.
Q: What are some of the obstacles that students are facing? What role can technology play to help address those issues?
A: Students learning from home are faced with obstacles of their own. One of the biggest challenges of virtual learning is how to keep students engaged despite the distractions happening around them. Video enabling classrooms encourages interaction and collaboration, but many students are trying to learn from home. Often, these students must share a space with other siblings and/or parents, and the noise and distraction can make it hard to concentrate on the school lessons. When using Poly headsets, equipped with features such as noise-canceling and acoustic fence technology, students can join their virtual classroom and focus on the lesson being taught and not the distracting noises that may be occurring around them. With Poly solutions, they can be clearly heard and seen as they engage in discussions and ask questions.
Q: What are the challenges of virtual or hybrid learning in other countries?
A: With the education model shifting between in-person and virtual, teachers around the world are faced with the same challenge of maintaining connections with their students and how best to support their learning. But the differences and distinctions between countries lie in the timing of the school openings and closings, and the degree to which an institution has its doors open or closed. In some countries, there have already been multiple school re-openings and re-closings, while in other countries schools have been closed for most of the pandemic. In the U.S., we’ve had fewer cycles of openings and closings than in other countries. Regardless of location, the subsequent learning loss is a challenge for everyone involved.
Q: As a former teacher, what tips would you give to educators in the field? What have you learned from the technology industry that you might be able to use if you were teaching in a virtual or hybrid environment today?
A: As a former educator with many friends who are still teachers, I feel fortunate to work for a company that is passionate about helping educators navigate the world of virtual and hybrid learning. Even amid what was or may have seemed like the insurmountable task of tackling virtual learning, I would pass along that it doesn’t have to be intimidating. If teachers, students, and administrators are equipped with the right tools, virtual and hybrid learning experiences can be engaging no matter where they are located.
Melissa, thank you for your time today. On your annual report card, Poly rates your Experience Program an A+!
Engaging people, making deeper connections, and creating equality of experience is what Poly does for our customers every day across industries, so you can get more done. With powerful collaboration products and services, no one is better than Poly at helping people work together. For more information on how to build the classroom of the future, visit the Poly Solutions for Education page. To schedule your own personalized demonstration today, contact your Poly Account Manager or Partner.
Renée Niebylski is a leadership representative with the Association of Briefing Program Managers and the Director of Poly’s Global Experience Program.
Melissa Bisbo is a former elementary school teacher who spent more than a decade educating students at schools across America. She now serves as the Briefing and Demonstration Theater Lead for the Americas at Poly.