Throughout my teaching career, I have endeavored to grow with my use and experience around technology use in the classroom. When I first stepped into the classroom, I felt so revolutionary using SMART technology, which has largely gone by way of the dodo now. Then I made some pretty spectacular PowerPoint presentations, which if I looked at now, would be laughable in their simplicity and extraordinary lack of flair. And I was downright next generation when I implemented Poll Everywhere and Remind into my classroom. For the most part, I sparingly use most of these resources, because there are so many more options, or if I do use them I have improved leaps and bounds in how they are integrated into my teaching. To be honest, in the past three or four years, such a large number of tremendous and useful resources have been thrown at educators that it has been rather overwhelming to sift through and find what is most beneficial, efficient and yet still simple for students and myself to use in the classroom.
Since technology integration has been a part of my teaching since the very beginning of my career, I have had some form of a blended learning environment my entire teaching career. With that being said, my use and integration has become much more fluid and natural and effective in practice. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. However, there are so many amazing resources in existence now. My Social Studies and History classrooms (and my brain) are abuzz when I can make use of a cool or interesting resource. Some examples would include, Kialo debates and discussions in Law or Social Studies class. Using Storymaps to discover new information about something that ties the past and present together, like “In Search of Refuge” which looks at the history and increase of displaced people in the world. Or having a comprehensive history of Treaties and the process of reconciliation within Canada at your fingertips. Having students engage in lessons on News Literacy through CIVIX for better citizenry on the internet. Or to explore the world around them by exploring A Developing World. Each of these resources has students making use of a digital resource that allows them to expand their learning and leave their small-town Saskatchewan existence.
What I have discovered through the use of technology in the classroom, is that learning (and teaching) is a dynamic process rather than a static one. Both teachers and students need to constantly learn and grow with the new resources and ideas being developed in the world. It is a steep learning curve to be able to safely navigate the waters and to also gain what we want and need out of the waters as well. But, I have also learned that there are several best practices which Bates outlined in the chapter 4 (126.96.36.199) reading which are tied to sound pedagogy of online learning (let’s be honest any course benefits). He states that: clear learning outcomes, assessment linked to said goals, supporting the learner, providing feedback, making learning active, including collaboration in learning and last but not least, regular course maintenance are essential good pedagogy. One of these items which I have made common practice, is to go through a self-reflection process frequently throughout the school year. I ask myself: what worked? what didn’t? I rarely teach a course identically from one semester to the next. Some things can be the same, but definitely not all. Learners are different, needs are different, ideas are different, timing and time. Either way, this fluid and natural dynamic process allows me to change and adapt to the learners within my classroom.
This is not without challenges. Bates also states, “just adding technology to the mix, or delivering the same design online, does not automatically result in meeting changing needs.” (4.2.3) This is what many people tried to do when schools were closed down and we were all of a sudden teaching remotely. It was neither ideal, nor effective in many ways. “Students online are in a different learning environment” tells us that there needs to be more work around blending or teaching strictly online than just uploading pdfs and worksheets and saying, ‘have at ‘er’. (4.2.3) So, the challenges include working to develop learning that is engaging, effective, includes higher level thinking skills, and is scaffolded for the learners. One of the most profound and daunting statements made by Bates which resonated with me was, “learning environments need to be created that are rich and constantly changing… which enables students to develop and practice the skills and acquire the knowledge they will need…” (4.7.1) Blending our classrooms is crucial in our digital world, however it can be daunting to make it all the “things” it needs to be. The list is long: effective, rich, changing, dynamic, scaffolded, higher level, discussion based, engaging, etc. etc. Teachers have so much on their plates, that this is enough to give you an anxiety attack. However, one thing at a time. I once heard on an battlefields tour for educators that if you work on changing more than one thing a year in your courses that you are working towards making yourself into a first-year teacher again. So, I have to often stop and remind myself, that change is good, but it has to be done smart and effectively to benefit me and my students.
The education of the pupils may actually suffer if teachers are made to use technology that they didn’t request but that the administrators bought for them. If you insist on using student-to-teacher technology, be sure to consider all of the operational details that go into that technology. And for the love of God, be consistent in the technology you buy each year. Stick with iPads if that’s the route you’re taking. Don’t always purchase whatever is the cheapest option.