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December 2020

Digital Learning Showcase

Featured Educator: April Winterson

Harnessing Creativity in Virtual Learning

    • Snow Hill's Winterson mixes traditional, digital instructional practices 

April Winterson 

3rd Grade Teacher

Snow Hill Elementary

Worcester County

Public Schools

"When planning lessons, Mrs. Winterson takes into consideration the content being taught as well as the creative technical skills the students can apply."

- Erica Matlock, Snow Hill Elementary Assistant Principal

Snow Hill, Md. – Peering at the eyes of students through Zoom was not quite what one Snow Hill Elementary School teacher imagined. However, April Winterson never backed down from the challenge as she asked questions, sought best practices, and constantly pushed to broaden her instructional skill set into being an online teacher. The long hours and dedication has not gone unnoticed by her parents and school community as she was announced the December 2020 Digital Learning Showcase Recipient. 

As her district was doing a blend of face-to-face and virtual learning, Winterson was given the task of being the online teacher for all third grade students who did not intend to return to the traditional model of learning. Knowing she would be giving a daily performance online, she shifted her normal classroom set up and began focusing on transforming her virtual classroom space into more of a production studio with a light ring, multiple monitors including an Apple Television to see all of her students' faces, and a backdrop that would bring a sense of community into her students. As classes began, she quickly focused her time on modeling how to use Schoology, PearDeck, and the district's new iPads. She met many challenges, but never stopped finding solutions for technology glitches and challenges students faced at home. 

Superintendent Lou Taylor joining Mrs. April Winterson's distance learning classroom.

"April is a natural problem solver. During PLCs she troubleshoots and offers solutions regarding tech issues and she seeks out ways to best deliver instruction virtually which she shares with her team," Snow Hill Elementary School Assistant Principal Erica Matlock stated.

Winterson's thirst for knowledge continues to peek as she was selected to be part of her district's Apple Vanguard Cohort, an advanced Apple iPad training to support educators on utilizing Apple products in their classroom, on top of working on her doctoral dissertation in literacy.

"Engaging with their teacher through Zoom, students can be seen showing their thinking using white boards, working on a digital collaborative document, typing in the chat, working in breakout rooms, or uploading photographs of their work.  You will see Mrs. Winterson reading aloud to students or modeling how to publish their writing to Apple Books," Matlock explained about the student experience in Winterson's virtual instruction. "Mrs. Winterson understands the challenges virtual learning poses and works patiently with the students, going over assignments, repeating directions, answering questions and providing clear and thorough directions.  Students experience a calm environment where everyone works together to help troubleshoot issues and maintain patience when the inevitable technical glitches occur."

Similar to downtime in traditional instruction, Winterson has adopted some of the best engagement tools when students finish their work early -- Apple’s 30 Creative Activities for Kids. The creative activities are age appropriate and allow students to show creativity using the different native Apple tools while Winterson is providing technical assistance or extra help to other students.  

Making Thinking Visible

"When planning lessons, Mrs. Winterson takes into consideration the content being taught as well as the creative technical skills the students can apply.  One example of this is when students created a book project on Stone Fox using Numbers.  They had to sketch the setting of the book using their Apple crayon and and locate the town on a map by following a link to a map," Matlock explained. " The students also created Memojis of the main character and typed a character description.  Finally, they created book reviews by recording themselves and uploading their videos into their projects.  This project is just one illustration of the learning experiences occurring in Mrs. Winterson’s online class."

Outside of distance learning, Winterson is described as having an "open door policy" and is willing to be a peer coach.  She welcomes colleagues into her space to share with them her professional knowledge; she is a true master in her content with an in-depth knowledge of the standards that she teaches and finds ways to scaffold learning to individualize instruction for students.

About Digital Learning Showcase

MSET is taking the opportunity to highlight best practices in classroom teaching, leading, and learning with educational technology from around the state of Maryland. The goal is to spotlight innovations of members and nonmembers throughout different public and private school settings. Each month teachers, school leaders, and community members are asked to nominate individuals who support innovation and educational technology in a school setting.

MSET is non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting the improvement of the teaching-learning process through effective technology integration into all curricular areas as well as fostering and promoting excellence technology in education. MSET is an affiliate of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a leading international network for technology professionals.

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