Google Classroom has been my go-to. From March 2020 to June 2020, we were told by our admin team to have a google classroom set up and ready for the students to access. We were going to be teaching from home and unsure of how long this was going to last. Since it was supplementary learning, provincially mandated, I'm not certain many kids (or teachers) took it seriously. Maybe they were happy that they didn't have to worry about walking to school in slush, have winter clothes for the morning and summer clothes for the afternoon, or maybe they just felt indifferent. Without formal training on Google Classroom, we were learning on the fly, adjusting to our new normal and dealing with the looming pandemic. The 2020/21 school year brought different challenges. We wondered if this was what we were expected to do for the rest of our careers, how effective this was. We adjusted the semester system to quints, had half a class every other day and were clinging to hope, looking for a reprieve.
This was a perfect time to review my teaching, assessment and evaluate some of the content I used and updated for blended and online learning. I was able to prioritize and rearrange the important and less important things, knowing I had much less time to cover the essentials.
Over the past few semesters, I took ECI834 from Alec and now 833 from Katia. These courses allowed me to be a better teacher, carrying on into the fall. I can actively seek feedback and understand what's working, what isn't and what needs a little tweak. This is for the students, and I need to keep that at the forefront. I need to ensure the kids are engaged, motivated and understanding the key concepts.
I hope I'm not the only one, but I found it difficult to keep the kids motivated to learn, especially with the number of options that some have at their disposal.
We need to be better at finding things that hook them and hold their attention, more than just the catchy Kahoot! jingle.
Ideally, we will be back at school in September with regular face to face learning, but with a greater sense of urgency and emphasis on making ourselves better teachers, with new tools in the toolbox.
In my PE world at Balfour, I can see how it impacts students who aren't athletically gifted (or inclined for that matter). I have the ability to adapt and empathize with EAL learners, students with hearing or vision impairments that may prevent full participation in my classes.
Thinking back to my teaching practices over the past few years, and then further back - I'm not sure how much it's changed, maybe just refined. In our PE world at Balfour, not much has changed in the last 10 years. The people teaching in the department has stayed essentially the same, with a few interns dropping through, but out side of that, it's been pretty stagnant. I think maybe we are in the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mindset. We have been, I don't want to say lazy, but we've been inattentive to these things since what we're doing has been working for us. I think we really could be examining the things we do on a more regular basis, but I think that over the last year and a half, things have been altered for the better. We have covered more theory in our practical classes than anyone would have imagined, but I think that bodes well for some students who prefer the theory portion to the actual engagement in practical application.
How does this relate to what's happening around the division? That's an excellent question. We had a PLC about 3 years ago with all of the high school PE teachers in RPS. I wanted to talk about consistency in fitness tests, same exercises, same units of measurement, but the more I talked, the more I felt like it was a road leading to nowhere. The PD day was in May, folks were thinking about summer, transfers, maybe anything but the topic at hand. It had the potential to be a progressive discussion, but it went nowhere and we haven't had the opportunity to get together like that again.
Web/Ed 1.0 to Web/Ed 3.0
A one room school might be likened to Web/Ed 1.0 where all of the things you need were in a single room, not flashy, just the bare necessities. Web/Ed 2.0 would be pre-pandemic school years where we could mingle in class, use computers or other resources available and Web/ED 3.0 is post-pandemic awesomeness. All kinds of flexibility and ways to teach and learn, addressing all of your needs, wants and desires. Many have access to hardware and software, making Web/Ed 3.0 a reality for some, yet the marginalized folks will be forced into dealing with Web/Ed 2.0 or maybe even relegated to Web/Ed 1.0 where only the barest tools exist, sometimes making it difficult to engage in the class and with the material. I don't see our society able to move on to Web/Ed 3.0 successfully until we can accommodate all of our learners and balance the playing field. I don't know what that would look like, especially since our hands are tied with budget constraints, policy restrictions and the inability to reach/influence all of the families who don't support such a move. Technology is certainly paving the way to success in our society, however, that smooth, paved road isn't exactly accessible for everyone. They have potholes, construction, gravel roads to contend with, and maybe, no road connection at all.
