Technology tools: How Potomac teachers have adapted to virtual and hybrid learning


Clara Xiao

Freshman sit in hybrid classes on campus, interacting with peers on Zoom.

Kate Tuttle and Clara Xiao

Wearing masks, social distancing, and exploring the realms of Zoom and hybrid learning are the new normal at Potomac and academic institutions across the country. As a result, teachers have been working to find creative ways to engage students both in the classroom and at home. 

At a K-12 institution, distance learning looks vastly different across each age division. When learning from home, Potomac students in third through twelfth grade have continued their use of Google Classroom to easily organize and turn in their work. Kindergartners, first-graders, and second-graders use a platform called Seesaw—a classroom app and a student-work portfolio where teachers can assign projects, record instructions, and collect student work. 

“One of our early Kindergarten projects was related to students practicing their names, and they had a challenge of building their name in nature. The Seesaw project simply had the directions and that way the kids did not have to be on their screens the whole time,” Kindergarten teacher Meegan Steiner wrote in an email interview. 

Potomac teachers have worked hard to create a collaborative classroom atmosphere, while also limiting screen time where possible.

“I try to limit the amount of time students are on screens during their lessons. Most of our reading and writing curriculum is based on a workshop model, which means the class starts with a mini-lesson and then students can practice the new skill that they learned in the mini-lesson independently,” Ms. Steiner continued. 

Hybrid learning has also presented the challenge of finding ways to digitize work that would normally be printed. Before the start of school, students and their families drove through campus to retrieve materials for their classes. Most work is done entirely online through either Seesaw or Google Classroom. In classes where it is necessary for students to work on paper, however, teachers have taught students to convert cellphone images of work into PDFs that can be submitted and annotated on Google Classroom. 

“If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said that it is difficult to digitize paper materials. However, thanks to Genius Scan and other digitizing options, it is now easier than ever to translate print to digital format,” said Intermediate School English teacher Blake Green in an email exchange. 

One of the hardest things to digitize is tests, especially those that require hand-written work. 

“It is easy enough to make a Google form with multiple-choice questions, but one of the things that’s missing is being able to really see how kids are thinking on certain problems, and the steps they’re taking to find a solution,” said Middle School homeroom and math teacher Kate Morgan in an email interview.

Along with platforms like Google Classroom and Seesaw, Zoom has become a staple in all Potomac students’ academic lives. In hybrid learning, Potomac’s new Jabra cameras permit virtual and in-person students to see each other. The Jabra cameras are adjustable, so teachers can change the viewpoint of distance learners throughout the class period. If a class discussion where the Jabra camera is pointing to the in-person students switches to a note-taking lecture, the camera can rotate to show the whiteboard. 

“Although hybrid learning is challenging, I try to balance calling on kids in class and calling on kids on Zoom. I also check-in frequently during each class to make sure all the students can see and hear each other,” Ms. Morgan said. 

For younger students especially, the home environment can be much more distracting than a physical classroom. Teachers are creatively finding new ways to make lessons more engaging in all grades, including games, breakout rooms, polls, mindfulness exercises, and occasional group bonding activities.

Distance learning looks vastly different across divisions, but teachers of all grade levels share the same goal: keep students connected, even while apart.

For more information on Potomac’s distance and hybrid learning plans, visit the “Quick Links” section on CampusNet.