Handmade stands help teachers deliver instruction via Zoom

Parents create phone stands for local teachers

Posted 5/28/20

A local couple’s ingenuity has helped teachers better deliver lessons via Zoom this spring.

Teachers often use their smartphones as a document camera to model skills and methods, similar to …

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Handmade stands help teachers deliver instruction via Zoom

Parents create phone stands for local teachers

Posted

A local couple’s ingenuity has helped teachers better deliver lessons via Zoom this spring.

Teachers often use their smartphones as a document camera to model skills and methods, similar to how instructors used overhead projectors in the past, said Laura Viklund, whose daughter attends Westside Elementary School. To prop up their phones while giving lessons, teachers were using all sorts of household items — like cans of beans.

Viklund saw it was an issue when her daughter participated in a Zoom call with first-grade teacher Shelby Randall. The Westside teacher did a trial Zoom session with Viklund’s daughter in March so she could troubleshoot before having all 18 students on the screen.

“It was pretty clear watching them Zoom that some of the things they did on a daily basis didn’t translate as well through video cameras,” Viklund said.

She soon started researching devices meant for holding phones over a table. However, most of the devices seemed too expensive, “especially since I wasn’t sure it would actually be helpful,” Viklund said.

She then looked at Pinterest and found a bunch of different designs.

“Most of them seemed a lot more complicated than they needed to be, so I just started drafting something really simple and straightforward on my computer,” Viklund said.

As a registered architect, she loves to make things.

“... I am constantly drafting up ideas with my CAD programs, then handing drawings to my husband, who is a timber framer and carpenter, to build,” Viklund said. “That’s what we do for work every day anyways, and how we fulfill random requests that our kids come up with, like bunk beds for their stuffed animals.”

She gave the drawings for a phone stand to her husband, Chris Gunn, and he made a mockup. Viklund sent a picture to a few teachers, who were interested in trying it. So far, the couple has given about 20 stands to Powell and Cody teachers.

“This is just one amazing example of how members of our school community are helping us educate our kids,” said Angie Woyak, Westside principal.

The response from teachers has been positive.

“I received a few really nice texts about how this was making it easier to deliver material over Zoom,” Viklund said. “One teacher said it was replacing a contraption involving duct tape, a ruler and a rock.”

The phone stands are made out of larch wood, or Western Tamarack. Most of the wood is leftover from projects the couple built over the years, including the walls of a concert hall in Fishtail, Montana.

Now that they have a process, it takes Gunn about five to 10 minutes to make each stand. The couple’s 5-year-old son has been integrated into the assembly line while his sister does online classes as a first-grader.

“We’ve been really lucky with distance learning,” Viklund said. “Work has slowed down a lot since people are apprehensive about what their finances are going to look like in the near future, so building a new house has taken the backseat for a while, but this lets us both be home with them.”

She said Randall has done “a fantastic job” of establishing a learning routine with students, and assuring kids she’s there for them.

“Westside and the Powell schools have done nothing but impress us from the beginning,” Viklund said. “We live almost right in between Powell and Cody, so we were torn between which school system we wanted to put our kids in. I don’t doubt for a second that we made the best choice for us.”

Viklund serves as the treasurer for the Westside Parent Teacher Council and works closely with president Michele Johnson on ways they can make things easier for teachers and students, “which doesn’t stop when the school building closes.”

With funds from the first Read-a-thon fundraiser, the group helped purchase additional supplies and resources to aid in distance learning, and also provided meals for some families hit hardest by the economic slowdown. They also worked to keep as many of the end-of-the-year traditions going as possible, Viklund said.

“We have a great group of parents and teachers that have worked really well together all year, and COVID-19 hasn’t put a damper on that at all,” she said.

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