As I think about the luxuries and privilege that I enjoy, I think about the ones that don't have it, don't have the access, don't have the answers to the questions.. I think about my kids all being on a device to tune in to their teacher's online class an, when our internet speed wasn't enough to support their learning, my teaching, and my wife's work, all it took was a phone call to bump it up. I realize that I am basking in this luxury because of the SES I was born into, but many are not as fortunate and that weighs heavily on me. I feel as though we, as educators need to do everything we can in our buildings to reach and maintain relationships with the ones struggling and ensure we are making the right moves to ensure balance.
Any idea what Web/Ed 4.0 will be?
This was it, Google Classroom was the thing I relied on from March to June of 2020. In September, we were asked to ensure each of our classes had a Classroom set up, the kids were all added/invited and the Classroom codes on PowerSchool/Gradebook. This was the option - I suppose if it was the only option, could you define it as such? I digress. Google Classroom, as an educational LMS was really easy to use and navigate. Most students had a good handle on how to use the program, and even showed me a few things. The best part about the program though, was the ability it gave me to organize and keep the Day 1/Day 2s straight and kept me on schedule, ensuring I was in balance between the two groups, marking things in a timely manner, and communicating with the students at any point, even when it was their off day. As a suite, Google does a nice job tying their products together. I could use Google Meets to conference with the students, access all of my documents by uploading from Google Drive, Etc. I don't - or didn't - consider myself to dedicate myself to one brand, but I really feel like Google has done such a great job with all of their apps, that I don't see a reason to change. I understand that these things are free to use, but their income comes the information they harvest and use/sell for advertising. The trade off of the convenience for privacy invasion was something that was in the back of my mind, but I was willing to move forward - it was put out there by our administration to use this program, so I did. I wonder if there will be a fallout at some point down the road?
After watching the video on single tasking and contemplating some of his musings, I have a few thoughts. First, guilty - I was checking something on my phone when the video was playing. Next - to answer the question - Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions? Well, depends. I know - super definitive answer. But really, it depends. It depends on what you're doing, how often you're doing it and how addictive your personality is. I really believe that technology is an addiction that needs attention. If you're unable to control the habit and it's beginning to interfere with other aspects of your life, then it become an endless series of distractions that fill your day, tire your eyes and prevent you from being productive. Technologically speaking, most things that have changed in our lives, have changed for the better. Computers are faster, TVs are clearer, Phones are more capable, but there needs to be a peak. Once you pass the peak, you're on a slippery slope on the way down.
To what extent have they made us more productive? As technology evolves, so do people. I don't know if I would blame technology for the laziness of office workers who sit on Facebook all day. Before Facebook, those people who aren't intrinsically motivated would have found something else, besides work, to fill their work day with. If we are discussing the intricacies of productivity, I would say yes, the productivity tools like Microsoft Office have certainly made us more productive. Making a spreadsheet or building a chart is much easier than it used to be. Pulling out a ruler or finding something else to make charts used to be time-consuming, frustrating and often ended up with a less than desirable product.
I can appreciate that these companies are in it for the money. Of course they are. They are making their apps and interfaces as user friendly as possible, not so that it's easier on us, but they are doing it so that we pick them. They bundle things so that they can have a stranglehold on a market. The consumer needs to be aware of the available options and know the risks of using some of these products. Tall order, but necessary.
Educational technology, to me, is something that was originally intended to supplement the way teachers teach and increase productivity while easing stress on both students and teachers alike. What I'm seeing now, is that educational technology isn't just an add on to our daily lives, but is changing how we teach, how we learn and how we perceive education as a whole. When Postman speaks of how technology has winners and losers, I can see this play out in our own classrooms. After teaching through a pandemic, in person, online, and in a hybrid model, the gap between the haves and have nots has been magnified. The online portion of school was easy for some because they didn't have to stagger times to share devices with siblings, nor did they have to worry about wifi speed etc., but the ones who struggled, really struggled. From ones who were not intrinsically motivated to work to others who didn't have access to devices, wifi or lacked the technological wherewithal, the gap was (is) large.
I do see the value of edtech in our world, in fact, I don't know how we would have dealt with this pandemic if we didn't have access to some of these things, but I also believe that it amplifies the privilege of some while slowing the progress of others.
If I think back to my early years of teaching, I wouldn't have though about the development of edtech, but I didn't have to. If you weren't teaching keyboarding or computer science, you didn't really need to be in a computer lab. Now, access to computer labs, laptops and laptops carts are at a premium because more teachers and students see the value in working with technology, if only our school board felt the same and kept the supply up with the demand.