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'Up Front' Gives a Little Virtual Learning Assistance for Parents

Aug 28, 2020 04:39PM ● By Jason Huddle

Episode 73: A Little Virtual Learning Assistance Please?

he school year is underway, but many students find themselves at home, in front of a computer, rather than in a classroom. This week, we talk to Mandy Baldwin, a teacher with the NC Virtual Academy, who is also a parent, to discuss the frustrations some students are feeling, along with ways parents can make this experience more effective and fun! 


Jason Huddle  00:00

School is back in session. But instead of a classroom, many students found themselves in front of a computer and that's leading to some frustration.


Mandy Baldwin  00:08

It's her first time ever doing something like this trying to use the mouse to draw or to circle. It's it's really hard and she had a meltdown the other day. And then she didn't want to get on the computer. She said, it's too hard. I don't want to do it.


Jason Huddle  00:22

This week Up Front takes a look at virtual learning as we ask some tough questions. With virtual learning they're expecting children to sit in front of a computer for a certain length of time every day. How is that realistic or effective? Plus, we'll take a look at some tools and techniques you can use to make your students virtual learning time more enjoyable, that's coming up right now on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Event Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Real Estate, New Hope Worship Center, and Walk Cabarrus, I'm your host Jason Huddle. Hello, my friends and welcome to another edition Episode 73 in fact, of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, certainly appreciate our sponsors and you for listening. Otherwise we wouldn't have a program we have all heard the stories of frustration that have come from homes. Since the school year started. Virtual Learning is difficult, whether it be a high schooler or an elementary age child. I think the level of frustration can be the same even if the reason is different. And that inspired me to want to bring in someone who could maybe help answer some questions about why this is so frustrating and also talk about how we can make this better. How can we make it not only more effective but more fun for our students. So we're going to talk about that today on Up Front but not before shameless plug time. I want to talk just a second about our presenting sponsor CabCo Media Group. Not only does CabCo Media Group produce Cabarrus Magazine and this program CabCo also provides many marketing services, including geo targeting and geo fencing. You say, Jason, what's geo targeting geo fencing? Well, I'm glad you asked geo targeting, geo fencing is the future of digital marketing. And CabCo media is at the forefront of it. So if you are looking to expand your business and get some awareness out in the community at a very budget friendly rate, you want to talk to CabCo media, give them a call today at 704-782-2353 and say I want to talk to somebody about my marketing at CabCo. They will be happy to help you out and by supporting them, you support this program and that's today's shameless plug time. Okay, on the other side of this break, We will have Mandy Baldwin. She's a virtual learning teacher and expert. She's going to help us navigate these waters. Stay tuned.


Commercial  03:07



Jason Huddle  04:57

Welcome back to the program. I am joined today by Mandy Baldwin, she is a teacher with the North Carolina Virtual Academy, also a former cabarrus County Schools teacher. First of all, Mandy, thank you for being on the program today.


Mandy Baldwin  05:11

No problem. Thanks for having me.


Jason Huddle  05:13

Absolutely. So I have asked Mandy to come on because I was looking for somebody that can help parents devise strategies to help to make virtual learning, not only more fun, but less frustrating. What started all this was, I have a friend who is also a teacher. And he was telling me of a student, I'm not sure if it was his or not, but of a student that had gotten so frustrated with virtual learning that he actually threw his computer the computer that the school had given him, either way, through his computer up against the wall and destroyed it. That's the level of frustration that he reached. Many of us have seen the picture of the kindergartener that went national where he's just crying, because he doesn't even know how to work a keyboard and they're expecting him to virtual learn, so Mandy, first of all, let me ask you is this on par with some of the frustration that you've seen from students so far this year,


Mandy Baldwin  06:08

Um, since I teach at a virtual academy, and so it's by choice that everybody goes, but we still have the same frustrations as students that are in the predicament with COVID-19 that are virtual learners, that they do get frustrated with technology. And you know technology is good some days and bad some other days. So it could work one day and then the next day, the tools don't work or your microphone breaks, or pop up blockers enabled again, or the battery on your mouse goes out. And so it's the same frustrations, but I feel like the the students that I work with and at the school that I'm at, they can work around it because they've done it before and I just feel for all of the students and the parents that this is the first time ever doing it. And they were thrown into it not traditionally by choice. But that's just what has to happen these days.


