Mr. Ator’s advanced online teaching

Mr. Matt Ator – photo by Mr. Thomas Stambaugh

 As Haverford shifts to virtual classrooms, teachers have been experimenting with different platforms and technologies to replicate their in-class atmosphere. 

     Upper School Math Teacher Mr. Matt Ator has uniquely transformed his teaching strategy to cope with the change. 

     The biggest change to Mr. Ator’s class was the addition of videos to supplement class lessons.

     “I really had to optimize how we spend our class time and then how I have guys prepare for class,” Mr. Ator said. 

     Due to the decreased class time, spending fifteen minutes explaining the basic idea of a lesson is wasted time. Mr. Ator feels that having students gain a basic understanding of the lesson before class will allow him to answer more specific questions in class, making class time more effective. Specifically, Mr. Ator believes that pre-class videos can help establish what students need to know.

     “I’ve chosen to make my own because I can say exactly what I want and I’m not giving like three videos where you have to watch [certain sections].”

     Mr. Ator tried multiple video recording platforms recommended by other teachers. However, he was intrigued by the Canvas Studio option that the school added during spring break. In particular, the feature allows Mr. Ator to record videos in Canvas and post them directly to his page, rather than trying to upload videos from another program.

     “It’s nice to have everything centralized in Canvas,” Mr. Ator said.  

      The program also allows him to see who watched the videos and how much they watched. 

      “Students who have been keeping up with it, you can hear by what they’re saying in class that they have that background,” Mr. Ator said.

     Mr. Ator also uses Canvas Conferences for his virtual classroom, and he has added detailed weekly itineraries to his Canvas home page. The all-Canvas lineup puts all classwork and information on one site. But Mr. Ator chose to use Canvas Conferences in part because of the breakout rooms, which allow small groups of students to work on a problem like they would do in class. He also utilizes the screen share and class-recording features to aid his teaching.

     “It’s challenging for me just to replicate the feeling [of a normal class],” Mr. Ator said, “but I think that the lessons I’m doing are very similar to what we would be doing otherwise.”

     Given the current circumstances, Mr. Ator has also modified how he administers tests and quizzes.

Because of students’ access to resources, including graphing calculators and the internet, most problems Mr. Ator puts on assessments will no longer be an accurate representation of a student’s understanding of the material.

“It’s challenging for me just to replicate the feeling [of a normal class], but I think that the lessons I’m doing are very similar to what we would be doing otherwise.”

Mr. Matt Ator

     Mr. Ator said, “I’m trying to get more creative with how I’m going to write these.”

     Instead, Mr. Ator has thought about either having students write a test or grade a test that he completes with intentional mistakes. In either case, students will have to not only show that they understand the material, but they will have to identify what topics are most important. But while Mr. Ator plans to try these new methods at some point, he will continue to have “graded for correctness” assessments.

    Along with changing his delivery of material, Mr. Ator is reconsidering the way he will run class and design assessments. Although he is still fine-tuning his plans for videos and assessments, he plans to enact these changes when school returns to its normal form in the future.

     “This online-schooling period could end up changing the way I run my class,” Mr. Ator said.