Category Archives: online learning

Off the Screen, Back Into the World

Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

My pronouns are she/her and I am honoured to live on Treaty 6 land. In the last 13 years, I have taught every grade from 1-12, and for the past 2.5 years, I have been the K-7 Online Learning Support Teacher (OLST) for the Light of Christ School Division. I am freshly returned to teaching middle years for 2022-23, while I continue to help educators with edtech curriculum and content creation. My family consists of my husband, Mark, two children, a polar bear (Great Pyrenees) named Tank, and – sadly – our recently departed mountain lion (cat) named AJ. My interests include creative writing, reading (largely fiction and personal growth), learning, hiking, travelling, my family, mental health, and environmental/social justice.

“Back In My Day…” 

film, movie, cinema

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pixabay

 

The powers-that-be (AKA: my students) have dubbed me a geriatric millennial, but I think I prefer xennial-on-the-cusp. The dubious title holds a wealth of experience with early educational technology. Strobing lights and flickering sounds of a classroom projector, alongside dying of dysentery a million times on the Oregon Trail, are some of my earliest educational memories. My elementary school was progressive enough to have a computer room simply to practice our wpm, but when I went to high school, typewriters remained the norm until Grade 10. Pshhkkrr-king-tshchchchch-ding-ding-ding, dial-up is a sound time does not forget; a necessary evil I endured while researching senior-level science projects and English essays. Registering for University classes blindly on the Registrar phone line….what could possibly go wrong? Technology and us…me? We’ve come a long way since those early Oregon Trail, Windows 95 days.

After the After(math)

Edtech and Me

 

In my first Graduate class, I wrote my first blog post, outlining the before and after(math) of educational technology during the pandemic years. Before the pandemic, my classroom heavily relied on technology to create student projects, but -in hindsight- I wonder if I unknowingly used tech for its own sake (mostly to seem current).

After spending 2.5 years as an Online Learning Support Teacher (OLST), isolated between four small walls and my face between four small points on a screen, something in my educational pedagogy shifted….a redefinition I still struggle to word. In my online time, navigating the digital divide was a daily struggle. Zoom, Edsby, TikTok, Flip, Peardeck, Kahoot, Blooket, Miro, etc. etc. etc.? What I finally understand is that all the programs, apps, platforms, and tech tricks can’t help without equitable access and human connection.

Returning to the classroom now, tech is interwoven seamlessly throughout my teaching day. From my classroom 3D printer to Zooms with Indigenous Saskatchewan artists, edtech provides amazing opportunities for my students (and me) to connect to learning on a deeper level. My edtech and teaching pedagogy is more purposeful now, revealing a silver lining in my post-pandemic online world.

Drop a line and share…

  • What were your early experiences with edtech? Do you feel it shapes how you use/don’t use technology in the classroom now?
  • Tell me someone out there mastered the Oregon Trail!?!
  • Do you see a clear distinction between your technology use before and after the pandemic? Have we become too reliant on edtech now? Or perhaps adverse to it due to overuse in the last 2.5 years?

 

 

Debate #8: Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children.

Online learning is fairly current, and after the pandemic it is becoming more and more common. That being said, there is not a lot of data surrounding the negatives and positives of online learning, and a lot of the resources were pandemic based. The term online education is a broad term, whereas it could mean taking one or two classes (supplementary learning) or fully emerged online. Our group, which was the agree side, took it to be fully online and not in a face-to-face setting using supplementary online learning. Secondly, the term detrimental is a very strong word especially encompassing all children. That being said, online learning can be detrimental to social and academic development of some children.

Hang on tight! I have a LOT to say about this topic.

