Today’s Contributor: Gabriella Garza Lozano teaches 4th grade at Margaret Reilly Elementary School.
The unprecedented circumstances currently affecting the education system in the U.S. have presented logistically challenging situations for teachers and staff to reach students and families. The sudden shift to a virtual setting warranted the creation of the Reilly Distance Learning Site (RDLS) on Google Sites as a response to this crisis. The goal of the RDLS is to reach all students by providing access to online academic material and schoolwide notifications. The site offers process improvement by streamlining information. This virtual modality allowed staff and administration to present a unified front to students and families.
Receiving excessive information caused disengagement in some families. Repeated notifications sent to parents despite them having multiple children at Reilly complicated the communication channel. Families had difficulty locating teachers’ lesson plans on multiple platforms. School staff were uncertain of how and where to post accessible lessons. Additionally, there were challenges in collaborating and implementing lessons in platforms that demanded a huge learning curve for everyone involved. However, accessibility still remains a major issue due to a considerable number of Reilly students having limited or no access to technology.
The RDLS is a “one-stop shop” easily accessible on all devices. Its usability allows task completion regardless of technology proficiency. Families with multiple students at Reilly can find information in one place. The site provides pages for each grade level, administration, special education, special areas, counselor, among others. Particularly, sharing editing rights in the RDLS with all staff encouraged transparency and collaboration. Each staff member can contribute academic content to their page with a digital platform of their choice. Reilly staff has established functions to successfully manage the site; grade level pages are managed by each teacher, administration pages have a specific team, and certain pages are open for all staff.
The Reilly Distance Learning Site allows the use of different platforms, and they can easily be inserted into the site. It provides an accessible editing mode with a simple menu: Insert, Pages, Themes, and Publish. The Insert section includes the features where links can be embedded and the layout of the page is selected. The Google Site in edit mode is added to the Drive and functions like other Google files. Correspondingly, a Google Doc or Slide can update in real time within the Google Site. Similarly, a Google Site can be edited with someone else in real-time, and the changes are seen live. This is useful when providing technical support or collaborating with staff. The RDLS achieved 100% staff participation within one week. Moreover, a Google Site can be linked to Google Analytics to receive statistics that give vital insight into how users interact with the site.
Keys to Success
A Google Site is feasible to create within a short timeframe. The resources needed are partnerships. Identifying one person in the campus who can create the site’s framework and lay the groundwork for staff members is crucial. They are more likely to be on board if the site is already created, and an overview of its functions is given. The role of the administration as a partnership with the creator of the site is essential to ensure a successful project management and attain the desired goals.