Author Archives: Matthew Fehr

Technologically challenged – A day in the teaching life of someone who burns microwave popcorn.

The transformative power of technology has touched all aspects of teaching, learning, and curriculum. Social media allows teachers to communicate with students in ways that would have seemed like science fiction 20 years ago.

I wouldn’t know. I have been hiding with my head under a metaphorical and literal blanket for the last 15 years.

That is of course an exaggeration, but within the lie there is a grain of truth. My day starts the same way it always has, fumbling to stop the screeching alarm emanating from an old Sony alarm clock my grandmother got me when I was 14 years old (hey, it still works so why get a new one?). This sets in motion a routine that has remained relatively stable for as long as I remember: get up (curse my sore joints), exercise (curse my sore joints), and get to school (curse my sore joints).

And so begins my technologically rich teaching day with checking emails: the advanced features of Microsoft Outlook still elude me, but I managed to set up a digital signature a few months back so I am feeling pretty good about myself. Small victories such as these sustain me through the dark times. This is promptly followed by my first interactions with EDSBY, a “cloud-based software application that combines social networking with class and student management features” (according to Wikipedia). It is not quite the arch nemesis of my teaching day, instead it is more like a mid level boss. It’s design apes Facebook circa 2010 with the an incredible feature set that includes hiding useful functions like printing a class list behind 6 submenus and adding students to attendance rosters a full 24 hours after they first arrive in my room. It could be worse, at least I don’t have to send students messages via carrier pigeon.

As students arrive in the room I attempt to engage them in conversation. For most part they stare blankly into their smartphones, their faces illuminated by an eerie blue glow. I have made some headway recently and most respond with rudimentary grunts. My next interaction with technology is with my tablet computer. This is where I start to drag myself out of the early 20th century and firmly into the late 20th century. I have converted most of my notes to Microsoft Word documents which I project onto the whiteboard and edit using a stylus. The students love it because I draw too many cartoons when I should be teaching them how to solve quadratic equations, but the freedom it affords has been game changing allowing me to share notes with absent students and post them to a google classroom. My Google classroom is a repository of COVID era video lessons, notes, and YouTube links that served as my last bastion of teaching during the Pandemic. It is now relegated to helping students get caught up when they miss classes.

Speaking of YouTube it plays an integral role in explaining how mathematics gets used in the real world. Like all good teachers when I panic and can’t explain something myself I turn to smarter people who have done a better job of it.

My electronic interactions with students, parents and teachers is still mostly through the old fashioned medium of email. I don’t tweet, snap or use Instagram. Until I started this course I thought Discord was something that was sown amongst enemies in Arthurian legends. The instant messaging functions available through EDSBY have become increasingly popular amongst my students. They now have new electronic ways of asking me the same question that I answered 4 times during class. It’s neat.