My name is Valeska and I am a French Immersion Teacher for Regina Public Schools. I have worked for Regina Public Schools since I convocated from the U of R where I obtained my Baccalauréat en éducation française. Over the past 10 years, I have taught Grade 1 at École Wilfrid Walker School, Grade 2 at École Centennial School and I will be teaching Grade 2 and 3 at École Wascana Plains School this upcoming fall. I have always looked for ways to integrate technology into my teaching – even back when I was an intern, I made a huge effort to look for different bilingual apps and programs that would not only engage my students in their learning but also support the different topics we were covering in class. Once I started teaching, my passion to bring technology into the classroom only increased and I gained experience with different technology tools such as Smartboards, Mimios, iPads, and various other software/equipment. Throughout my grad studies, I have been fortunate enough to take two other Educational Technology courses (EC&I 830 and EC&I 833) with this current course being my third class relating to technology. Educators need to consider that “technology lets us better serve the diverse learning styles of our students and educate them for a wider range of intelligence” (Turkmen, 2006).
My first experience with online learning in the classroom was when we had to shift to online learning during the pandemic. This was the first time I had to familiarize myself with programs such as Google Classroom and embrace the idea of teaching my kiddos virtually. Having always taught early elementary students, I never really needed to set up a Google Classroom or set up login information for my students. Very quickly, I had to get accustomed to the idea of setting up virtual meetings/virtual lessons on Zoom and started preparing pre-recorded lessons and instructions with digital video editing programs (i.e. Screencast-O-Matic). I also had to quickly adapt and prepare digital worksheets that my students could access on their devices and then submit back to me to review. Additionally, many French Immersion Teachers went looking for online educational applications that students could access from home that provided reading material and promoted language development in French (i.e. Je lis je lis, Boukili, Boom Cards, etc.).
When we shifted to online learning during the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges that I encountered was related to my students’ competency levels in French. One of the key elements in the success of the French Immersion program is that students need to be immersed in the language in order to attain a high level of competency in French. Students need to hear and be exposed to French in different settings throughout the school day and this needs to happen regularly as well as consistently for them to grasp the language. Unfortunately, our virtual meetings did not provide our students with sufficient exposure to the French language for them to improve or even just maintain their level of French throughout those months when we switched to online learning. Another challenge I encountered during those months of online learning was when I prepared pre-recorded lessons and virtual instructions for worksheets. Trying to anticipate questions students might have relating to the work was very tricky and it was nearly impossible to create a pre-recorded video that would answer all my students’ questions. Ensuring students understood the different concepts they were being taught also became a difficult task to achieve because, unlike the classroom, we were not there with them to answer their questions while they were completing their work.
Nonetheless, there were also many opportunities for professional growth and collaboration with colleagues during these times as well. As much work as it was to learn how to maneuver all these different tools and programs, I feel this new knowledge made me a more complete teacher. Online teaching forced me to step out of my comfort zone and research new methods, resources, and strategies to help my students in their learning journeys. I felt like I was pushed to be innovative and try new teaching techniques that I probably would not have tried in the “traditional” classroom setting (i.e. Kahoots, Flip, etc.). Moreover, I loved how online teaching created a sense of community among colleagues when we were all learning together and encouraging one another. There was lots of sharing that took place during these months as well and every time we came across new applications or created a resource, we would share it with one another immediately.
I hope to be able to use the new knowledge I acquire through this course in my teaching with my students to engage them at school and enhance their learning. I believe it is important for us as educators to stay relevant with the various resources that are available to us and that we stay up to date with all the different technology that is continually evolving. I want to be the best possible teacher I can be for my students and staying current with technology will help me attain this goal. Furthermore, I align myself with John Dewey when he stated,
“If we teach today as we taught yesterday we rob our children of tomorrow”.