3 ways a district is redefining student engagement

Santa Fe Public Schools leaders realized early on that students could not sit in a videoconference all day
By: | May 12, 2021
A Santa Fe kindergarten student shares her buoyancy project during her school's virtual science fair.A Santa Fe kindergarten student shares her buoyancy project during her school's virtual science fair.

The online learning experience has teachers in Santa Fe Public Schools rethinking their concept of student engagement and attendance.

“Prior to the pandemic, attendance meant physically being in the classroom, but that didn’t mean students were engaged,” says Neal Weaver, the district’s director of digital learning.

“We’ve got to help teachers transfer the engagement skills they’ve learned over the past year back into the classroom,” Weaver adds. “That will be a generational opportunity lost if we don’t.”

Here are some of the ways the district’s educators are redefining engagement and using technology to track how students are interacting with content:

1. Watching out for Zoom fatigue: Santa Fe leaders realized early on in the online learning experience that they could not ask students to sit in a videoconference for an entire school day.

Santa Fe teachers met with classes in the morning, gave students time to work on assignments independently—sometimes with pre-recorded videos—and then reconvened on a videoconference later in the day to discuss the content.

Students often broke into small groups to work together, with older students having more time on their own.

Pre-recorded videos gave students the flexibility to work on their own time if they had to work or care for younger siblings, Weaver says.

2. Meeting students where they are—or want to be: The state of New Mexico is extending the school year by 10 days in 2021-22. To tackle learning loss, Santa Fe educators are focused on how students want to learn going forward.

For example, the district has heard from a number of high school students who don’t want to return to a traditional, face-to-face school environment.

“To make up for learning loss, the trick will be to understand where students are and to figure out how they want to be served,” Weaver says. “It’s really about how we can best leverage the digital resources, and the content we have for our students 24-7.”

For example, teachers will accelerate efforts to flip instruction so students dive into content prior to class and put the content into practice when they meet with teachers, either in-person or online, Weaver says.

3. Engagement-tracking software: Weaver and his team use CatchOn‘s software to track when students are engaged in online learning, how much time they’re spending assignments, and what tools they are using.

Teachers can track engagement on a daily basis, Weaver says.