My day immediately starts and ends with that blue light streaming onto my face as I scroll through Facebook, and sip a cup of coffee in the morning and lay in bed at night. I scroll through Facebook observing the world news, fashion trends, the news of both family and friends, catching the newest beauty hacks and everything in between. In the middle of getting ready in the morning for the day I send and receive snaps as well as viewing various stories on Snapchat. My main mode of communication is through Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and Teams chat daily! Technology surrounds me all day everyday using various applications.
This all sounds very simplistic and a part of everyone’s (well mostly everyone’s) daily lives. I accepted a position in June 2022 working for an online school for the next school year, and this was anything BUT simple. I would consider myself fairly techy…well just kidding!
Last fall of 2022 was anything but easy, rather some words that may be better would be whirlwind, overwhelming, frustrating, chaotic, and simply not knowing what the heck I was doing. Why you may ask? Well technology and various technological platforms was a part of my entire teaching life! Maneuvering through and trying to plan and create lessons on an entirely new program -(Blackboard) to me – was difficult enough, and then slap in what are the best tech programs to use for various grades and subjects?? I had no idea where to even start! How do you engage students in an online classroom? There was a magnitude of questions that were unanswered for me. Technology can be so incredibly overwhelming, but once your toolbelt is full technology is truly amazing (when it works).
Now, currently back to the present day I have eased into the online world and have found various ways to engage students in the class. I have discovered different applications to use for assessment tools, to engage conversations and to add a little fun when we learn in the online classroom.
What Tools Do I Use Daily??
Everyday I use Microsoft Teams to teach synchronously for our live lessons as a class. Microsoft Teams has various capabilities some of these are, but not limited to, whiteboard, breakout rooms (which my grade 9’s despise), chat options, and for me to me able to project my screen when necessary. I enjoy using Teams, but my favorite part of this application is to be able to call students into their meetings if they accidentally laid down and fell asleep (I have heard all the excuses)!
As an online platform to show daily lessons and to layout plans of each individual day for both synchronous and asynchronous students we use Blackboard. Blackboard allows teachers to embed pictures, videos, files, and text to form blocks for individual/daily lessons. Teachers can mark assignments directly on Blackboard, and students can submit their assignments here as well. My favorite part is I cannot lose an assignment (less paper hooray) when they are sent directly to Blackboard.
Lastly, Edsby is used everyday to show progress and understanding of student’s learning throughout the course of the year or semester. Furthermore, Edsby is a fundamental communication tool for teachers, parents and students, as well as a way for parents to keep in touch with their child’s learning and progress.
Two Of My Favorites
I teach science classes and one of the tools that I think gets the class out of the normal day to day of online learnings is Gizmos. Online teaching does not allow for individual labs as we would have to mail all the materials to each individual student all over our division, therefore Gizmos allow us to have a bit more of a true science experience. Engagement occurs more readily with the use of Gizmos and concepts are driven home with the use of this tool!
Secondly, Padlets allow students to share their material in a more simplistic fashion as opposed to the traditional PowerPoints. I utilize Padlet to get students to introduce themselves, share their thoughts and for assessments. The downside is you can only start a certain number of Padlets before you have to pay.
This year has been a learning journey in which I embrace and learn knowledge daily about various tech introduced into the classroom to not only utilize, but to engage young minds in this new learning journey we are all taking together.
Finally, the missing piece of the puzzle for students is the absence of their friends and being able to socialize face to face with other students. How would you, as fellow educators try to separate this divide amongst their peers?