Photo credit: courtesy of Lorrie Salome
When our country’s youth make it through the pandemic, we’ll have teachers like Lorrie Salome to thank.
A teacher for nearly two decades, Salome’s enthusiasm for technology is palpable. The Austin-based fifth grade math teacher has had to remake her whole curriculum to work in a virtual setting, but she believes that many of the tools teachers are learning to use now will carry over to the post-pandemic future.
We talked to her about what it takes to keep a class full of fifth graders engaged on a video call and what she is looking forward to bringing with her once remote learning goes back to in-person class.
How long have you been a teacher? And how did you start using mmhmm?
This is my 18th year and I was in advertising for seven years before I was a teacher. And then I went to grad school for instructional design. I'm teaching fifth grade math. So I'm kind of second to profession, which always makes me much more excited about corporate things that work well in education. There's often such a divide between what's happening in education and what's happening in corporate life. And if there was more of a bridge between those two things, it would just be so beneficial for teachers.
Classroom teaching essentially is advertising. And it's so hard, especially under these circumstances, to get the kids engaged. And I am just loving this platform. I mean, just loving it. I can not say enough good things. I'm telling you, it is making my life so much better.
How are you using mmhmm?
I will take my computer, and I have a green screen hanging in the foyer that connects all of our classrooms for the fifth grade. I just walk my computer in there, I plop it down, I hit record, I have my little slides ready to go. It's almost always just a one-take wonder. I hit record and pop my little things up in the background.
I just think it makes such a difference for [students] to experience the human aspects of their teacher--their voice, expressions, gestures, and tone. Some of them have never even met me in person yet. It's just so neat that when I send them a video, instead of me sending them 500 paragraphs of text instructions, I can just pop open the file, and say like, this is how I would like you to do this. This is something that we never did in the classroom and that would have saved me a million hours of time because I could just direct kids that are confused back to that video.
I just think it makes such a difference for [students] to experience the human aspects of their teacher--their voice, expressions, gestures, and tone.
Lorrie Salome sitting in front of her green screen. Photo credit: Lorrie Salome
What kind of advice are you giving your fellow teachers as they struggle with the technology that they're using?
One of the hardest hits that education is having right now is that the teachers just do not have any time to do anything. The kids are so detached, because they're kind of depressed, and understimulated, and lacking that social connection. And so for me, my priority has been making my teaching as personal as I can, and this platform is helping me do that.
I think what packs the most punch for students is feeling like they have any kind of personal connection to their class or their teacher. I can tell you for fifth grade, 50% of them are not going to engage without that. They're out of practice, they're sad, they're unmotivated. The advice I would give most teachers is that making it personal doesn't have to take longer; it can actually be snappier because, I'm telling you, this little platform has let me make stuff so much faster than any other way.
I'm loving using mmhmm as a way to pull in some of my multimedia files from other applications and platforms that I can have running behind me. The only job I have is to talk about it. Normally I would be trying to make it and talk about it at the same time. For as much material that we're making per day for this online environment, it is insane how cool it is that I can pull a little video up behind me. And then my only job is to like talk the kids through it. And I think that it really has made my teaching better.
Lorrie Salome dressed as Zoltar the fortune teller. Photo credit: Lorrie Salome
What positive things do you think will come out of the situation we’re in?
I've been loving this electronic weirdness that we're in, because it's just such fertile ground for new thinking, new teaching, new modalities and formats, and new ways to reach kids. Even though in my personal life with this pandemic, I'm in hell, but in teaching, this is just such an interesting time.
I think that education is going to change all the way around pretty soon. There are a lot of things coming out of this horrible situation that are going to make teaching more personal, more engaging, more media rich. And I just think that’s fantastic for students! I’m very excited about that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.