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September 4, 2020

SVSU faculty trains Midland educators on use of online teaching tool

A connection between personal friends kick-started a professional network between Saginaw Valley State University and Midland Public Schools that organizers say will benefit education at all levels in the region.
 
SVSU faculty in early August began training Midland educators on how to use Canvas, a learning management software program. Utilized by SVSU for years, 14 members of the university faculty hosted group training sessions for nearly 80 middle school and high school educators.
 
“Our teachers were able to ask professionals who use it in their teaching daily what the best practical uses of Canvas would be to them,” said Steven Poole, curriculum specialist for auxiliary education at Midland Public Schools.
 
“The value to Midland Public Schools teachers is their knowledge growth in Canvas and gaining a network for future questions that they could ask the professors. Our teachers will be using this knowledge with their Canvas development this school year.”
 
Both Midland Public Schools and SVSU returned to in-classroom teaching this week for the first time since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Michigan. The experience in the months since then underlined a need to strengthen educators’ knowledge of online teaching tools such as Canvas, say organizers of the collaboration.
 
The origins of that collaboration began with a friendship between Matthew Vannette, an SVSU professor of physics, and Ana Geib, a Spanish teacher at Midland High School. Geib asked Vannette to help her better understand Canvas. The request began a series of events that led to a collaborative learning experience involving nearly 100 educators from both institutions.
 
“That is how society functions, or at least it is how I would like society to function: do what you can, when you can,” Vannette said. “Education across all levels is a social good, and it only works if we support it.”
 
The participating faculty from SVSU hosted a series of seven training sessions for Midland educators teaching in subjects related to business, engineering, English, kinesiology, math and science, music, and social studies. Up to 24 Midland teachers attended each session.
 
While those sessions took place in early August, organizers say educators formed a network they will maintain moving forward, including when questions arise throughout the school year.
 
Participating SVSU faculty members enjoyed empowering fellow educators in navigating a new learning system, which strengthened their own curriculum-building skills.
 
“Throughout the pandemic, scholars and musicians have come together like never before, sharing ideas and trying to solve problems so that we could all move forward in our teaching and music making,” said Norman Wika, an SVSU associate professor of music who provided Canvas training.
 
“I personally benefited from knowledge and ideas that I collected throughout the summer. Without that open interaction, I'm not sure I would have as good a plan as I do for this fall.”