How teachers are effectively moving to teaching online with the support of their local Area Education Agency


There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year in education as classroom instruction abruptly stopped in the spring and educators scrambled to transition to online instruction. Parents became more involved in the day-to-day learning of their children and quickly realized there was a lot more to the teaching and learning process. This unprecedented time in education also brought about the need and desire for more widespread online K-12 education.

The move to on-line education required many teachers to understand the foundations necessary for students to have a successful learning experience. Teachers were provided learning opportunities through their local Area Education Agency (AEA) on how to set up an online classroom, tools for engaging students, and support for video conversations. In addition, the Iowa AEA system purchased an Iowa-based product called Pear Deck to help teachers view student screens and monitor their learning progress.

Along with these supports, AEA consultants are helping local teachers learn the value of emphasizing structured routines with students and personalizing the learning. By providing a structured routine, students know where to look on the learning platform for assignments, ask questions for help, and how to submit the assignment. This is critically important so that students can be independent in their learning. Personalized learning (known as “student agency”) is important because it gives students a voice, some choice and ownership in their learning. This might look like teachers meeting with the class and discussing a concept upfront and using a questioning process to fully engage students in the conversation. Students would then be given a choice and how they show evidence of their learning of the topic.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has created chaos in the classroom and in the lives of families in our state, country and around the world. It has also opened the door for new platforms of learning outside of “brick and mortar” school and ignited a revolution aimed at rethinking teaching and learning. While it hasn’t been easy, teachers are finding ways to move learning online effectively and seeing students more engaged than ever in the learning process. Iowa’s AEAs are with them every step of the way.

DAVIES JULIE 100367Dr. Julie Davies is the Executive Director of Educational Services for Central Rivers AEA. She is based out of Cedar Falls and can be reached at jdavies@centralriversaea.org. Central Rivers Area Education Agency (CRAEA) serves over 65,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on CRAEA for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.