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

 Less social interaction may increase feelings of social anxiety and pressures. For example, teenagers may worry about changes in their friendships as a result of prolonged isolation.

https://highfocuscenters.pyramidhealthcarepa.com/the-effects-of-online-learning-on-a-teens-mental-health/
Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

Mental health affects students in both online and in person school settings. As being an online teacher I hear testimonies of students shifting to online learning because they are getting bullied in face-to-face school. Some of these students flourish in an online setting, but others have fear of the continued bullying, and hide behind the screen or simply start to vanish. Other students do not have parent support at home and require the supervision of an adult to keep structured boundaries for them, in this case students start to get into bad habits of spending all day in their bedroom, not socializing, and missing synchronous lesson. Ultimately, these students’ grades start to slide to the point of no return. Furthermore, students start to feel overwhelmed, stressed and feel as if they are in a hole they cannot crawl out of as they do not know where to start. I have dealt with a multitude of students that deal with this. Online learning requires skills that not all students possess and this subsequently puts them in an unfortunate position of helplessness. Conversely, some students no longer have the social anxiety they had while they were in person school, and they thrive online as there mental health is better than it has ever been. These thriving students used to be quiet and shy in the back of a classroom, but now have found their voice online and are flourishing. This is so amazing to see and hear about. There are definite positives for online learning given the right structure, positive work habits, parental support and having the right materials they need to be successful.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

As mentioned in the debate it is important to assess students before they fully engage in online learning, as we do not want to set our students up for failure. Parents play a very essential role in online learning. When students are at home all day long by themselves, and required to log onto their meetings independently without good work habits they will not always log in (if ever). That being said, the students that take responsibility and initiative to do their work and attend meetings are cultivating their skills, therefore they will be successful in the online education world and these skills will help them in their future. The parents need to be sure to also pay attention to the students’ marks and attendance, otherwise there is a risk of some falling through the cracks.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Online learning is perfect for students needing the flexibility, especially for busy or traveling families, and students that attend a lot of appointments for health concerns. Other students that need flexibility is for various sports, and online education allows them to travel for sports and maintain their education, for example hockey. Some students get billeted in WCS and play their season out while engaging in asynchronous education, and once they have completed their season they go back to their base schools generally for the second semester.

There are extra supports and activities that are available in face-to-face school that is not available for all students online. Some students that would once have had an EA in face-to-face school struggle to get this support online as well as LST and RTI hours are reduced for all students. There are shop classes and other hand on classes that can be taken in person that are not available online as well as labs that aid in learning. That being said, there are sometimes bridge programs that are allowed, and students can take these classes in addition to electives that are not offered in their own schools. Students are able to take extra curricular classes from the school that they are closest to if they wish.

Before Covid-19 hit, the family of five had been sharing an old laptop and a desktop computer without a camera or a mic—features that didn’t really matter a year ago. Suddenly, two aging devices weren’t enough to get three kids through school.

https://torontolife.com/city/the-miserable-truth-about-online-school/

In some instances, school is a students safe place where they get breakfast/lunch, as well as getting out of their living situations. Not all students have a happy and healthy home-life and this allows students to get out of these toxic atmospheres for a portion of the day. In other instances, students get more time to spend with their parents and feel more comfortable and protected in their own home. The research attests to students being more successful in online learning with affluent families as they may be at home more for support as well as supporting students with their technology needs.

Final Thoughts

Being an online teacher I see the realities of students from all over the division emerging to online learning. For some, this is the last option for students as they are non-attenders and they are hoping that they will find some success. These students tend to vanish, and this is completely heart breaking. My job is incredibly rewarding, as it is a huge success when you get a student to finally pass a class, start to attend class regularly, or make a connection with a student that was completely shut off from the world. I see both sides of the coin and the students that have good work habits and parent support will succeed online, but it is not for every student. The reality is most students leave in person learning to come to online learning for a few main reasons: mental health reasons (mostly anxiety), health needs, sports, and travel. Regarding these reasons online learning has the flexibility to meet everyone’s needs, however it does not always meet students needs academically. I believe that online learning is detrimental to SOME students regarding their social and academic achievement.

The Mindful Grey: EC&I 830 Summary of Learning

Wow, there just are no words. It’s cliche but that first class went by in a flash! Please enjoy my summary of learning. I keep trying to push myself outside of my comfort zones; from podcasts to videos…and now this. Slam poetry! Yes, you read that right, slam poetry…or my attempt at it.

None of this learning would have been possible without you all; so thank you for joining me on this snippet of my journey. Best wishes on your own path.

