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Tech overload already at school near you

OBSERVER Photo Pine Valley Superintendent Bryna Moritz and Carrie Davenport, director of special education and curriculum, speak at a TIF Talks event in Forestville this month.

FORESTVILLE — It did not take long for educator and administrator Bryna Moritz to become fatigued over the use of technology at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only four months into the position of superintendent at Pine Valley Central Schools, Moritz was leading her team through an international health crisis while also tackling what was a great unknown that closed out the 2020 academic year: online learning.

Being connected while working in buildings and classrooms for many area schools was easy. There were certain structures and boundaries that were understood as part of the school day.

Separation, however, brought a looser set of guidelines. School officials and teachers were using numerous avenues to communicate with each other as well as students and parents through distance learning in a very trying time. Those options included the traditional phone calling to the more prevalent options of today such as text messages, Zoom, social media and other platforms.

Moritz and her staff at Pine Valley quickly grasped the transition from in-person to virtual learning needed some guidelines. “In that learning it became a digital frenzy when I felt like I was being connected at all times — morning, noon and night. … I got beyond overwhelmed and I thought, I can’t survive this job and neither can they,” she said.

Moritz spoke with Carrie Davenport earlier this month during a TIF Talks presentation at the Forestville High School auditorium and attended by about 60 regional educators. It was the first such event — put together by Andrew Wheelock, technology coordinator at Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services– since 2019 that aims to provide short focused presentations done by real, “in the trenches” teachers. Most of the speakers on this day focused on the increased use of technology in the classrooms — and in communicating with students.

For those who have been out of the classrooms for more than a decade, you have missed out on how greatly things have changed. There are definitely more bells and whistles being used to maintain the attention of students.

During these times, it is more than just a lesson plan for teachers who are on the front lines. It means having engagement — in the classroom and outside of it through a number of platforms that keep children interactive while on time with assignments.

But digital overload is real — and as of today, there’s no going back. But there can be limits, which is something that both Moritz and Davenport, director of special education and curriculum at Pine Valley, sought to emphasize.

“We now have a really nice method for how we communicate,” Moritz said, noting this takes pressure off of staff from believing they have to answer to students, parents and co-workers around the clock.

Toward the end of the discussion, Moritz then touched on something almost everyone can relate to: the use of social media for good and evil. Slowly, area districts are building their profiles on Facebook and Twitter. Much of it is to highlight daily happenings, events and highlights featuring those behind the desks and in the classrooms. For parents and families, this use is well-received.

Moritz, however, did issue some warnings that come with the social media jungle. Grammar and punctuation errors reflect poorly on the individual, especially those seeking employment at a school district. Also, political statements retweeted — even with a disclaimer in the profile that “opinions are not my own” — remain a reflection on an individual.

“If you apply for a job, you’re probably being stalked on social media and I mean stalked to the nth degree,” she said, referring to not only the educational sector but all others as well. “We want to know who we’re hiring before we hire them.”

For many in America, the resume is only part of an individual’s story. Today, through use of social media, many people are happy to be an open book. Even during a national workforce crisis, that can hamper opportunity.

John D’Agostino is editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 716-366-3000, ext. 253.

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