Participation, engagement, connection. These are three things I’ve been hearing a lot about in the past few months. These all play a huge role as society has been forced to suddenly shift to online learning and communication, and it will continue to be a priority as we move to maybe a more blended teaching system in the upcoming school year. Most of the teachers I’ve spoken with have said engagement and participation are one of the biggest struggle they have been facing. One teacher I spoke with said that it’s frustrating, because they are putting in the effort, and not seeing anything back, which is overall demoralizing. My partner is a grade 8 teacher, and every morning I watch him log onto his Google Classroom, and barely a fraction of his students show up.
Michael Wesch’s video on Youtube and the web was fascinating to watch, particularly because it was created in 2008. It’s unbelievable to see how far technology, and Youtube in particular has come in just 12 years. For example, one of the first videos he talks about is the internet sensation that was the “Numa Numa Guy” (AKA Gary Brolsma). In Michael’s video at around the 4 minute mark, he shows a screenshot of how many videos are uploaded under the term Numa Numa. This shows roughly 58,000 videos have been uploaded. To the best of my knowledge Youtube no longer shows the number of search results, but when I used Google today to look up the same thing, I got roughly 144 MILLION results. There was roughly 92 Youtube videos posted today alone (although some of them probably did not directly correlate with the song).
One thing Wesch mentions around the 5 minute mark in the video linked above, is that through the internet and sites like Youtube, we are creating “global connections transcending space and time”. This is surely an undeniable fact as we are more connected now than we’ve ever been in history, but how meaningful are these connections? Anyone who has chatted with a group on a video communications app like Zoom or Facetime, knows that technology has not yet evolved to truly replace face to face communications. There are no side conversations, it’s difficult to have more than one person talking. It feels more like a sharing circle than a real conversation. Problems like these are going to be huge as we move forward through this abrupt digital shift, particularly among students where that social piece is so important for their development.
I also think that there can be some perks from this shift. People are generally pretty reluctant to change. I hope that at the very least this forced change can lead to to good change. Perhaps a blended teaching style of face to face and online communications will be the new way forward. Maybe it will work better for some students. While students who were already present and wanting to participate will, I’m sure, continue to do so, maybe those who are less than willing will find their footing in a new way forward. I am at the very least hopeful and excited at what prospects can develop from this unique time. Though there will definitely be some struggles, challenges like these are not new to educators. Good educators face adversity every day and are constantly trying to adapt to students learning needs with no ulterior motive of their own. If anyone can push forward digital change during this time, it will be educators.