School Closure and Continuous Distance Learning

UPDATE (Monday, June 9):

Happy last few weeks everyone, soon we all return to a new normalcy and a much needed summer break. In my last update below, I went over details about finishing the school year and the unusual situations around that. For these last few weeks, I will be online with Microsoft Teams for our regularly scheduled online classes if you have any questions you need to ask, but you do not need to connect and no new content will be delivered for all courses. As we approach the end of the year and I finalize an unusual final report for everyone, I have made a self-assessment survey for everyone to fill out. This is mandatory to help finalize your comments on the final report card. You are welcome to email me or set up a Teams meeting anytime to discuss anything about your course, assessments, or any further studies in Computer Science. Finally, I am so proud of all of you for adapting in this unprecedented time to all the changes, all the stresses, and all the unusual circumstances.

Sunday, May 31:

As we enter the last few weeks of this unusual school semester (the school has indicated that June 15th is the last day to give any new materials in any course), I wanted to write an email outlining ways to complete this course. Let me start with some basic facts:

  • Final marks are the same as the last report card (March 13th) baseline marks as per provincial instruction (with a possibility of them going up in some cases)
  • No final assessments (final project or final exam) is required – but can be done in some cases (more later)
  • Report card comments will follow a provincial guideline (see below)
  • If no engagement attempts at online learning in some format has been done, it is possible you will be doing credit recovery next year (all dependent on school decisions made next fall)

Of course there is lots of exceptions to these facts for each student, each course, each grade level, etc. Please contact me if this is not clear so I can explain it better or look into better answers to your questions.

Official documentation…

First off, the province has clearly outlined what this semester’s online recovery learning was to look like on this webpage and stated as such:

Marks will be based, at minimum, on the student’s performance at the time of the suspension of learning; however, students will have an opportunity to improve their mark  

Also outlined in this document, we teachers will report on progress in the final report card using the province’s guidelines to report on the range of participation in remote learning, as follows:

  • Consistently: The student participated all of the time (or almost all of the time) in remote learning (either online, print-based, or a combination) and completed assignments. Monitoring of progress was ongoing.
  • Usually: The student participated more than half of the time in remote learning and completed approximately half of the assignments. There was some monitoring of progress.
  • Sometimes: The student participated less than half of the time in remote learning and their participation in learning activities was limited. Therefore, assessment of progress was limited.
  • Rarely: The student never (or almost never) participated in remote learning. Assessment was not possible.

This will guide how I format the final grade and final report comments for this course. 

My personal thoughts…

In past emails, I have personally outlined some important reasons to continue your learning on my website’s resources page here. As your teacher, I hope I have and continue to be flexible in this unprecedented time and not have the same curricular or assessment expectations we would normally have (for example, there was no unit quizzes since school closure). I hope I have understood that there were a lot of things going on and you have had to balance your time with my course and all your courses. I hope I have stayed under the provincially mandated maximum of 3 hours a week (or less) per course. Any work since school closure has been excused in PowerSchool, and was tracked (updated in PowerSchool but then excused), but did not count against the final grade. As per provincial education guidelines, all assessments done prior to school closure were the basis of the baseline grade (of March 13th, meaning it did not go any lower). I hope I have provided many ways to engage in continuous learning including:

  • Alternative assessments (e.g. one and two)
  • Offline printed booklets
  • Online video conferencing classes (through Microsoft Teams)
  • Email and personal video conference support
  • All the regular resources on my website
  • A resources page (newly created during this pandemic)
  • Alumni inspirational videos and guest lectures (to motivate students to engage)

The resources page even included a lot of links to other websites students could use to demonstrate learning. 

