Teacher stories in the times of corona: Danuta Meyer-Seroczyńska
08. October 2020
As the covid-19 pandemic impacted schools across all around the world, we wanted to present inspiring stories of teachers with their efforts and struggles. The transformation to distance learning brought many challenges, but we were excited to see so many that took it as a real opportunity.
Meet the first Polish teacher from our series “Teachers in the time of Corona: Danuta Meyer-Seroczyńska, teacher at the Public Primary School in the municipality of Wejherowo. She was one of the first teacher using the online version of Corinth in her lessons, just once it got introduced in Poland during the school shutdown. And she became an enthusiastic user, that shares her inspiration around schools and teachers. And we were truly excited with her energy and passion for teaching. Find her classroom tips and examples of how she uses interactive teaching below.
Let’s start with the questions then. I would like to ask what tools, technologies have allowed you to deal with this transition to distance learning?
So the first steps were quite difficult, honestly. Mostly because we were not prepared for such a big leap. I know that in the first place we got information on gov.pl (a web portal administered by the Polish government with a special section dedicated to teachers) the first lessons they prepared were specific lessons for a given day, specific scenarios which could be accessed by children as well as teachers.
In the meantime we were searching for new tools and we were learning we were to look for different platforms, through which I will be able to reach children. So the first such platform that I wanted to check out was edukator.pl.Clickmeeting was my second tool that I used, but I realised that to continue using any tool, I needed to purchase a license. The needed purchases was one thing, the other problem was that our computers did not meet these tools’ requirements. But it seemed to have disappeared quite quickly, because a lot of platforms were sending free entries for schools for a short period, like until September or until the end of the year. We actually got a lot of it, but I really learned about the Discord app and I have lessons on the Discord.
In the lessons, we don't see each other, but that’s irrelevant. Sometimes, when there are less children, I turn on the camera, and they also turn on while it is not the most important. The most important is that I share the screen. I show them what I have. I send them links to specific things, I give them homework using our electronic school journal and they submit their assignments there. In addition, some classes joined me in their group on Messenger, so I was sending various information this way. In the meantime, in our school and not only in ours but also in many others, Microsoft Teams was implemented and I stayed with this platform.
You are talking about such platforms as Microsoft Teams or Discord. There are many online meeting programs and educational online tools to use. After two months from the start of remote learning, have you already had your favorite tools or have you continued to test new things?
No, I am learning new ones all the time, because I want to diversify these lessons for children. I even received a very nice SMS,: "Mrs. Danusia, the lessons with you are really pleasant". It was written by the father of one of the students, who was listening to our lesson. I'm also just trying to spice up a little those lessons for children, so I'm constantly looking and looking for something interesting. I want to share a link with a short video, I want there to be some exercises, put in a puzzle or a quiz. So that it is cool, smooth, but at the same time encouraging children. You have to keep in mind it can’t be too much, because indeed the children were taught to read in the book, or the teacher was reading something from the book and students just listened, and then they had to take notes in their notebook and then practice with an exercise book. And these things have changed.
I kept receiving text messages, phone calls or emails from parents "Ma'am, does this really have to be completed?" because there was a lot of content. When we were at school, we did it on a regular basis, and those children, my friends who had small children, told me "Danusia, we keep sitting around the lessons all day long because there is so much of it". I am aware that science classes or biology can’t be boring for students. So I have to be creative, share videos, etc. For example, we hold the Earth Day in April, so students had to create some related content. The task was to give a second life to an object. Some of the most beautiful works were brought to life. I encouraged children, so that this is not just a book, an exercise, but on the basis of such quizzes because it reaches children best.
And what do you think, after opening the schools, will everything come back to what was until March 20th, how do you think?
I speak only of myself, but I don’t think so. I have been a teacher for many years. Imagine when I was a completely beginner teacher, we were writing lesson plans for classes. These lessons were arranged for the whole school year. The next year I opened them and checked what I did. I added new things and made tweaks, depending on what the class was. Imagine that I have now returned to such a case, but with today’s technology. I set up folders for specific classes. Even though I don’t teach the 5th grade right now, if there’s something along the way that I find cool, I use it. Like: I know there’s a plant cell in the fifth grade, there are animals in the sixth, so if I have an appropriate class in future, then I'll just look at what I can edit, what can I add, and so on. I think I will definitely try giving homework for children, although I rarely ask for it. But this is not regular homework. Usually these are tasks, more like experiences that require you to go and see, all focused on biology or nature, I will definitely give students tasks connected with technology. To search for information online, play a game, combine topics together through some electronic materials. In my opinion children are ahead with technology. I’m lucky because indeed our school is at a high level when it comes to all these devices and technologies.
I just wanted to add that you are from the Primary School in Gościcino. I was really impressed with the high technology level at the school when I was visiting it about two years ago. I had a short presentation about how our app Corinth works. Were you also there?
So we also met in person :) Well, I remember that there were only high-end devices, I didn't even know where to connect with my USB memory card because everything was so new to me.
Now they are even further, there is more and more of new technology. We don’t have blackboards, only interactive whiteboards and screens. Now I even heard that the principal wants to hang such a screen at the biology class, that hall will be equipped with a screen too. He wants to equip our language studio, he has beautifully equipped studios just for English speakers, very nice. Our classes for geography, chemistry, physics have very good equipment and are very comfortable. There is an interactive board in each class, a digital projector, every class is equipped with a computer. I use it right now because mine did not work and I asked the headmaster if I could borrow from school, of course the headmaster agreed, so I took it to my own room and I can be online here. What’s more, I had all the e-books, multibooks, accounts etc. on this computer, so it was easier for me to simply share the screen and data with children.
