Photo by Pxfuel/CC0
What does my current “day in the life” look like in relation to technology, teaching and learning? I work at the University of Regina as an Instructional Designer. Our instructional design team normally creates and maintains the online classes offered at the U of R. During the transition to everyone working from home, we have also taken on the role of helping instructors move their courses from face-to-face to remote teaching. This means spending numerous hours every day in Zoom. I also have two children, they are in grades 1 and 3. I have had the new experience of trying to home school while working full-time during an extremely busy time at work. In the last 8 weeks, I have seen the best and the worst of remote learning.
My child’s teacher has been using Seesaw Class to create learning activities and stay connected. From a parent’s perspective, I cannot say enough good things about this app and how the teacher is utilizing it. It is simple to use and can be set up on multiple devices. The students can listen to audio, watch videos or complete interactive activities. Having a variety of different learning types keeps it interesting. The teacher creates video or audio instructions for each activity. This increases student engagement so much! A child is way more likely to complete an activity if their teacher explains it than if a parent is asking them to do it. It is also very easy for the teacher to provide feedback, either by clicking ‘Like’ or providing a comment. It is amazing how much a thumbs up from the teacher will motivate a little kid to work! All of these things help keep kids accountable and motivated.
A Google classroom full of printable worksheets. With zero interaction, variety or feedback. It is hard to keep kids motivated to do school work at home. When they are asked to do the same four activities, every single day for six weeks, it is nearly impossible to keep kids motivated. I have been asked repeatedly, what is the point of this? I had trouble not agreeing with that sentiment!
Google classrooms can be great. There is a Teachers Lounge that gives tips and tricks for all the different activities and resources available. You can post videos or text resources. It has interactive tools such as assignments or quizzes. Assignments allow students to complete an activity and submit it for a grade or to receive feedback. In 60 Smarter Ways to Use Goggle Classroom, Terry Heick lists 60 ways to improve your Google classroom. Here are some of my favourites:
- When an assignment, lesson, or unit doesn’t work, add your own comments–or have students add their own feedback), then tag it or save it to a different folder for revision.
- Solicit daily, weekly, by-semester, or annual feedback from students and parents using Google Forms.
- Flip your classroom. The tools to publish videos and share assignments are core to Google Apps for Education.
- As a teacher, you can collaborate with other teachers (same grade by team, same content across grade level).
- Encourage digital citizenship via peer-to-peer interaction that is documented.
- Give prompt feedback for learning.
- Help students create content-specific YouTube channels.
- Create a paperless classroom.
There are many good elements of Google Classrooms. Using it as a repository for printable worksheets isn’t one of them.
The thing that has made everything work smoothly throughout this transition is connecting to others through video conferencing tools. Whether it is Google Meet, Zoom or Skype, the ability to connect with others by seeing their face and talking to them has made this all manageable. It has allowed kids to stay connected to their teachers and gives
them a chance to see their friends while self-isolating. In Why Web Conferencing is great for Homeschooling, they talk about how “creating a virtual classroom is a great way to keep small groups of home schoolers from becoming isolated.” The students can “keep in touch with their schoolmates and keep up with the curriculum at their own pace.” Working with smaller groups of kids allows the students to have discussions about the topic being taught.
In the end, everyone is doing their best during a difficult time. We are very fortunate that we live in a time and place where we have stable internet connections and the technology available to learn remotely. The ability to video conference is a game-changer for staying connected. Without being able to see and connect with people remotely, it would have made the transition to homeschooling way more difficult for the kids and myself. I am very grateful that my children have teachers that were willing and able to completely change their teaching style to begin teaching remotely.