Jason Huddle  07:08

Let me ask you because you are also a parent, and you have a first grader who is virtual learning this time now, I think that you told me before we turn the mic on that he is actually enrolled in the Cabarrus Virtual Academy or is it a North Carolina Virtual Academy?


Mandy Baldwin  07:24

She's, she's in it's Lily. She's enrolled in the, she's enrolled in my the Virtual Academy that I teach at the North Carolina Virtual Academy but it's her first time ever doing something like this. It's like trying to use the mouse to draw or to circle it's in. She likes to be a perfectionist. And so it's hard. It's really hard and she had a meltdown the other day, and then she didn't want to get on the computer. She said it's too hard. I don't want to do it. She didn't want to get on one of the little classes that she had today because she was afraid that she was going to have to do the tools and like circle. And she wasn't good at it. And she doesn't like to not be good at something. And so it was, it was hard, like, just try it. It's just you just got to keep at it and you'll eventually get better at it.


Jason Huddle  08:12

Let me send a special message to Lily. As for when it comes to drawing with a mouse, I am 46 years old. And if I try to draw with a mouse, it looks like a left handed turtle did it. So don't worry, Lily. This is not a new thing that adults cannot draw with the mouse either. So anyway, we'll move on. Let's talk about some of the practical things like with virtual learning, they're expecting children to sit in front of a computer for a certain length of time every day. How is that realistic or effective?


Mandy Baldwin  08:50

In my opinion, kids even I mean, just being a classroom teacher. I was a classroom teacher for seven years and they need to move around and so, requiring them to be on the computer say I know my neighbor. They're doing like the traditional with Cabarrus County, the virtual learning and her kindergartener who's five, who has high energy always all over the place is supposed to be on the computer from 8:30 to 10:30. And I'm just imagining, as she's telling me this, I'm like, how, how is she going to do that? Like, how is she going to sit there and pay attention, myself being in trainings all day, I can't focus have to get up and move around and like move the computer with me wherever I go. But just so that way, I can focus and I don't know, I feel like it's gonna be challenging to get them to retain the information if they just sit there all day. At least the little ones now the older ones. They play video games for long hours and stuff and so they may be able to do it but they still need breaks throughout the day to get up go outside and get some fresh air, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, get the wiggles out.


Jason Huddle  10:07

Right, are teachers allowing for that. I mean, I just don't know, are they?


Mandy Baldwin  10:13

I think they're doing like brain breaks and different things like that. And I know it's like, they'll teach for a little bit and then they'll have like workspace but work time. So they'll teach a little concept and maybe like 10 minutes, and then they'll do their, like work. Like where they practice the problems. And that's what I do like for our school, it's the classes are like 30 minutes at a time. And so we know when we're in there for that 30 minutes, you just have to get right to what you're supposed to do. Let them practice and then and then you like take notes and say, oh, this kid doesn't get it. This one needs extra help. And then you can email them extra or like support material, but being on camera that long. That's draining for anybody, even at my age.


Jason Huddle  11:04

I just don't. I don't know, I, I understand the reasoning. And I also understand the fact that the school system felt like it didn't have a choice, but to go this route, so I, I get that side of it. But I also think, are we compromising the intellectual and the educational well being of our students, for COVID? And honestly, I don't know.


Mandy Baldwin  11:29

And one of the things that I was thinking is I don't I don't know if they're trying to make it mimic the traditional school day, which they have to realize that it's not a traditional school day and there's so many other factors that like at home and things and with their parents, and, and maybe somebody else watching them, I think they're trying to make it look like it like this is what you would do throughout the school day because I've seen some of the middle school plans. And it's just like the traditional school day, the blocks and then they have a lunch break, but it's not traditional day.


Jason Huddle  12:02

Right. This is what I want to do I need to cut to break. And when we get back from break, I want to talk about some techniques, some things that you can do at home in order to help make things a little more fun, and get the kids a little more interested, is that cool? Yeah. So we'll be back with Mandy Baldwin, Virtual Learning expert. Right after these messages from our sponsors. Stay tuned.


