Recollections of Online Teaching
(Week 2: Post 2)
Integrating Tools for Online and Blended Learning
Jacquie, Mike, Fahmida, and Josie presented Distanced Learning Tools and Online Learning, and discussed tools such as Microsoft 365, Scholantis, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, and mentioned a few other LMS that they had researched more about the tools I used for online learning in my Grade 6/7 classroom. They also talked quite extensively about anti-oppressive education, epistemology, and ontology, and provided a few readings to support this: Ontological and Epistemological Foundations of Qualitative Research, A guide to ontology, epistemology, and philosophical perspectives for interdisciplinary researchers, and Anti-oppressive pedagogies in online learning: a critical review.
Although I feel pretty comfortable with using Google Workspace for Education, I was limited to some of the things that I could do because many of my students shared one piece of technology amongst the whole family, some struggled to find internet access, and some struggled with the basics of technology, even though we had practiced it for months, even though I had prepared how-to step-by-step documents with both pictures and words.
However, we did the best that we could, and we tried to incorporate as many engaging things as possible. Besides using Google Classroom, some of the tools we used were:
- Google: Docs, Slides, Chat, Hangout, Classroom, etc.
- Microsoft: Word, PowerPoint,
- PDF Editor
- Typing Club
For the purpose of keeping this blog post relatively short(er) than usual, or try to at least, in no specific order, I will go over a few of them that I find to be the most relevant or useful in my teaching practice, and why I think so.
- Typing Club: for those that are unfamiliar, Typing Club is an online program that teaches a person how to type by practice, games, and even tests. Teachers can watch the progress of each student, and see where they are at, assign tests or assignments and overall check-in on their progress. I had never used it before this year, and I know in my experience I loved All the Right Type (even though I know a lot of people didn’t) and do think that in today’s world typing is an important skill to have. To my surprise, most of my students loved the program and were so driven to increase their accuracy and overall speed.
- Remind: this was a useful tool to connect with students and parents/guardians without having to go through email, and to actually get a hold of them when I needed to. It was also a great tool to send reminders when we were meeting, and what students needed to complete, etc. I did use this in my classroom before going online, and many of the students really enjoyed it. Although we are moving to EDSBY in the fall, this technology will probably replace the need to use Remind.
- Flipgrid: the students loved using Flipgrid to make videos, responses and to engage with the classroom in a different way. They loved when the teachers would make a video asking the questions and make a response to those questions. Students felt empowered and able to share their voice in a different way. I like how there are different options of length of time, and whether or not responses are shared, etc. Although it seems like a simple tool, it was amazing to see how the kiddos used it in their learning and how they demonstrated their understandings.
- Padlet: like Jambaord, padlet was a good tool to use for students to share answers and to brainstorm. To me, this is a technological version of the old brainstorm using the whiteboard, however, students can share and contribute more fully than one person writing answers on the board.
- Google Workspace for Education: from using Google as an LMS (Google Classroom), meeting with my students (Meet-Up), creating collaborative documents (Slides/Docs), brainstorming (Jamboard), and communication (Chat, Hangout, Gmail), I used Google a ton. It was definitely my go-to, and most of the students were comfortable using these applications.
- Microsoft 365: similarly to Google Workspace for Education, I used Microsoft a ton to create documents on Word and PowerPoint, as well as videos, presentations, etc. Although most students did not have access to Microsoft on their computers, I used it a lot and turned the documents into PDFs so that they were able to open and read them at home.
Impacts of Educational & Teaching Tools on Learning Experiences
While scrolling through Twitter for my last class, I came across this tweet and realized that it was something I was always thinking about but never wanted to put into words out of a fear of being inadequate or not trying to expand my horizons, or whatever it the case may be. I think that at the forefront of using educational technology and teaching tools, we need to ask ourselves what is the purpose of it? Who is benefiting from it? What do I want the outcome of this to be? Because if we just start to implement a bunch of different tools to check off the boxes and to make some sort of a façade, then who are we really failing? Not only ourselves, but more importantly, the kiddos we teach every day. Therefore, focusing on the outcomes we want students to potentially have is important.