Wordart by Cloudform Slideshow by Prezi Video by WeVideo Slam Poetry by Moi

Until we meet again…

Playing the Digital Footprint Devil’s Advocate

And traversing the online teaching frontier… (Debates 7&8)

What happens when you have to debate as the opposition on a topic you wholeheartedly support? Short answer: It gets very messy inside your mind very quickly! When I volunteered to switch my stance for this debate and play “devil’s advocate,” I was almost exclusively thinking of one of my favourite books, Think Again, by Adam Grant.

In his book, Grant outlines how to develop the habit of thinking again: think like a scientist, define your identity in terms of values not opinions, and (of most importance here) seek out information that goes against your views. Make no mistake, despite how I debated Monday night, I am firmly in support of teachers and schools having a role in the development of children’s digital footprints. Of course, I wanted to see if I could convince myself of the opposite viewpoint…even just a little.

If I can inject one book plug that I feel strongly correlates with this course, it’s definitely Think Again by Adam Grant!

As always, let’s turn to the facts before I jump in with my final reflections (revealed in the video below…)

Strapped for time? Aren’t we all? Jump to the 22:52 minute mark to hear my final takeaways.
To add your own points or reiterate points you believe most essential to this debate, please join the Jamboard here: Digital Footprint Jamboard

Debate 7 Final Reflection and Leftover Questions

In the end, I cannot dispute that teachers and schools play a role in helping students develop their digital footprints (you got me there, Rae and Funmi!). As educators, we act as guides for our students navigating a physical and now digital world. After playing devil’s advocate, the one caveat I can make in this case is that the development of student digital identities does not START with teachers and cannot END with them either. The responsibility is shared. We owe it to our children to hold parents, teachers/schools/divisions, governments, and online platforms accountable for creating safe online spaces for our children to explore their digital identities.

  • As an educator (or similar), do you feel adequately supported by parents, your school/division, and professional resources/development when teaching students about digital citizenship and footprints?
  • If you have received excellent resources and/or PD on this topic (to use with students), please share in the comments, including how it guided your classroom lessons and use of tech.
  • How often do you check the terms of service agreement before signing off on something? Tell me I’m not the only one signing my life away 🙂
You can begin to take action here: Humans Rights Watch: Students Not Products

“I can’t but we can.”

-Anon.
Just as Big Oil and Gas companies made it the responsibility of individuals to clean up pollution in the ’70s/’80s, Big Tech companies seek to make it the individual’s (AKA: teachers) job to clean up “online pollution.”
Like anything worth fighting for/changing/improving, creating a safe online world for our children’s digital identities is going to take a global village. Image credit: @brenna.quinlan art and posted/reshared with permission @chicksforclimatechange

Traversing the online teaching frontier…I think I got lost in Timbuktu – Debate 8

I was still reeling from my own debate (I really dislike pushing a one-sided viewpoint. Objectivity. ALL. THE. WAY!), but the subsequent online learning debate delivered a double-whammy to my solar plexus! I’ve been teaching online for almost 3 years now. To suggest it’s been detrimental to the social and academic development of the children I’ve worked with feels like a personal attack. It’s not, of course. Once more, I turn to the facts before I will jump in with my reflection…littered with 3 years of positive and negative experiences.

Strapped for time? Yup, I hear ya! Head over to the 18:25 minute mark to hear my final reflections.
To add your own points or reiterate points you believe most essential to this debate, please join the Jamboard here: Online Learning Jamboard

Debate 8 Final Reflections and Leftover Questions

After reading all the articles and listening to the debators and my classmates discuss this topic, I keep coming back to my own experiences over the last few years. I have the unique vantage point of having taught in the rushed, uncharted dynamic of the pandemic and then in a more developed, purposeful role as an OLST (online learning support services teacher). Teaching students from every school in every grade in my division is not for nothing. The highs and lows of online learning have changed me as an educator; changed my definitions of schools, classrooms, and teaching. To say that online learning is detrimental to students generalizes the concepts of physical schools and education as one-size-fits-all definitions. That is certainly not the case. When done properly, and by that, I mean MINDFULLY, online education can become a digital anchor for many families needing something different. Physical schools will always be needed, but online education is the perfect alternative.

  • If you’re so inclined, please tell me about your own teaching experiences during the pandemic. Mine was oddly positive, but I know experiences vary greatly!
  • How do you think pandemic teaching and current online teaching differ? Or do you think they do?
  • What would you say to a family considering online? What factors should be taken into consideration?
  • How do you feel about your own online education? Does it seem like a viable option as opposed to being on-campus? What works for you and what doesn’t?