Commercial  12:26



Jason Huddle  13:11

And welcome back to the program. We are joined today by Mandy Baldwin. She is a teacher at the North Carolina Virtual Academy, not the cabarrus County Virtual Academy in North Carolina. Although she is a former cabarrus County Schools teacher, and she is helping us walk through some ways that we can help kids make virtual learning more effective. And I found this fun article that was actually put out by the Boys and Girls Club. And specifically for elementary kids. One of the things that suggests is to create fun focus spaces like homework, forts or special areas to do work. What do you think about that?


Mandy Baldwin  15:02

Um, I know, last year, we didn't really have a specific space for Lily to do her work because she, in March, I mean, we weren't prepared, we didn't have like time to set up a space. And so we would just do work all over the place like different places in the house. But this year we have a designated learning spot where she does her like online classes and then she has all her books and her like manipulatives and things to use for math or for science or whatever the class may be. But for like homework and x and stuff, I do let her like yesterday we went outside because we had been inside a lot and we just needed a different change of scenery. But I agree that they need to have like a specific space that's just for learning. Just like for working at home. I need a specific space just for work. So that way That's the only place I do work. I don't bring my computer upstairs or I don't bring my computer different places, I just have it in one space. So that way I know okay, this is my one space to do work. And that's it. I can't do it everywhere. And just like for them, just like for kids, they need to know, okay, this is my learning space. This is what I'm supposed to do here. So that way they don't feel like everywhere is school since they're at home.


Jason Huddle  16:26

I know I saw on the news where some people are taking their pop up tents, you know, the ones you take out to the park. And they're setting them up outside and kind of making the outside the classroom, which gives them like fresh air and in a special space to learn where they don't feel like maybe inside the house, maybe they're a little too comfortable. You know, where outside they're, they're in that space and kids are able to mentally tell themselves, okay, this is my learning space.


Mandy Baldwin  16:56

Yeah, we set ours up in the dining room which we never use. So, now it's actually I mean, she's never been in here. I mean, maybe once for like Thanksgiving. And so it's a new space for both of us, since my husband's at home as well. And he's in his office. And so she'll even come in here on her own to do like some practice math problems and stuff. So it's cute.


Jason Huddle  17:21

Sure. What about Beat the Clock techniques? You know, I'm talking about?


Mandy Baldwin  17:26

Oh, yes, she so to encourage like for the younger kids, everything if you make it a competition, even if it's with the neighbor, or even like in a classroom if you make it a competition between like a group to see who met who can answer the most questions, or read the most sight words or answer them the most math problems within a certain time limit, they do so much better. And I've seen that even in my virtual classroom, where they have even if we set the timer and see if they can finish the problem correctly. within that time, they they tend to do or get started on their work faster. And then they produce better work because I don't want to be the one that doesn't get it right. They take their time. Even though there is a time limit, you would think it would be the opposite. And there'd be lots of mistakes, but they want to get that point or whatever the incentive is. And so they're like, okay, I can do it, I can do it. And even with younger kids, they do better. Like, okay, you're gonna compete with the neighbor, how many times can you jump rope? And, I mean, they love it. They love the competition.


Jason Huddle  18:35

Sure, or even compete against themselves just like, okay, your time is time this right? Let's see if we can beat that for sure. I know that my boys, they hate anything with the time or even to this day, and they're 21 and 17. And they, they hate being timed they, they can't stand it, but some kids thrive on that some students love that kind of thing. So if that is you, then go for it.


Mandy Baldwin  18:57

I know and like you were saying it doesn't work. Some, but some it does work so some get like anxious when they see a timer. And so you really have to know like the student before you can try that because it could backfire.


Jason Huddle  19:11

What about learning songs? A we all did it as a kid. I mean even the ABC song I mean, who can say their ABCs without singing it, really? So what about teaching songs to help make things more fun?


