The whole online learning world came crashing down on me as I came back from my first maternity leave. I was so excited to be back in the classroom and have some of my regular routine back. I remember feeling like I had been gone for years after my first week back. In just one year, our school had become way more tech savy and was doing a lot more online. I never felt I was out of the tech world until this moment. I was unfamiliar with all google had to offer with google docs, google classroom and google slides. We now had a school dashboard that we could access a bunch of files that no longer were found in the “Digital Admin Binder” on the Data drive. So much had changed in just one year. So last year I navigated through it all and learned all these amazing new tricks. Thankfully we had some staff that were great teachers and were willing to answer my millions of questions. I still feel I have a lot to learn but I am able to function without being completely lost. Before I was back at work for a year, Covid-19 comes crashing down on us and forces us to leave the classroom and shift to full time online learning. PANIC sets in again. I have no clue what I am going to do.
Not only has the jump to learning more about online tools been a challenging but rewarding process, but the school I work in is affected by a digital divide. Our students have limited internet access due to their financial state. If they do have internet at home they only have phones, tablets if they are lucky and gaming devices to access their online learning. The level of students engagement in the spring was minimal and therefore it made things even more challenging. On top of that, as an SST, I found I was really struggling with continuing on with the areas I had been focusing on with my students. This was especially challenging because I was lucky to even have one student that had a computer that they could use to complete assignments. The work I was putting in would rarely get any results and I was becoming frustrated. I can only imagine how my students were feeling. After a few weeks, my focus shifted and I changed my approach. I made sure to connect with my students and find other ways to try and engage with them. Up until June, I was only able to reach out to about six of the many students I worked with. It was a really hard few months for me as so much of my job is working with students that rely so much on a strong connection to their teacher. It was a terrible way to end the school year.
Fast forward to this year. I cannot wait to see my students again and get to work with them facemask to facemask. As amazing as this was, it was also hard because they learned very quickly that I was coming back to school eight months pregnant and once again I would be leaving. So here I am again, entering another maternity leave knowing full well that the online world is going to change drastically by the time I come back next fall. The only difference is this time I will get to learn more about the online world through Alec and this course and the EC&I 834 course I am taking next semester. I can expand my knowledge and try and find new ways to enhance my online game. The thing is, as a student support teacher, I find am using less technology than I ever have before. We talk so much about how we would use these tools in our classroom but yet what I do in my classroom seems so different with the small groups and the areas we focus on.
My goal is to find a way to make these amazing tools work in my classroom setting. I know the students would love it, they would be engaged in their learning and it will also give them experience with so many other online tools so that hopefully as they continue on their education journey, they will not fall behind their peers that have had access to technology at home and not just at school.
I found it really interesting how Curtis mentioned in the zoom chat during the presentation that “remote learning and online learning need to be seperate.” I found this challenged my thinking of what each of those mean. As I previously mentioned, the current pandemic has forced us as teachers, parents and students to learn very quickly about the online learning world. Some people have had a lot more experience than others and it has caused everyone to go through a phase of transition. I still find I am learning so much and these classes have helped me so much. I cannot imagine what teachers near the end of their careers are going through. Well, that’s not true, I can imagine, as I hear them complaining in the staff room:). There are so many unknowns at this point and therefore we have to be prepared to go to online/remote learning again at the drop of a hat. Even a year from now when I return to work, I may be going back to a very different teaching world…again.
So to finish off my ramblings, I am going to focus on some of the tools I would like to incorporate into my teaching tool belt. Flipgrid seems so easy to use and a fun way to get students to engage. I feel with some learning it would be a great way to get them to interact with one another and the best part is they can make their videos using multiple devices. Sharing answers post reading or even to a math problem might be a simple place to start. I also found nearpod to be a simple tool to use and I would love to share it with my colleagues that I work with for their class projects. Along with wakelet, it could be a great way for students to present their ideas and what they have learned during Genius Hour! In the spring, I was introduced to Flippity and Daina shared some great examples of it last week during our presentation. I would like to experiment with it a bit more and find ways to include it in some LLI lessons. I know the students would enjoy it and hopefully it would engage them a bit more. Plus if things going online then I have the resources ready to go. During tonight’s presentation Edpuzzle was mentioned. This is something I am very unfamiliar with but it sounded really interesting so I would love to look into it more and find a way to make it work with my students or to pass it along to the teachers in our building. I know there will be more that I will want to try but for now this will be a great place to start.
The possibilities are endless and to be honest I am a little sad I cannot go and try some of these tools tomorrow with my students. I know I will have more ideas tho by the time the opportunity comes!