The last few weeks…

To finalize this course and complete your continuous learning depends on which category (see above) you have been engaging according to provincial guidelines:

  • Consistently: if you have been “tuning in” to online classes, doing and handing in some work almost every week since school closure (either online or printed) then you should consider yourself done! if you wish to do some form of a final assessment (e.g. a final creative project, or write up – more below) – then I feel you will be in a category to have your final mark possibly raised above the baseline for your excellent effort
  • Usually: if you are a student who has done “some” of the things outlined above about half the time, you probably could do some form of a final assessment (e.g. a final creative project, or write up – more below) to make up for the lack of engagement and I will consider moving your upcoming report card comment to the “consistently” category 
  • Sometimes: if you are a student who has barely engaged (once or twice) or had technical or other issues engaging, then you need to do some form of a final assessment (e.g. a final creative project, or write up – more below) and I will consider this engagement “in lieu” of the other work you did not engage in (acting as a substitute for the last few months of not engaging)
  • Rarely:  if you are a student who has not engaged at all (or only once or twice) or had technical or other issues engaging, then you must do some form of a final assessment (e.g. a final creative project, or write up – more below) to be considered “in lieu” of the other work you did not engage in (acting as a substitute for the last few months of not engaging) or you will be referred to the school for credit recovery

Final course work…

After reading the section above about whether or not you are finalizing this course with some final assessments and engagements, I am very flexible in the way and format this takes place. For some, you may wish to do a “final project” in the traditional way which uses your coding skills learned in the course and make something (e.g. a game) that shows this learning (keep in mind it will not be assessed in the traditional way if we were back in class). For others, it might be a better idea to be adapt this but still demonstrate all the essential learning outcomes of this course. This can be seen on the last page of the offline assessment document here:

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Or (for example), in the Computer Science 40S course, my idea for continuous learning would be something like a 1000 to 1500 word report (essay) that you could hand write if necessary on the following Computer Science topics: Abstract classes and methods, Interfaces, Generic methods and classes, and Linked Lists including Nodes, and way to add, remove, and traverse these structures. Covering each one with written descriptions, example code, or other ways to demonstrate your learning. Please cite any sources. As you complete it, you can send it to me or even hand it in at the school and they will get it to me.  But, this is just one idea, slideshows, personal interviews, and other methods could be employed. I will be back in the school next week so we could even meet in person to discuss or complete this and complete your course. Please let me know if you are doing this and if you have ideas on how you would like to accomplish this!

Tuesday, May 19:

About a month since the last update. Thank you to all the students who are doing their best to continue learning in a tough time of balancing courses, mental health, technology challenges and everything else. Remember, I am very flexible about the ways you can demonstrate your learning, contact me if you are having troubles. I have an exciting announcement:

Guest Lecturer Series:

I am happy to announce that many talented and generous former student alumni from my Computer Science classes at Sturgeon Heights (and Silver Heights) who are currently working in the Computer Science (or related) industry or are currently studying Computer Science post-secondary have agreed to act as guest lecturers. Many have agreed to share their time and expertise in a variety of subjects that you have the opportunity to enjoy, learn from, and derive motivation from. Many of them have already contributed in some way to my alumni page. These lectures will be scheduled and then delivered live over Microsoft Teams. I will also record the lectures and then post them to this website if you cannot “tune in” at the scheduled time.

Please fill out this form if you have an interest and want to give a topic that I can arrange. 

Tuesday, April 21:

The province has released specific information about online continuous learning (read a news article about it here) as well as a learning at home portal. Now that we have passed the end of the first term of the second semester and reporting has been completed, I wanted to give a comprehensive list of links for learning in general and specifics for each course here:

  • Computer Science 20S (grade 9 and 10) students:
    • CS20S online class webinar (Microsoft Teams) 1:00 every Monday (installation document for Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Office)
    • CS20S plan for the remainder of the school year
    • CS20S specific advice and help with assessments
    • CS20S software installation tips
    • CS20S alternative assessments (must be checked with Mr. Wachs)
    • CS20S offline written assessments (must be checked with Mr. Wachs)
    • CS20S course page (including all course materials, course video lectures, assessments list, and GitHub code repository)
  • Computer Science 30S (grade 10 and 11) students
    • CS30S online class webinar (Microsoft Teams) 1:00 every Tuesday (installation document for Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Office)
    • CS30S plan for the remainder of the year
    • CS30S specific advice and help with assessments
    • CS30S software installation tips
    • CS30S alternative assessments (must be checked with Mr. Wachs)
    • CS30S course page (including all course materials, course video lectures, assessments list, and GitHub code repository)
  • Computer Science 40S (grade 11 and 12) students
    • CS40S online class webinar (Microsoft Teams) 1:00 every Wednesday (installation document for Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Office)
    • CS40S plan for the remainder of the year
    • CS40S specific advice and help with assessments
    • CS40S software installation tips
    • CS40S alternative assessments (must be checked with Mr. Wachs)
    • CS40S course page (including all course materials, course video lectures, assessments list, and GitHub code repository)
  • Computer Science 42SIB (grade 12 students) students
    • CS42SIB online class webinar (Microsoft Teams) 1:00 every Thursday (installation document for Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Office)
    • CS42SIB plan for the remainder of the year
    • CS42SIB specific advice and help with assessments
    • CS42SIB software installation tips
    • CS42SIB alternative assessments (must be checked with Mr. Wachs)
    • CS42SIB course page (including all course materials, course video lectures, assessments list, and GitHub code repository)