Mandy Baldwin  19:24

Oh, I love songs and I love to put, um, there's lots of videos out there that you could you can find on YouTube and different resources like that. But they take the concepts of like social studies in science and math like multiplication facts, and they put them to a tune. And the kids love it because they if it's a popular song that they know, one they'll listen to it more than one time. And it's hard to even get like, okay, so math facts. They're kind of boring and if you make them interesting, they tend to one they want to replay The song, which too leaves them to memorize the song and then they understand the math facts or the Boston Tea Party. I've heard a song about the Boston Tea Party. So it works for all grade levels.


Jason Huddle  20:12

Yeah, my suggestions are three is the magic number from Schoolhouse Rock, and inchworm from the Muppets. You get them to learn those, they'll learn that their multiplication tables for the numbers two and three, just like that. It's super.


Mandy Baldwin  20:26



Jason Huddle  20:26

Mandy, do you know of any apps that are also helpful for supplemental learning?


Mandy Baldwin  20:32

I over the summer, not at summer, but last year, but I wanted to explore like different ones for Lily, like free ones that parents can go on. And so I did Khan Academy has a really good it's like supplemental resource that parents can use, but they also have for the older kids videos to teach concepts. So that's a great resource for all parents to have Khan Academy have an app for the younger ones. Then for the older ones on on the website, they have videos that teach concepts and a step by step videos. It's wonderful. I've also used happy numbers. That's also a math one. But that's, again for like elementary age, but it's it's fun, interactive way to play with math. Also for the lower ones I know a lot of parents are worried about teaching, they're like kindergarteners, how am I going to teach my kid how to read? Well, they're like, well, I can read but it's hard to teach somebody like phonics skills and how to improve their fluency and different things like that. And so I'm teach my monster to read that's free. And it teaches like phonics skills, and it teaches them the foundational skills to read. And so that's a really good one for the the parents that are all stressing about, oh, gosh, my kid's gonna be first grade, not going to be able to read and so that's a that's a good one that I like.


Jason Huddle  21:58

That is awesome Mandy Baldwin, thank you so much for joining us today. Let me let you tell our listeners if they want more information on the North Carolina Virtual Academy, where can they go?


Mandy Baldwin  22:08

For more information on the North Carolina Virtual Academy, the website is N C V A dot k 12 dot com. And it's a North Carolina Public Charter School available to anybody that lives in North Carolina.


Jason Huddle  22:22

Wonderful Mandy Baldwin, teacher with the North Carolina Virtual Academy. Thank you so much for joining us today.


Mandy Baldwin  22:29

Thank you.


Jason Huddle  22:30

All right, you guys stay tuned We will be back to close up the program. In just a moment.


Commercial  22:33



Jason Huddle  23:47

First of all, I'd like to thank Mandy Baldwin once again for being on the program today. A few weeks ago we had several members of the Cabarrus County Board of Education on the program during that program In trying to explain why some of the members felt it was necessary to go to all virtual learning. One of the reasons cited was that the county positive testing rate at that time was around 9%. It was also stated during that episode that they were looking for around 5% to be the positive testing rate. Well, I'm very happy to say we were just checking the various Health Alliance website, and it looks like we are at 5%. So my question goes back to the Board of Education, do we start considering allowing our students to go back to school, if the positive testing rate dips below 5% and continues to decrease? I think it's a fair question and one that needs to be answered by our Board of Education. I completely understand some of their rationale for starting in all virtual learning, but it's obvious to me in talking to parent after parent after parent, that this is not a solution for long term and our child Children are falling farther behind. They have not been in school since March. That cannot be a good thing. We have to find other solutions. We can make this as fun as we can and try to make it as effective as we can. But it's not going to be these children who are used to being in a classroom, being in a classroom. I say this as someone who homeschools my kids, my kids aren't in the public school system, but they are used to learning the way they learn. Children who are in the public school system need to be in classrooms. Plain and simple, Our testing rate is now at 5%. So my question is, what do we do now? Do we start to consider opening the schools back up? Maybe we'll have some school board members on soon to answer that very question. Until next week, You have been listening to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Event Center Cabarrus Eye Center, Cabarrus Health Alliance, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center, and Walk Cabarrus. I've been your host Jason Huddle. Until next week, go build that homework fort.

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