My So-called “New Normal”: Day in the Life of an OLST
When we reflect back on the last few years, I suspect (for many of us) a great divide appears between our relationship with educational technology before the pandemic and everything after. That has certainly been the case in my journey from classroom teacher to Online Learning Support Services Teacher.
As a geriatric millennial, I’m already familiar with the pre and post-technological world. Playing outside came well before my Nintendo and Oregon-Trail memories, and it wouldn’t be until my last years of high school that I researched science essays using my family’s noisy dial-up internet. Still, I was young enough to quickly adapt to the arrival of MySpace, Facebook, Ipods, and then…..oohhhh, ahhhhhhh, the Iphone!
My pre-pandemic classroom existed inside four solid walls. I greeted students face-to-face, using a variety of handshakes, high-fives, and questionable TikTok dance recreations. My pedagogy thrived on personal connection, interwoven with the necessity to stay tech-savvy, and therefore, relevant to my students. We used old Chromebooks to create videos, podcasts, Prezis, and Powerpoints. “Using technology is a tool to prepare you for your future,” I recited daily to my classes (little did I know).
January 2020: I am 1 of 4 educators chosen by my division to attend the FETC – Future of Education Technology Conference– in Miami. We are to source all the best tech- VR, robotics, coding- to bring back to our school division and teach teachers. The words pandemic and Covid-19 are new, whispered, and distant. We don’t know yet…
The surrealness of March 2020 led to a whirlwind crash course in all things Edtech, from TikTok instructionals to Youtube Read-Alouds and daily Zoom chats. Like any literary nerd, I wrote questionable op-eds and poetry to fill the void. The oddest part (that I only dare whisper aloud) is that I found myself thriving in this new online world. The creativity and connection required to engage students online seemed like a worthy and interesting undertaking.
Fast-forward to September 2020, and I am 2 hours into pandemic classroom teaching. Mask-up, shield down, heart terrified but full, I am ready and out for supervision when…I receive a phone call.
“Kim, would you be interested in the division’s new Online Learning Support Services Teacher role?” My superintendent asks.
They have no clear outline of what this position entails. I have no idea about…anything!
“Count me in!” I respond.
What did my mom always say to me about looking before I leap?
The So-Called “New Normal”
More than two years later, 6-7 hours of my work-life is lived online. I still exist in my school’s four walls, but my office is shoved to a remote corner and my co-workers refer to me as “the happy hermit.” For better or worse, I see my face continually on a screen. Zoom and I are intimately acquainted. In my Division, I interact with every school, admin, teacher, and grade-level, connecting them all to our online students. Upon request, I create online content and curriculum resources for any and all grade levels. My job is to make the “new normal” in-school/online hybrid somehow easier. I try my best.
For the most part, I teach and connect using:
- Zoom – till death do us part (or so it seems).
- EDSBY – Just before the pandemic, my Division signed a contract with Edsby. It is now the main hub I use to communicate, share, and create.
- A total hodge-podge: TikTok, Flipgrid, Peardeck, Kahoot, Blooket, Miro, whatever means necessary….including a diverse range of truly strange (non-tech related) costumes.
So what about you out there, dear reader? Can you clearly split your relationship with educational technology and/or everyday technology into two parts? Before the pandemic and….whatever time period we call this now. Do you find yourself leaning into more tech, more personal connection, or a combination?
As for what’s to become of me and my role next year…it’s truly anyone’s guess. As always, I’ll leap first and learn on the way down!