Last March 2019, educators around the world, Canada and here in Saskatchewan had to transition from teaching face to face to teaching remotely online. This proved to be challenging for many teachers as they had to drastically change their teaching practices, while at the same time find online tools that could be utilized by students to help them achieve outcomes while still finding ways to interact on a social and emotional level. As a grade 4 teacher, I will admit this was a huge mountain to climb looking back, and is still a looming possibility as I continue to teach through the pandemic with many schools around the province of Saskatchewan having to undergo partial or full lock downs already.
It was very beneficial during these trying time to have Catherine, Amanda, Nancy and Kristina present on tools that can assist teachers when they need to provide online instruction to their students. I found the article they shared from Common Sense Media on some of the best tools that can be utilized when teaching online to be incredibly helpful. Some of the tools such as Seesaw, I was familiar with as I used them last year when we first moved to online teaching. I personally like this tool because I find this tool to be very user friendly for younger elementary students and an app parents find easy to access as well. If I have to move to online teaching this year, I feel that I would like to incorporate the use of Nearpod, Peardeck and Screen-Cast-O-Matic into my teaching repertoire.
When I think back to my time teaching online last year, I think the two biggest challenges for me was providing a place where students could still interact with each other socially and emotionally as well as keep them engaged for longer periods of time. I know that if I have to move to teaching online this year I will follow Amanda’s advice on creating instructional videos or only instructing for 6 minutes, rather than trying to give instruction for 15 or more minutes.
I found the points the group shared from Jennifer Gonzalez to be extremely helpful as well when thinking of the possibility of teaching online again in the future. For me some of the main takeaways from Jennifer’s article were:
-Make sure to provide both synchronous and asynchronous communication
-Make sure to have a way to keep everything organized (I would do this through Google Classroom)
-Include lesson designs that allow for student choice (I would provide more options that just work sheets and activity pages through SeeSaw)
-Provide multiple modes for delivering content ( I would include videos of myself teaching, others teaching, videos and encourage students to research and create their own videos to share with others through apps such as Flipgrid).
-Provide different ways for students to demonstrate their learning ( I would have students complete web based activities, student discussion activities utilizing apps such as Flipgrid, and allow students to complete interactive quizzes, and activities through apps such as Khan Academy, Seesaw, or Google tour).
-Limit the number of platforms and messages sent in a day ( I would make sure to try and send one weekly update and not introduce students to more than one new app or platform a week, to help ensure that students nor parents get to a point of feeling overwhelmed).
In conclusion, while I personally prefer to teach face to face I know the possibility of having to teach online this year is very probable. I do feel that I am better equipped than I was last year to undergo this endeavor, but this is due in large part to the online classes I have been able to take that explored numerous online tools and how to use them for remote teaching. I know many teachers that have not had this opportunity and I feel as teachers, we need a lot professional development in this area as it not the traditional method of teaching so many of us are accustomed to.