EC&I 834

To technology or not to technology – that is the question.

At least for me, tech or no tech remains an ongoing, internal debate in my professional context. Even in my seventh year as an educator, I continually flip between feeling either excited or obligated to incorporate technology into my practice. Although my comfort levels vary, I believe technology has a crucial place in today’s classroom and I know I need to find my comfortability with that. READY OR NOT – technology in the classroom is here to stay and forms of blended learning options naturally follow.

I often blame my tech uncertainty on my current position – a grade three French Immersion teacher – as students of this age are still mastering the skills of reading, writing and, well, being a functioning member of a classroom. Independence levels are (understandably) low, emotions are (always) high, and the addition of anything, beyond the already long list of requirements of me as their teacher (ie. teach SK outcomes, communicate with families, administer division assessments, attend assemblies, provide MANY brain breaks…I could go on), that I need to add into that mix feels unmanageable, or at least hard.

I do realize that technology integration, done right, could mean making my life, or at least my job, easier (in the long run anyway) and would enhance the teaching and learning already taking place. I am aware that the use of computers should be for meaningful, purposeful, educational technology use, not just a free period of Math games on Mathletics or free period of reading on RazKids – as lovely as that can be during the last hour of the day. Come on, everyone knows what I am talking about. I do acknowledge and appreciate the benefits of tech integration and I continue to find ways, manageable for me, to do this with my students. Technology is important. Digital literacy is important. Flexibility in learning is important. Engaging and relevant teaching methods are important. In 2024, students need to teachers to help introduce and educate them about the world of tech as it will, if not already does, dominate their life. 

For me, tech integration in my classroom has always come down to time. Do I have time to research, learn, figure out logistics, and prep content for online learning, or not? Do we have time to review the basics of logging on, adding photos, signing into a program, and the list continues. If not, I will be cancelling the my laptop cart booking and rushing down to the photocopy room. If I have the time, and really, the energy and the patience, I do feel excited try out something new with my class involving an aspect of tech. The technology is available, the digital learning tools are endless, the students are already engaged by technology – it seems like an easy decision. Educators know it’s more complicated than that. In an ideal world, I would LOVE to facilitate a blended classroom. Perhaps this course will help me see that as a reality.

Teachers should be learners too and finding the space in my profession to explore the world of tech and blending learning is always fun, just not always manageable. It’s easy to resort to my traditional instructional methods, but am I doing students a disservice by shying away from tech? Yes. I am. Balancing work and life, a tale as old as time one might say – especially for educators – rings true for me as I often prioritize this balance to spending extra hours investigating exciting new blended learning options. Can you blame me?

One program that I DO use frequently is Seesaw. Seesaw is essentially an online portfolio but has many other features and has allowed me to use technology in an authentic and seamless way with my younger kiddos. Extremely easy to navigate, I utilize this program primarily to connect with parents and share student work, but it also lets me dip my toes into the world of blended learning. I am able to create content, whether that be recorded lessons, links to online resources or assessment activities for the class, and Seesaw can be accessed at school or at home.

I often rely on Seesaw to help my students who are absent for periods of time (I am easily able to push work home for them and provide quick instruction notes or feedback) or I will sometimes assign supplementary activities for students to complete as homework, complementary to class instruction. As well, the activity tool, allows me to create activities for students to engage in, whether it be a writing task, Math review questions, recording their reading, etc. It is a primary friendly platform with a lot of potential in the realm of blending learning opportunities. Have you used Seesaw? It’s a nice and, dare I say, EASY way to begin in blended learning and create an online classroom environment. In fact, I, almost solely, relied on Seesaw during my brief stint as an impromptu blended learning teacher from 2020-2021.

My only professional experience with (a form of) blended learning, was during the pandemic. I remember those years with mixed sentiments as I thoroughly enjoyed some aspects of my, very new, role as an online educator, but also faced many unanticipated challenges. A primary challenge was navigating the delivery of recorded content (vs. the in person experience I was used to). It just was not the same teaching to a screen. That being said, if “[t]he main advantage of lecture capture is increased access”, I wonder why I would not continue with recorded lessons to continue offering this increased access. The chapter – Old wine in new bottles: classroom-type online learning– helps me envision a starting place for blended learning. Instead of recreating the wheel, I can first focus on the same content and delivery (wine) but offer it in a new mode (bottle).

I could create an extremely vast pros and cons list re: my time as a blended learning teacher, but for now I will just share a few highlights. I always say to start with the bad news first, so here are some of the challenges I experienced: a lack of engagement from my eight year old audience, frequent technology issues (on both my end and from students and caregivers) which took up ample work time to navigate, feelings of self doubt and constant indecisiveness in this new teaching space, and hours of (extra) work to prepare content for online delivery and/or at home work completion. Now that’s just to name a few – I imagine I could triple or quadruple that list but that’s enough negative for now. Positive opportunities within my time in blending learning include: realizing student potential that otherwise went unnoticed (some students excelled in this new mode!), ability to be a learner myself by engaging in ongoing PD, valuable (and fun) collaboration with colleagues, creating content I was proud of and that I can continue using with my classes, and the natural partnership that immerged with caregivers supporting their learners at home. Again, I could go on.

I would love to hear about your positive and negative experiences with blending learning, especially in the time of COVID, as many educators experienced the same quick and unexpected transition as me. Did you thrive with this change? What aspects of blended learning did you enjoy or detest? Have you been able to maintain any of the tech integration used during blended learning in your current face-to-face environment?