I do think that the tools we use impact both teacher’s and students learning alike. Although, I do think that the students directly feed off of a teacher’s attitude towards something, as well as how they introduce the tools and support them with their kiddos. For example, if a teacher introduced Jamboard and just tells the students to go to the website and do the question, there of course will be some that can do that and figure it out right away. But there will also be some that play around and never figure it out or some that do not even attempt it. But if a teacher models how to use the tool with the whole group, checks in individually, posts some of their own ideas, and is overall excited or seemingly passionate about what they are teaching, then students’ buy in will be greater, and the learning experiences will be richer. Too often we assume that just because young people are seemingly using technology all of the time, doesn’t mean that they have ever been taught how to properly use it either.
My Experience of Online Learning
To be honest, unlike many of my colleagues, I was excited to embark on a new journey of online learning for several different reasons. The very fact that I was limiting my exposure to that many different people, took a lot of stress off of my shoulders. Because I had a case in my classroom in November, I felt as if I had a little bit of a head start with knowing how to structure my class, knew what was a success or a total failure, and was able to do a little bit more preplanning and preparation with the students. I was also able to set students up with Chromebooks to take home to help get students one step closer to engagement and participation (whatever that may have looked like for them).
Although there were a ton of educational technology and teaching tools that I wanted to incorporate into my teaching, I knew that my students would be overwhelmed with all of the different things. Therefore, I stuck to some of the basics that I discussed earlier in this blog post so that students could feel comfortable. Once students were comfortable, I would add something else to the mix for them to try. To be honest, the school I am presently at is a fringe school, between being middle class and community. Therefore, at times I have to say I was less focused on how many tools the students were using and were just happy to see their faces appear and to hear how they were doing. Even though I feel adequate with my ed-tech skills, and definitely could have incorporated way more than I did, I know that the kiddos that had one foot through the gap may have slipped and fallen through completely.
This brings me to some of makes me recall some of the advantages and disadvantages of online learning that the second group discussed, and was supported by their readings: Pedagogical Considerations of E-Learning in Education for Development in the Face of COVID-19, and in Distance Education in the United States: From Correspondence Course to the Internet. Some advantages that were outline were: accessibility, inclusivity, collaboration, flexibility, and fluidity, as well as taking on more of an active learner role in one’s learning. However, to every advantage, there is always a disadvantage, and some that they outlined were: accessibility, accountability, team building, sense of communities, building relationships, etc. Although I did find myself feeling some of the disadvantages to online learning, primarily the lack of relationship building and the ability to check in on the kiddos, I mainly felt that there were a lot of advantages. Maybe it was mostly because of the global pandemic and putting my personal safety first, or the fact that I knew it was short-term that made me feel like the other advantages outweighed the disadvantages.
To be honest, I enjoyed the online aspect of teaching and would like a more blended approach at times, however, I really did miss the social interactions, the sense of community and belonging, as well as my ability to check in on my students and colleagues to see how everyone was doing. I also appreciated how our admin team was very relaxed about how we taught online and trusted our judgment, although I can see how some people would struggle with this freedom and may have wanted more concrete expectations. However, I appreciated it because I was able to incorporate tools that I had been using in my last class and previous tools, and I wasn’t confined to someone else’s limitations.
Optional Feedback and Questions
After commenting on many posts, sometimes I like the idea of having some questions to answer rather than a general comment at times. If you want to write a general comment, by all means, I welcome that! Although if you’d like to answer one question (or as many questions as you want) below, that’s great too! Please do not feel obligated to answer them all.
- What are your go-to educational technology or teaching tools?
- What educational technology or teaching tools have you come across that you want to try, but haven’t yet?
- Name one time you integrated educational technology or teaching tools as it was either a total strike out, or a hit out of the park.
- If you could give some advice to an educator beginning to adopt educational technology tools into their practices, what would it be?