I visit schools a lot and I tend to use your school as an example where the purchased technology is really being used. If the director equips the school with new stuff, teachers bring it to life. That is great to see, compared to lots of other cases where purchased technology never leaves the original bag.
You also said that you had fun using Corinth when sharing the screen with students. Before closure of schools you probably used models on screens so that children could interact with them, touch them by themselves. Could you please show us an example of your lesson? We were discussing topics such as water circulation in nature. Maybe it can help inspire other teachers, if they watch our video :)
Yes. I had used Corinth before the school shutdown, too.. For distance learning, our principal sent us the access to the online version of Corinth available on Lifeliqe.com. However not all families had access to the internet, we are a small village. Not everybody has the opportunity to use a personal computer. Very often we see that families share one computer with four children. Some of them only have a smartphone so I had to adapt to this situation to reach as many children as possible. And the Lifeliqe app with Corinth’s 3D models allowed me to do so. For example I had a lesson for the 4th grade about the structure of the forest - I showed its layers, then trees, we were identifying most popular trees, and that was the moment to use Corinth as you can find different types of leaves and species of trees in the app.
Watch the video for the live instruction on how to use 3D model in science.
Here we have Corinth and in these resources you can search for your favourites or those on which you want to do a lesson with, e.g. one of the lessons was the water cycle in nature and I showed children the mechanism of evaporation. On the left side in the application we have descriptions, for example. evaporation and this reaction is taking place here, you can just visualise how it’s done. After that we can show the rainfall and here we have rainfall, or the lake is now marked specifically, etc. daytime breeze, night breeze, it is less of interest to children in the fourth grade they don't really know it. The good feature is you can share it, you can do this in share section. I made a screenshot of the model (coloring screenshot) and I can share it in the PowerPoint, students get a drawing, a colouring scheme, that they can print it out at home so they can identify and mark the rainfall or other parts, etc. It was the same with trees for example. Children can zoom in and out as indicated here.
I cannot see the tree model, maybe you could show it to me (jokingly).
Tree? Of course, no problem.
OK, I’m joking. I’ve seen it at least a thousand times :) But maybe You could show it to our viewers.
Of course, Here we have a tree - “deep zoom” microscopic photo in Corinth. Now it’s getting very cool, because I say, "Attention children, we will be inside a leaf! I’m zooming in, closer and closer, further and further, and so students are able to have a concept of it. After that I zoom out, I explain them: “This is what a microscope enables you to see, we cannot see it with the naked eye. What we see it with the naked eye is this element of the leaf, then there is also the structure of the leaf etc…”
If we enter the “Related” section, there you have the cell, leaf, rod and other objects associated with the tree. Well, now we can go in for example on the leaf at the link and soon the leaf will appear. Please, we have a leaf and now when I press the tail, the children know that it is a tail, that this is a plate, this is the whole surface, I paid attention to the cutouts, to these cloves, because here we distinguished beech from hornbeam, so that they could see the difference and here we have innervations of this leaf and these are the three most important things that they were supposed to know. It can also be shared and now I will do this screenshot myself. Now there is a picture.
There is another very cool thing, I didn't get to using it in remote classes yet, though. It was my idea for the human body lessons, that took place in the classroom.. Especially in human inner systems, when we got to know the systems, it is very nice, this option to display description or hide.
If you could display some biology model of human, that would be more vivid.
Let’s take human organs for example. It was fascinating for me, because when children approached the screen, they liked it very much. There are all of the human organs visualized in here.
If you could interact with this model so that we can see it.
Of course, rotate, see how it looks from the back, I can zoom in, they look inside the skull, because it’s very nicely done, you can zoom out, zoom in, turn over, move around. Well, for example, a nice thing, we show the large intestine and then the other organs dissolve and only the large intestine remains visible, so that children can see exactly that it is the large intestine. This lesson is for the seventh grade, I do these things here, but in the fourth grade only the basic ones, like the large, small intestine, lungs, heart or liver, but the duodenum or gallbladder don’t get attention because children are too young to know it all. Yet it's still cool enough that we have this small intestine, liver, to show them: “Here is the heart and here is the trachea".
I really like the option that I can hide descriptions and ask a child to come to our interactive board and find it by itself. Including writing options, because you can write on our board, make an arrow and write here are the lungs, here the liver, here is the small intestine, here is this… it’s also possible to do that. Then what’s really cool is that I can give a good grade to a student for such exercises, because the child knew the arrangement of organs in human body. This is very useful in learning about a specific system, for example digestive system. Students can see where’s the oral cavity, were we have the esophagus, then we have a stomach etc. Thanks to that, they know the stages of how food is being transported and digested inside a body.
Super, that’s just what Corinth is made for. Mrs. Danuto I want to show you one more trick with Powerpoint and Corinth, how to combine these two applications. It might be also useful for you and maybe someone else who will see.
I would not like to take your whole evening, but I would like to ask what you think. I attend various conferences, we are constantly up to date with new technologies, we try to share it in schools. Do you think that it will survive? Do you think that more teachers will switch from the classic workbook and textbook to the apps or it will probably come back?
I mean, for sure, it won't be the same as it was before the pandemic, when the teachers did not use these kinds of applications.
Thank you very much!