For those students who do not have a working computer, software, or stable internet connection at home to work on Computer Science, Mr. Wachs has alternative take home package of offline activities – contact Mr. Wachs for details

Friday, April 10:

The St. James School division has asked us to suspend all Zoom meetings at this time, unfortunately this applies to the meetings previously scheduled. I will record the classes and put the link on our class web pages. Instead, I will now be using Microsoft Teams to do the online video conferences instead (instructions can be found below)

Tuesday, April 7:

I am announcing a weekly schedule that I am committing to. For each class, I will be doing a Microsoft Team Meetings broadcast of that weeks content, go over what to do, answer questions, and give advice on assessments. You are welcome to join these meetings and observe or even ask questions as I go over the content. Here is the ongoing schedule:

To use Microsoft Team Meetings, log in to you student Microsoft Account using these instructions where you can download and install Microsoft Teams for free!

  • Computer Science 20S students – 1:00 pm Mondays  
  • Computer Science 30S students – 1:00 pm Tuesdays  
  • Computer Science 40S students – 1:00 pm Wednesdays
  • Computer Science 42SIB students – 1:00 pm Thursdays 

This is to give structure to the week and to you students and I want you to log on (if you are able) to have a “regular” class each week. You absolutely can still contact me anytime with any questions or if you need help. It is important that you all continue your learning for a variety of reasons. I have added specific plans for the remainder of the year (11 weeks) from the end of the spring break week to the last few weeks of June for each course on their specific web pages at the top. I have added a resources page (found under the Current Students section of the navigation bar of my website) which has a lot of the information I have been posting.

Friday April 3:

Well everyone, I’m sure you have heard the news about Manitoba schools closing indefinitely for this school year. I know it’s spring break right now and I hope you are using this week as a “recharge” week.

NOTE: I have another quick survey I need ALL students to fill out as soon as possible to give me some data I can share with school administration.

Friday March 27:

Attention grade 12 Computer Science I.B. students, information from the I.B. can be found here. After our first week of school closure, I have had a lot of communication with a lot of students and little to no communication with others. This is understandable in these unprecedented times. All of us teachers in all courses want to give students the opportunity to have learning be continuous as best as we can. Here is something

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I saw online this past week to put it in perspective. I also understand students have other courses to progress with as well, and as an option course I understand there is a priority list. Just want to make all options available. I have started to create a contingency plan for any students that do not have internet/computer access. This might take some time, but should have something in place for the week after spring break. These are unprecedented times so we all have to be flexible. At this point I am thinking that I could deliver a package of learning materials to your house in your mailbox once I prepare offline learning modules. Just my thoughts at this point, we all have to be able to adapt to change. Please keep reading  below for resources and relevant links and contact me anytime!