Thank you for joining this learning journey. One master’s class down…many more to go! Best wishes to you all!

Debate #8 – Online Education Is Detrimental to the Social & Academic Development of Children

Wow! What a great debate topic to end our debates on. Both groups did excellent jobs presenting their sides. This was definitely the hardest debate to agree or disagree with. I think that what we can take away from this debate and that there is no real answer here and that it depends a lotContinue reading "Debate #8 – Online Education Is Detrimental to the Social & Academic Development of Children"

My So-called “New Normal”: Day in the Life of an OLST

When we reflect back on the last few years, I suspect (for many of us) a great divide appears between our relationship with educational technology before the pandemic and everything after. That has certainly been the case in my journey from classroom teacher to Online Learning Support Services Teacher.

Before…

As a geriatric millennial, I’m already familiar with the pre and post-technological world. Playing outside came well before my Nintendo and Oregon-Trail memories, and it wouldn’t be until my last years of high school that I researched science essays using my family’s noisy dial-up internet. Still, I was young enough to quickly adapt to the arrival of MySpace, Facebook, Ipods, and then…..oohhhh, ahhhhhhh, the Iphone!

January 2020: Miami FETC Convention (not a clue about the future)

My pre-pandemic classroom existed inside four solid walls. I greeted students face-to-face, using a variety of handshakes, high-fives, and questionable TikTok dance recreations. My pedagogy thrived on personal connection, interwoven with the necessity to stay tech-savvy, and therefore, relevant to my students. We used old Chromebooks to create videos, podcasts, Prezis, and Powerpoints. “Using technology is a tool to prepare you for your future,” I recited daily to my classes (little did I know).

January 2020: I am 1 of 4 educators chosen by my division to attend the FETC – Future of Education Technology Conference– in Miami. We are to source all the best tech- VR, robotics, coding- to bring back to our school division and teach teachers. The words pandemic and Covid-19 are new, whispered, and distant. We don’t know yet…

March 2020: Familiarizing myself with imovie and Youtube to help my school get students online

After(math)…

The surrealness of March 2020 led to a whirlwind crash course in all things Edtech, from TikTok instructionals to Youtube Read-Alouds and daily Zoom chats. Like any literary nerd, I wrote questionable op-eds and poetry to fill the void. The oddest part (that I only dare whisper aloud) is that I found myself thriving in this new online world. The creativity and connection required to engage students online seemed like a worthy and interesting undertaking.

Fast-forward to September 2020, and I am 2 hours into pandemic classroom teaching. Mask-up, shield down, heart terrified but full, I am ready and out for supervision when…I receive a phone call.

“Kim, would you be interested in the division’s new Online Learning Support Services Teacher role?” My superintendent asks.

They have no clear outline of what this position entails. I have no idea about…anything!

“Count me in!” I respond.

What did my mom always say to me about looking before I leap?

Instagram Screenshot: A day in the life
Case in point: I only tell my mother after I’ve lept!

The So-Called “New Normal”

Edsby: Where I spend most of my days creating content and communicating

More than two years later, 6-7 hours of my work-life is lived online. I still exist in my school’s four walls, but my office is shoved to a remote corner and my co-workers refer to me as “the happy hermit.” For better or worse, I see my face continually on a screen. Zoom and I are intimately acquainted. In my Division, I interact with every school, admin, teacher, and grade-level, connecting them all to our online students. Upon request, I create online content and curriculum resources for any and all grade levels. My job is to make the “new normal” in-school/online hybrid somehow easier. I try my best.

For the most part, I teach and connect using:

  • Zoom – till death do us part (or so it seems).
  • EDSBY – Just before the pandemic, my Division signed a contract with Edsby. It is now the main hub I use to communicate, share, and create.
  • A total hodge-podge: TikTok, Flipgrid, Peardeck, Kahoot, Blooket, Miro, whatever means necessary….including a diverse range of truly strange (non-tech related) costumes.

As for what’s to become of me and my role next year…it’s truly anyone’s guess. As always, I’ll leap first and learn on the way down!