In conclusion, blending learning, hybrid learning, tech integration, or whatever other terms you prefer, remains an ongoing journey in my professional life. I appreciated my confusion with these different terms and types of tech learning being validated in Valerie Irvine’s work The Landscape of Merging Modalities: “[w]hat used to be a simple binary of face-to-face or online has now become so extremely complex that our ability to understand each other is impaired.” I appreciated this article’s ongoing explanation, or rather attempt to clearly explain the various terms, along with the author’s direct acceptance that blended, hybrid, flex, etc. are terms that will remain muddled in the world of tech-integrated education. 

Thanks for reading!



  • Matthew

    Thank you for the thoughtful post Teagan. I think we need to be careful of falling into a mindset of technological determinism. Adding technology does not automatically improve educational outcomes or student engagement, but good pedagogy and instructional practices do.

    That said I have often felt the pressure to “get with the times.” However the more I think about it the more clear it has become that technology does not neccessarily mean moving to more online apps or programs. At one point the chalkboard, radio, and film were considered revolutionary. I think as long as you support your grade 3 classroom and try to meet the diverse needs of your learners you are doing a great job. If this means using an app/LMS/program (becasue it has a tangible benefit, or streamlines your workflow) then so be it.

    • Teagan Schiltz

      Appreciate the reply, Matthew! I haven’t heard the term “technological determinism” before. That resonates with my feeling for sure! I feel that same pressure to stay up to date with society but I totally agree with ensuring it is improving my practice. So much to consider. But you are SO right – supporting students is the number one goal at the end of the day…in whichever medium best serves that purpose. Thanks!

  • Meagan

    Hey Teagan – to say your post resonated is an understatement. Feeling like tech integration is an obligation sums it up super well. I am a Connected Ed – so I have done full blended learning since 2019 – and I still feel this way! There is such an initial learning curve and a huge time commitment to figure out what works for you and your class. I would imagine that working with grade 3s in a blended environment would have different challenges than working with my 7s and 8s, although I had a connected classroom with my grade 4s and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they adapted and they skills they picked up.

    To answer your question, I’ll copy and paste straight from my blog post this week:

    Successes with Blended Learning:

    – Using CoSpaces to code a chapter of our novel study brought successes for my EAL students, who were able to communicate understanding through character design and story progression (this was especially cool, because we got the VR headsets and students were able to explore each other’s chapters!)
    – Using Canva to record presentations for students who have anxiety for presentations and public speaking. They are able to build speaking skills, communicate their learning, and build their confidence without needing to present in front of a group right away
    – Participating in Virtual Heritage Fair, where students could pick points of interest, build research skills, design their own projects based on their skills and many even won prizes for their work!

    One thing I have learned along the way and that has been a helpful reminder when I feel overwhelmed with tech in the classroom, it’s that I do not need to be an expert. When I say ‘this is new to me, let’s learn together,’ students rise to the occasion. They troubleshoot with me, we learn new skills together, and there are always a few students who figure out the program quickly and become our tech leads.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post – I really enjoyed reading!

    • Teagan Schiltz

      Wow thanks for reassuring response Meagan! I feel like your words have helped me to feel more optimistic towards tech, especially in reading about your successes. I love the success example with your EAL learners using CoSpaces – how cool! Hearing you say that you are still feeling that way after many years of Connected Ed does worry me a tad. Although I LOVE your advice on admitting to the kids that I am learning too. I think of my eager grade threes and how much they love helping. If I was just honest about figuring out a new program with them, I have no doubt that they would be beyond thrilled to try and assist myself and others as they became experienced with said program. Thanks for the reply!!

  • Arkin

    Hello Teagan!

    I think many educators share some of your concerns with bringing digital tools to the classroom. For example, you bring up the issue of teachers finding time to learn and use these tools effectively. I can relate to this as a past grade 7/8 teacher and a current administrator. As a teacher, I found so many digital tools to use to engage students that it was overwhelming, and I mistakenly tried to implement too many. As the years went on, I learned to add 1 or 2 a year and focus on using them effectively so that my students and I became proficient in them. As an administrator, I recognize the importance of implementing digital tools in the classroom, and I want to encourage my teachers to incorporate digital tools such as Seesaw, but I also have to be conscious of their time and level of computer knowledge. Like anything, blended learning has challenges, but it can be very effective when finding a practical approach.

    • Teagan Schiltz

      Thanks for the response, Arkin. I have definitely made the same mistake in trying to implement too much tech or too many different programs. Overwhelming for sure. I have to think, if I (the adult in the room) am feeling overwhelmed, that the students might be feeling similarly. Too much new can be challenging for them as well. It’s such a fine balance…one that I am sure I will be continuing to work on for many years to come!

  • Lauren Bradshaw

    Thank you for the great post! As a new-ish (adult) educator, it’s helpful to hear about the challenges and rewards of blended learning. I don’t have much to add in terms of experience, as the safety courses at the UofR were predominately online anyway prior to COVID. However, I can speak as a parent of four kids during COVID….I am a huge fan of SeeSaw! It was (and still is) such a great way to stay connected with classroom activities, and from our perspective, it was fairly easy to navigate. (That being said, my kids were old enough to be fairly comfortable with technology already). I can definitely appreciate that there would be challenges on the teacher’s side, and some issues with access to technology at home. You must have had your hands full – congratulations on making it through!

    • Teagan Schiltz

      Thanks for the reply, Lauren. Wow. Online schooling for four kids, during COVID, sounds like quite the experience! Congratulations to you for making it through as well!!

      I agree that Seesaw is a great way for families to stay connected to the classroom. I still use it often to help engage with and share work with families, daily!

  • Jasvinder Kaur

    Hey Teagan,
    I wanted to express my gratitude for your incredibly informative post. Your blog has been such a valuable resource, and I have learnt a lot from both your content and the comments section. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in India, I relied solely on Google Classroom and Teams for my educational classrooms. But now, having this blending course and explored various other platforms, I’m feeling even more enthusiastic about utilizing them. Thanks again!

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