In the fall of 2009 I stepped into my first classroom as a full-time teacher.  To my surprise I was greeted with an archaic computer with very basic programming loaded onto it.  Where was the fancy laptop?  The projectors?  smartboards?  As a small rural school, this was not predominant in every class.  Only the lucky few were selected to have the advantages of using this type of tech.  Fast forward 14 years and it is a crazy difference in how tech is used within classrooms.  Gone are the days of being lucky enough to have a little bit of computer time to play classic games like Oregon Trail and watching someone die of dysentery.

Oregon trail on american postage stamp

Google Classroom was my first real revelation into what technology could truly do in the classroom.  The majority of my teaching career I had the privilege of teaching Senior Visual Arts and then I was the Industrial Arts teacher.  Truly hands on classes where the majority of my use of technology was to introduce students to projects or for them to search for ideas.  Then I transferred to another school and wham, hello Covid-19.  Instantly, I knew the way I had been teaching was going to need to change.  Here was my first time going online with material and setting up my first Google Classrooms.  Ever since then, I haven’t had a specific class where I don’t use a Google Classroom.

The advantage of having an online classroom for students, parents and myself makes the work accessible from everywhere.  Students are able to connect with one another and myself more easily, and parents can see updates to student performance.  In my ELA 5/6 class, I’m able to lose the piles of paper assignments and have everything neatly located within the class.  The students are also able to have their assignments more organized, and it allows for more differentiation within the class.  Speech to text is utilized by many students.  A blended approach allows me to post videos of lessons for refreshers for students to go back to and allows me to work more one on one with students while they are present in the room.  Other websites and educational tools are also used within my class.  Read Theory provides my students with the opportunity to incorporate CBL into their own learning.  Allowing students to progress through material at their own pace and at their own level.  It also creates a bit of competition for students as the move through the program.  Blended Learning allows me to also update assignments with new material and modified as new tech or information becomes available.  Let’s face it, students love to use technology too.  The amount of information I have learned from them since going to blended classes is mind boggling.

Going online with classes presents its own challenges too.  Not everyone has access to the technology needed to work from home.  It could be the cost of the tech or even connection issues.  The Covid times presented issues with families also wanting everything to be online or accessible through a take home option.  Yes, online materials are great, but never can you replace the conversations had in class, the lessons done in person, or the experiential learning that comes from being in the physical classroom.