As we have seen through this week’s presentation on online learning tools, there are numerous tools available to educators to connect their learners online. With that, the question that often comes into play is how do we decide what to use? When to use it? Does it benefit my teaching? In this blog post I will go through some different tools I used in the past to support my blended learning environments that I offer to my students.
In a previous blog post, I mentioned that being a new teacher, I often rely on online tools to support my teaching as I do not have all of the information needed to be able to lecture about certain curricular topics. As we have seen throughout the past weeks, this form of teaching is becoming popular and using technology in the classroom is helpful to support the learning of your students and support them in preparing for their future. I currently am teaching in a in-person classroom where my students have access to Chromebooks that we share with other classrooms, with that in mind we do not always have access to this technology and a lot of the tools that I use online are planned to be shared either through a projector, or in a small group scenario. Using LMS such as Google Classroom has allowed me to share my lessons easily with students, and the students also are able to complete assignments through this platform as well. I love this management system as everything my Grade 7 students need is right at their fingertips. They need a link to a video, I can post it as material. They need to create a slideshow for an inquiry project, they are able to connect it right with my assignment description and I can always see their progress. We need to meet on a Google Meet, the link is open and ready to be used. In the field of middle school education Google Classroom has been a great place to teach students different online tools and how they can represent their work in an organized and teacher guided way. The idea of Learning Management Systems (LMS) is supported by Tony Bates when they state that a “LMS provides an online teaching environment, where content can be organized, as well as providing ‘spaces’ for learning objectives, students activities, assignments, and discussion forums.” However, what would this look like if I was completely online?
As mentioned above, I do not teach in an online/remote setting, thus, the way I use YouTube videos, websites and LMS tools may look very different than if I only taught online. I think that I would still stick with an LMS tool and keep it simple. Working with middle school students they do know a lot about technology, however, it would be important to keep it organized and simple to ensure they know where to access the information. I would continue using Google Classroom that is something I am comfortable with, allows my students to connect everything to, and is supported by our division. With that being said, the layout of my day I believe would look much different. For example; my in-person lessons usually all begin with a mini lesson with me at the front either going through some kind of slide show, examples on the board, and discussion with the class, we then fall into a practice formatting where the students have the opportunity to go and practice and apply either in small groups or individually depending on the task at hand. Most of my lessons fall under the gradual release of responsibility “I do, We do, You do” model. When thinking about what my instruction would look like in an online format, I would maybe have to rethink how the lessons would look. The approach I follow with in-person teaching allows for ample time for questions, conversation, and observation of my students to ensure they are understanding the concepts before I let them work on their own, however, if I were to do this same approach online I would be concerned that I may not get the same feedback as I do in the classroom as body language is a lot harder to read. Instead, I would maybe consider following a flipped classroom approach. The flipped classroom looks at the idea that the “lecture” is done at home, and the “homework” is done in class to provide students with the opportunity to ask questions, and work with the support of a teacher. Now this formatting doesn’t always have the best feedback with full in-person classes, however, I believe it would have some benefits in a full distance learning atmosphere. The flipped classroom online would have the students work through a video of the lesson (for example dividing decimals) and then when they would come to the Google Meet would be the students time to work. This would allow the students and teacher to work through examples together, students have a chance to ask questions and teachers to gain an idea of where their students are at with the learning at hand. It would take me some trial and error to ensure I was able to reach the students, but that is the same as all classrooms.
When thinking about teaching completely online or through distance learning here are some apps/tools I believe I would utilize to ensure I was sufficiently teaching: