Teaching In The Time of COVID: MGA Education Professor Uses Her Tech Skills And Sense of Humor

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2020 12:00 AM
Categories: Faculty/Staff | Pressroom | Students | School of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Macon, GA


Dr. Tammy Haislip, assistant professor of education at Middle Georgia State University, is a bit of a ham.

When the COVID-19 pandemic put her in-person classes on pause, Haislip videotaped some of her instruction in an empty room and acted as though she were standing in front of her students.

“Well, hello everyone, and welcome back to class,” she says in one video just before hitting “play” on a crowd applause sound effect. “No, you don’t have to applaud,” she says with faux sheepishness. “It’s OK.”

Haislip also is a technophile, serving as the technology liaison for the Department of Teacher Education and Social Work. She is currently helping her colleagues complete technology projects this semester to help the department meet its goal of using more technology to enhance teaching practices.

“When it comes to teaching, Dr. Haislip is one of the most creative faculty in our department,” said Dr. Rhonda Amerson, department chair. “She has not let COVID 19 interfere with her making connections with students, delivering effective lessons, and using technology to include those who are unable to attend class due to illness or being quarantined. Her background in technology has aided her in navigating through these unusual times.”

Haislip found her calling in education after serving in the U.S. Navy. She began her career at her high school alma mater in rural east Texas, later switching to elementary school teaching. Eventually she took a position traveling to different Title 1 schools to serve gifted students with a technology driven program she developed called Socrates. In 2003 she was named one of the top three “Teachers of the Year” in the state of Texas.

In 2004 Haislip began teaching elementary educators at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. After nine years there, she became department chair of graduate programs at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C.  In 2016, she was awarded the South Carolina “Excellence in Teaching” award for professors in private colleges and universities. Haislip joined MGA’s faculty in 2019.

In this Q&A, Haislip talks about her teaching methods and the creative approaches she is taking to help her students and colleagues during the pandemic.

Dr. Amerson said that when it comes to teaching, you are one of the most creative faculty in the department. Can you describe your general approach to teaching future educators?

“I feel that I am an instructional coach in disguise! My goals for my students are that they leave my course with a variety of strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners in their future classrooms. This means that the classroom is active and real-world with lots of modeling. Not only are my students learning educational theories, they are seeing how these theories have shaped the modern classroom in both content and pedagogy. Also, I am a ham and I use a variety of props and costumes to create an engaging environment.”

What adjustments to teaching have you made in the COVID era and how have you used technology to help students continue their education?

“COVID has turned the world upside down for us all—but it has been especially difficult for those in public schools and teacher candidates who need to be in classrooms. You cannot simply ‘tell’ a future teacher how to manage large groups of diverse students; they need to be with them to understand how best to meet their needs. Since they cannot be in classes with students, I have asked my students to go to the experts to fill in missing information: classroom teachers. My students are writing questions that they have about students and instruction and are recording themselves interviewing teachers.

“Another issue for teacher education students during this time is that our students do not all have access to the same technology. For instance, there are many apps that I integrate in my seated classes that I cannot use in an online environment since not everyone has an iPad. (Our department has iPads for use in our campus classes.) This has proven to be a challenge yet it is also an opportunity to learn about web-driven alternatives that everyone can access. It has been exciting to watch our students brainstorm and use their Google super powers to uncover new tools that can help facilitate learning in an online environment. I am learning from them!”

In what ways are you helping your department use more technology?

“I am the technology mentor for Teacher Education and Social Work. I have met with each professor and we have planned how to begin leveraging technology to increase both teacher and student understanding of current technology, its appropriate use, student engagement, and to create high-level learning environments which extend student understanding of course objectives. Each professor is focusing on a specific lesson or project that they are ‘upgrading’ with technology. For instance, one professor is changing a research paper project into a research video project which merges scholarship with the power of images and voiceovers. For one of my courses, I am having my students use various media and the iPad app Stop Motion Studio Pro to create a project highlighting a specific instructional assessment strategy using stop motion animation. You can communicate research-driven content in a fun, creative way. (I actually learned about this app from a cellular biology professor who had her students create a stop motion video about cancer cells.)”

What has been the biggest challenge of adjusting your teaching in the COVID area?

“My strongest teaching intelligence is interpersonal so teaching online is difficult for me. I miss being with my students in a face-to-face learning environment. With COVID-19, I have had to be very intentional in keeping in touch and I schedule many videoconferences every week with my students. I also create videos for my students to watch, some quite funny as I am teaching to an empty room yet pretending that they are all there.”

Do you anticipate some of these adjustments to become standardized post-COVID?

“Yes, I believe that the world as we know it has changed from this experience. I feel that online learning will continue to be a competitive option for schools in the future. But going through this has uncovered some important truths for educators. It has allowed us to realize that the ability to plan and teach content and skills are not limited to a brick-and-mortar classroom. That relationships can be built with students in a video chatroom just as in a face-to-face meeting. That we know we are living in the most stimulating time in history in terms of technology for learning, and that the sky is the limit to how engaging instruction can be - no matter the delivery system. Teachers are professionals at modifying and adjusting, so they won’t let a virus slow them down! They will teach through it all.”