Reflecting on my experience it is quite evident that technology is heavily engrained in my work life as well as my student life. I use technology daily at work and now that a good chunk of my graduate courses is delivered online, I also rely on technology immensely to complete my assignments for my graduate courses. From the moment I arrive at school, I rely on technology to accomplish all the administrative tasks linked to my work, to help me engage my students, and to help me stay connected with staff and families. I walk into my classroom and from the moment I sit down at my desk and start to prepare for my day by checking e-mails and sending documents to the school printers, I am pretty much dependent on technology ? . My classroom projector is used non-stop throughout the day and I try to incorporate a variety of tools and applications in my teaching to engage my students and enhance their learning. I want to stress that the technology I do choose to incorporate in my teaching always has a purpose and there is meaning as to why I choose specific tools and applications over others; the purpose is key when we are using educational technology in the classroom. The same goes the minute I get ready to log on to my online courses; I turn on my computer, make sure my internet is working, and log on to UR courses to either join our Zoom meetings or check what assignments are due.
Referring to our student-led presentation this evening and the suggested readings for the week, I started to reflect on tools I consider to be most useful and relevant when it comes to online and blended learning. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is an abundance of tools being advertised for online and blended learning. It appears there is always a new tool being released or an update available for previous tools to make them more relevant. When debating which virtual learning tools are more efficient and relevant, there are four main online platforms educators should consider: 1) communication tools; 2) learning management systems; 3) digital learning games; and 4) online learning resources (https://www.prodigygame.com/main-en/blog/virtual-learning-tools/).
The first thing that pops into my mind when we talk about online and blended learning is connecting with our students even though we are not able to be together in person. Naturally, my mind wanders to two very well-known distance learning tools such as “Zoom” and “Google Meet” which allow educators to hold virtual meetings with their students and connect with them when they are not able to meet in person. Without the possibility of holding virtual meetings with students, online and blended learning is incapable of taking place. Communication tools are one of the four main components of online learning platforms we need to consider to ensure that online and blended learning can be successfully executed. “Google Classroom” is another tool that comes to mind when I think about online or blended learning. I love that it allows educators to set up lessons, activities, assignments, links to virtual meetings, and pretty much anything on one single platform that all students can access. I also find it helpful that it allows all students to access the same information and that they can refer to previous lessons/information if needed. “Google Classroom” is an excellent learning management system in my opinion. Additionally, “Kahoot”, “Flip” and “Quizlet” are other tools that I consider useful and relevant when I am thinking of engaging students in an online setting. Digital learning games are key to grabbing our students’ attention and encouraging them to participate in an online setting when we are unable to motivate them in person. Lastly, online learning resources are excellent tools most teachers use to enhance their students’ learning in the classroom, and it is most certainly a must for an online learning or blended learning community. When we are not able to be there in person for our students, we want to ensure that we are providing enough material and resources to support their learning and online learning resources allow teachers to do that when we are not in a face-to-face setting. As a French Immersion teacher, I provide my families with tons of online learning resources so that they feel equipped to support their children at home when I am not there. This is incrediblyhelpful to my families who do not speak French themselves, but still want to actively help and support their child’s learning at home. Currently, I have accounts set up for “Je lis je lis”, “Lalilo”, and “Boukili” for all my kiddos and most of my families use these online learning resources at home with their children at home as a means to support their child’s learning in French. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that “not all remote teaching tools are the same and that is a good thing [because] each one has its own unique quality to enhance learning” (https://www.prodigygame.com/main-en/blog/virtual-learning-tools/).
Back in 2020 when the pandemic hit, educators were asked to pivot to an online learning platform, and we were asked to do this with little direction or guidance. This caused for lots of trial and error among teachers and I know I tried out endless amounts of virtual learning tools because I was trying to find what worked best for my students and what helped them the most. Luckily, I have an amazing staff and we were all relentlessly sharing resources and planning together to ensure our students could continue to learn without us present. During the pandemic, I created so many virtual lessons and prepared numerous learning packages for my students. I became very well acquainted with different online learning tools that I still use currently with my students. My Google Classroom was jampacked with many goodies and endless online learning resources. In my opinion, for French Immersion to be successful students need to be immersed in the language. This was incredibly difficult and nearly impossible to achieve through an online learning platform. We had two virtual meetings scheduled daily with our students and I feel that is not nearly enough time for them to be exposed to French for them to make progress or be successful at learning the language. It was also difficult to help our students with any difficulties they could encounter while completing their work at home. Additionally, my students did not have the greatest attention spans as most 7-year-old children ? and it was hard at times to engage them in an activity as well as ensure they were following along while completing their work accurately– especially when we are not face-to-face. If I am being honest, I do not feel an online learning platform would be successful for teaching Grade 2’s in a French Immersion setting. However, I have seen colleagues tutor students online in French and that can be done efficiently.
I believe that online and blended learning has a place and can be extremely successful when implemented correctly. I was incredibly thankful when we were able to resort to online learning back when the pandemic took place. Was it ideal? It was definitely not. However, it was better than the alternative of not allowing our students to receive any type of education while schools were closed. Whenever we are learning to maneuver a new platform, an endless amount of time goes into learning this platform and preparing resources. If we are not granting our teachers supplementary time to prepare their online learning platforms, then we risk them burning out with the additional work that goes into preparing them (and we can all agree that extra/free time is not a luxury teachers have in our profession). I will say that I have seen online and blended learning to be successful with self-motivated students who already have a good base when it comes to their learning. I have enjoyed my graduate online courses and appreciate the flexibility they provide. I know many high school students who also enjoyed online learning and did quite well during the pandemic. Unfortunately, in my opinion, younger students (learning an additional language) did not benefit from an online learning platform as much as their older counterparts. Moreover, I believe it is harder for us to support and genuinely connect with our students through virtual learning. Communication and establishing relationships are integral parts of the teaching profession and it is very hard to achieve these two components when we are trying to teach our students through a computer screen. Again, I will say that online and blended learning can have a place in education if we can identify how to implement this way of teaching correctly by finding a way to give it purpose and meaning. However, a computer screen can not top what we can accomplish as educators when we are teaching our students face-to-face.
Great post! It reminded me of the struggles of having to navigate online learning as a teacher, but also for my kids. Luckily, my son had an awesome teacher in Grade 2 who managed to make online learning meaningful for him! Especially with math!
French Immersion took a hit with online learning, and I think that’s why numbers are so low this year. It seems that many parents panicked over their kids’ abilities and pulled or switched them over to English. I know there’s this thought of the kids being “behind”, but I always say, “behind compared to what or who?”. Kids may not be where they “should” be at this time, but all kids are in the same boat, so I wonder if it’s more about us managing our expectations on kids?
Like you said, it’s amazing over the past couple of years how many tools that have always been there, have simply become a part of our repertoire for teaching. The whole idea of pivoting and doing what we did speaks volumes to the resiliency and resolve of teachers.
Great post Valeska
in today’s world use of technology is significant and after covid 19 the value of online learning is increasing. online learning helps teachers to use various technological gadgets. moreover, it helps the students to become tech-savvy. I totally agree with you through virtual learning, it is more difficult for us to assist and actually engage with our students. It isn’t easy to develop communication and build relationships when trying to teach our students through a computer screen. I think that teachers have to learn how to use technology and build relationships with students through online learning