For this new edition of #HowWeGotThis, Quentin FODERE and Thomas CASTANET from our MS/HS Math department on the Ortega Campus are exchanging with us on their practical and innovative adaptation to the COVID New Normal!
LFSF : Hello Quentin, hello Thomas, could you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your background and what you teach at the LFSF?
Quentin: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to showcase our work. I am originally from Seine-St-Denis and before moving to San Francisco, I was teaching in Guyana and in Paris. I have been teaching mathematics to high school students since 2017, as well as computer programming classes.
Thomas: I come from Montpellier and I have been teaching since 2002. I’ve had the opportunity to spend most of my career in the AEFE network (Mexico and Sub-Saharan Africa) and am very happy now to join the mathematics team of the LFSF for this new school year.
LFSF : We heard that you developed an application, ChingView, for teachers and students. Can you tell us more?
Quentin: ChingView is a web based application, so it can be used on any device and without installing anything. It's an application that allows students to take pictures of their work and send them instantly to their teacher. You just have to go to https://chingview.fr to use it, which makes it really easy and accessible. There is no account to create, no file or dropbox to manage. We really focused on the simplicity of the user experience.
Once the teacher receives a file, (s)he can annotate and correct the work directly online and provide guidance to students and valuable feedback to allow students to progress. We developed a feature that allows the teacher to take a picture of a student's work during the class and project/share it and then comment or annotate it live.
This way, the students' work can be showcased while giving the group an opportunity to have a constructive critical lense at their work.
It can also be used to project the work of a student who is attending the class remotely which is very interesting in the current context of concurrent classrooms / hybrid teaching because all students can be equally involved in a class project.
LFSF : What gave you the idea to develop and implement this app? What problems did you want to solve?
Quentin: I taught Gr6, 9, 11 and 12 students, exclusively remotely, from March to October 2020.
The most difficult thing during that period was missing all the little clues that, in normal circumstances, are part of an informal evaluation and that allow us (teachers) to understand what a student has learned/mastered or what remains a challenge. Indeed, I realized that the habits that we had in class, such as passing by the desks, looking at someone’s work, observing and listening to the students in learning situations ... are essential to identify their needs and individualize our teaching approach..
I tried several ways to compensate for this lack of direct and practical feedback. For example, I used MCQs (Multiple Choice Quizzes) asking students to systematically drop their work into Dropboxes, or had them work on shared documents to see their progress live.
The MCQs did not provide students with the opportunity to develop their answers. Dropboxes required them only to log-in and manipulate the files. Moreover, the downloads, manipulations, conversions and formats were too cumbersome to allow for the teacher to comment or correct swiftly. Finally, the shared documents did not easily allow students to use mathematics symbols. But also, since students could continue having access to their worksheet, they could modify their original answers providing me with a potentially morphed view of the student’s challenges, which in turn made it harder for me to provide the needed support.
Each tool has its pros and cons and this allowed me to identify some priorities. A good sharing tool should :
- Be accessible to all
- Be accessible without an account, login or password owned by the student to avoid having to deal with forgotten login information
- Allow for instant student input because a spontaneous, “in the moment” work brings unique feedback to the teacher
- Allow for quick feedback or correction from the teacher
The ChingView application meets all these requirements!
Thomas: Remote learning significantly reduces the interaction between students and teachers. This tool has been designed to allow students to easily share their work with their teacher so that in turn, they can rely on prompt guidance and support from their teacher.
LFSF: Why the name "ChingView", where does it come from?
Thomas: the name is inspired by the first website I created: Ching Atome. Atome used to be my nick name when I was young - It’s kind of an anagram of Thomas. After that all my other IT productions kept the prefix Ching. The first version of ChingView has been running for 6 years so the name was already known and we decided to keep it for the second version.
LFSF: Like many sectors, education has been and continues to be affected by the pandemic. How has this been affecting you, and what lessons have you learned so far?
Quentin: It is impossible to continue teaching as we did in the past: the approach in distance learning is so different, so we’ve had to be creative and reinvent our way of teaching. And now, we're starting over again because it's different also with the current hybrid model we have in the Secondary grades.
My biggest take away from this period is that in order for students to continue learning effectively in this context, we have to train, rethink our pedagogy, create new resources adapted to their needs. Unfortunately the days only count 24 hours, which is not always enough!..
Quentin during the 2019 Ortega Athlethon with Middle School Students
LFSF: Quentin, on a completely different subject, we learned that you were recently awarded by the University of Chicago. That's great news and we can't wait to find out more!...
Quentin: Yes, I received the Outstanding Educator Award from the University of Chicago. I was very surprised because it was given to me based on the recommendation of a student I didn't have in my class. I even thought it was a scam at first!
Back in February 2020, students organized a Diversity Day. We, the teachers, were there as observers and I remember that there was a very emotionally charged exchange in the workshop I was supervising.
So I intervened by inviting the students to talk to each other and while I don't remember exactly what I said, I am happy to share an excerpt from what the student wrote me, in the letter that accompanied the award: "Kindness is not quantifiable, and even a small act can have the greatest impact. You may not remember what I am talking about, but in a world where it is often easier to ignore reality, I thank you for defending the values of tolerance.”
That touched me a lot, especially in these difficult times, even though at the time, I didn’t think I was doing anything exceptional.
LFSF : Thomas, (as you indicated), you have just joined the LFSF in a very singular context. How is the beginning of the school year going for you?
Thomas : The first weeks were quite challenging: it was difficult to physically move to San Francisco, I couldn’t get to the Ortega campus for the first 2 weeks and then the late summer fires happened that impacted our community... I was dreaming of initiating my first contacts with my colleagues and with students but instead had to consciously keep my distance because of safety protocols. But we all learn to adapt. Discovering the Ortega campus and meeting the students in class was eventually a real pleasure.
LFSF : Thank you very much for exchanging with us. To conclude, what are your wishes or priorities for this extraordinary school year?
Quentin: My priority remains to accompany the students in their learning and the development of their mathematical skills. I hope that the ChingView application can help teachers on a daily basis. Working with Thomas on this project was a rich learning experience for me and I can see an opportunity to further develop educational applications.
Thomas: My greatest wish: that the health situation improves soon so that we can all meet on Ortega, and I can effectively guide my students in their learning of mathematics and computer science.
#HowWeGotThis is our series of testimonials showing how our teams and community are pioneering, reinventing themselves and imagine new ways to operate in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.