As we hit the mid point of our time together this Fall in ECI833, we were treated to a superb presentation on distance/online education. Sapna, Nataly, and Hu gave us an effective overview of how distance learning has evolved, and where it is going as we continue to take advantage of the powers and potential of being in an online world.
In response to this presentation, I consider how online and blended learning tools presently impact me, and how they might impact me in the future.
my On Again – Off Again Relationship
Asynchronous Start: The initial spark in my relationship with online learning was roughly eight years ago. This romance began in Toronto, when I was a fresh graduate of Education, hoping to be scooped up by a local school-board and put onto a substitute teacher list. It became quickly apparent to me how tough the climate was. A lot of teacher vying for positions that were not opening. A problem that was compounding year over year as more graduates were not being employed.
I knew I needed to take some initiative and help myself stand out. I enrolled in an Additional Qualification course that focused on Inclusion; Special Education Part 1. This course was based entirely online, in an Asynchronous format. I accessed content on my own, at my convenience. I participated in a forum and was assessed for my responses.
In short, it was one of the more boring learning experiences I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I did appreciate some of the benefits that Subhashni Appana outlines in her article. The course’s flexibility worked around my part-time ESL teaching schedule nicely, and the relative anonymity helped me to participate with experienced teachers. But it was not overly stimulating, and I honestly don’t have a single memory from my time in that class.
Blended Rekindling: After my uninspiring online course, I more or less stayed away from online learning for a while. My initial distaste was confirmed by my wife having an equally uninspiring experience with an online course in floral design. Subhashni Appana is certainly right in her remark that some experiences just don’t really lend themselves to learning online.
For me, my next real experience with online learning didn’t come until I began my graduate studies with the University of Regina. I took a blended course, EADM 817: The Politics of Education. The course combined regular forum participation with a few face to face meetings on campus, and a couple of Zoom sessions. While I wasn’t a fan of the forum participation, I appreciated our professor going out on a limb and laying with delivering a course in an online format. She was clearly not yet comfortable with zoom, but wanted to gain in proficiency with this. Wonder how she is doing with this now?
Ongoing Synchronous Affair: This leads me to today! I am actually on a streak. This is my fourth EC&I course with Alec Couros in a row. These have differed by using a more synchronous format.For over a year, I have been having weekly meetings on zoom, and it’s been working well! We also use computer supported collaborative learning tools (blogs, google docs) that help us build knowledge collaboratively. What has made this work for me (and led me to take this whole series of courses) is having these collaborative learning experiences online. It has kept the courses interesting, and provided a good balance of independent learning and collaborative learning.
blended elementary school?
Having reflected on where I came from, and gone in using online learning for my own ongoing professional learning, I inevitably begin to draw connections to my own teaching practice, and my students.To begin with, online learning tools have clearly reshaped our elementary schools. They have also completely redefined our school learning environments. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning tools are being used (like Google classroom) although not necessarily in the context of distance education.
That being said, this blog prompt really does resonate with me by connecting to a single instance. A very meaningful instance. A student I support in my role as LRT ended up having to spend a significant amount of time in hospital for some ongoing treatment. Our school-board does certainly provided resources for students who need to miss for health related reasons, but he was able to actually continue to participate with his class, in a limited fashion, through ongoing use of Google classroom.
That very recent experience has served as demonstration of the potential power of online learning. It certainly has come a long way from correspondence letter foundations, hasn’t it? In this case, limitations that might have otherwise completely ruled out this student remaining connected to his home school and his classroom were overcome to a meaningful degree! He remained connected enough to have several outcomes reported on and a report card completed by his classroom teacher.
When I think of online/distance education and how it impacts my own teaching role, as a Learning Resource Teacher, this is what I think of. I think of limitations of time and location not being the limitations they once were. As fellow EC&I 833 blogger Daniel Dion says in his blog:
Thanks for reading!