Tuesday, March 24:

I had a online video conference meeting with school administration and today was the only day to actually go in to the school this week to pick anything up. This makes it important that we stay in contact and you let me know if you are having any concerns. In this regard, a student used the online class forum to ask a question about how to work from home without Microsoft Word. I made this document that outlines ways to have and install Microsoft Office software and alternative at home. I have also had some video conferences with students who have had technical issues and been able to help online. I have been answering questions through email, the forum, and video conferencing. Remember it was important that I got your email in the first survey and the new survey I sent out yesterday getting data on your progress (please do both if you have not yet done so). Lots more links and advice below, but stay healthy (physically and mentally) and remember we all have to be flexible. I crazy idea I had was to wonder if each class wanted to do an online class discussion for about 30 minutes this Thursday? A chance to ask me questions, talk to each other, de-stress, and just feel closer together! If would encourage you all to participate in this online class meeting this Thursday, March 26th:

  • Computer Science 20S Students at 11:00 a.m. (Meeting ID: 984 847 828)
  • Computer Science 30S Students at 11:30 a.m. (Meeting ID: 399 462 352)
  • Computer Science 40S Students at 12:00 p.m. (Meeting ID: 231 499 314)
  • Computer Science 42SIB Students at 12:30 p.m. (Meeting ID: 729 086 380)

Monday, March 23:

Adding to the article below (and in emails sent out to students), I have added more tips and help on getting the software setup at home, along with alternative assessment options for some. See each course links below:

Also, I have created this survey that I would like all students to fill out some time this week (by Friday at the latest) to get a read on things so far. I also realize that for many of you (if not all) you have never been taught HOW to work on an online distance learning course, so here is my advice on the process to do this:

  1. Start new content (like a new unit or the second part of a unit) by reading a presentation and/or watching Mr. Wachs’ YouTube video of him teaching that concept in class in the past to activate visual and/or auditory learning
  2. Do the example that accompanies this concept: by following it either in the PowerPoint slides, or the GitHub page, or a page on this website to activate kinesthetic learning by doing! (even though this is often not for mars, it is important to help learn the concepts)
  3. Open the assessment activity, read it, try any demos, look at any hints from the example, hints documents (CS20S), the advice and help section of your courses webpage, etc. to try to solve the assessment problems (we learn through problem solving)
  4. Prepare the assessment(s) for handing in (read and/or watch if you need tips) and hand in on the hand in page, and examine assessed work in the hand back page and unit marking sheet/PowerPoint grade

And, contact Mr. Wachs at any point along the way if you are confused or need help!

Friday, March 20th:

As discussed in my previous article, schools will be closed for the health of our society and we would like to support continuous learning for our students in any way possible. I have sent out individual emails to all students and parents regarding specific details for each course, but I wanted to put a post about this on my main page.

First, if you had not filled out my contact form so I have a email contact for you, please follow this link to the form to fill out!

In class we went over all the resources available on my website, but let’s distill it down to the the most important basics:

  • You can contact me (through email, forum, video conferencing, etc) to communicate questions or comments to me online
  • I can contact you (through the same systems) to ensure you are learning, understanding, and getting answers to your questions
  • We all have to be flexible – with deadlines, expectations, things like tests/quizzes, assignments, etc.

We are all trying to ensure learning continues as much and as smoothly as possible!

With that all in mind, please read ahead with the previous points in mind and know that things could change and/or adapt to situations as they arise. Currently, we are under the assumption that we are:

  1. Attending classes this week (March 16 – 20)
  2. The school will be closed next week (March 23 – 27) the week before spring break
  3. Then the week of spring break (March 30 – April 3) we would have had off regardless
  4. The school will be closed the next week (April 6 – 10) the week after spring break
  5. We are then scheduled to return to school this week (April 13 – 17)

In the individual emails I have sent out to every student, I will outline a five week plan based on the numbers above. You can find a copy of these emails here:

  • My email to the Computer Science 20S class
  • My email to the Computer Science 30S class
  • My email to the Computer Science 40S class
  • My email to the Computer Science 40S Advanced class
  • My email to the Computer Science 42SIB class
  • My email to all Computer Science parents

Remember, this can all change, and we all need to be flexible! Please let me know if you need to contact me, or I contact you we have many different ways to get and receive information:

  • Mr. Wachs’ email
  • This website (which has more specific links for each course if you follow the links on the main navigation bar above)
  • Comments or questions on the class forum
  • Video conferencing and webinars
  • The online hand in page
  • The online hand back page
  • The GitHub code repository
  • Mr. Wachs’ YouTube page
  • Mr. Wachs’ Twitter
  • Mr. Wachs’ Facebook

Stay healthy everyone!

2 thoughts on “School Closure and Continuous Distance Learning

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