And so here I am, at the beginning of the end: my last first blog post of a semester! For this week’s blog post, we were asked to define educational technology. To me, educational technology involves all the tools, strategies and different pedagogical ideals teachers strive for in the modern classroom and making it work authentically in a classroom while appreciating digital citizenship, rights and privacy of students. I think this is true, especially in our new-found “pandemic” classrooms.
When we began our supplemental learning in March, I felt prepared to go online. Certainly more prepared than most teachers in my school, and I have Alec’s courses to thank for that! However, that doesn’t mean it was an easy transition for me either. Sure, I had a Google Classroom set up already and was ready to continue rolling out content, but I was not prepared for the consequences remote learning held. There was much more to it than just throwing some PDF’s up on my Google Classroom and letting students work through it. I needed to engage them and that involved a lot of technological tools. Thankfully, I had heard of a lot of tools, like DeltaMath and Socrative, through Alec’s courses and was able to flounder my way through figuring them out to actually integrate in my classroom, but a lot of teachers were left to drown in resources with little professional development support.
Meira’s blog post this week mirrored this idea when she talked about her experiences with online learning: “As with the majority of my Edtech experience, there was no professional development. I feel learning or implementing educational technology is up to the teacher to search out, ask colleagues, and experiment with trial and error, to find what works for them and their students.” Teachers need support with Edtech, especially with where education is heading. There is a big push for educational technology in classrooms, now more than ever, just as Jocelyn said in her blog this week. She talked about the resources there are out there, yet we don’t know how to use them to their full potential.
The biggest shift in my teaching has been because of the pandemic and its restrictions on my classroom this year. I am so happy to be back in a classroom teaching rooms full of students instead of teaching through a screen and hoping my students are doing okay. I love seeing their faces and ACTUALLY talking to them, even if their faces are half covered and I have to yell at them so they can hear me through the mask and over the uni-vent in the back of my classroom. (The struggle is real…)
The biggest struggle I have had so far though is similar to that of online learning: how to make my classroom engaging. I can no longer have group work, small group discussions, or any activities that involve too much movement or students facing each other within the walls of my classroom. Of course, I can take them outside and I find myself using this option more and more in our daily routine, but what do I do when it’s -40°C and we can’t go outside? Winter is coming after all! So, I’ve been using the educational tools I’ve had at my disposal because I have to, and I want to engage them in the best way possible. There has been a mandatory push in my school division and most others to have an online learning platform. Done. This was the easy part for me. What isn’t easy is creating videos for content, setting up platforms for online student discussion, and creating online quizzes for students to complete every day. This stuff takes time and in the teaching world, we are already short on that. We can’t simply upload a PDF and hope students read it; we could, but most of us are more inclined to do better for our students.
When I think about why I use Edtech ideas in my classroom, I don’t think it was ever my personal idea to start. There was the bare minimum of technology even in my high school days, but in university, the ideas of using educational technology in the classroom was pushed on us, using tools like Polleverywhere, interactive whiteboards, and inquiry learning. These weren’t ideas we wanted to incorporate in our classrooms, they were things we were expected to incorporate and evaluated on in our internship. It was never authentic, it was an add-on and in “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change,” Neil Postman says, “Technological change is not additive; it is ecological…A new medium does not add something; it changes everything” (p. 4). We were expected to be the new generation of teachers that accepted change and educational technology and incorporated it willingly, even if it wasn’t the best. I think now, this push is
obvious even more with tools like Zoom, G Suites, and Flipgrid. It is an expectation to incorporate technology in the classroom and as Postman goes on to say in his article, “we must be cautious about technological innovation. The consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable and largely irreversible” (p. 4).
I’m not saying this push is entirely bad, it is needed because our education system is in itself flawed. There needs to be more project-based education and more teaching tools than content for the ever-changing world we live in, but there also needs to be support for the technology we want in the classrooms. If teachers are left to struggle through, there isn’t an authentic benefit to it, and as soon as they can, they will go back to the tried-and-true ways of education and leave the educational tools behind. In order for educational technology to help us into the future of education, we need to develop more ways of educating teachers on HOW to incorporate it effectively as well as USE it authentically.