As a grade 2/3 teacher, I need online tools that are user-friendly so that my young students can access and use them independently. At my school, kindergarten to grade 3 classrooms (the basement floor) have easy access to iPad carts, while the other two floors (grades 3/4 to 8) have Chrome books readily available to each student. When we suddenly switched to remote learning in March 2020, pre-kindergarten to grade 3 teachers used Seesaw for their assignments, while the middle grades used Google Classroom. This aligned with what the students had experience using in the classroom. Everyone also started to use Zoom (i.e., for Guided Reading groups, social gatherings), which was a learning curve for staff and students.
Here are a couple lists of education tools that I was mostly unfamiliar with prior to this course: https://wabisabilearning.com/blogs/technology-integration/25-great-education-tools and https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-tools-for-virtual-and-distance-learning
Caruth and Caruth (2013) identify seven aspects for assessing effective learning through online instruction: achievability, believability, measurability, desirability, focusing, motivation, and commitment. The sudden switch to remote learning during the pandemic forced Saskatchewan teachers to instruct differently and students to learn differently. I think this lack of choice played a big role in the large amount of unfocused, unmotivated, disengaged teachers and students during the school closures due to the pandemic. A lot of my colleagues similarly noted the low engagement during remote learning in the pandemic during our group discussion on July 12.
Technology is not neutral; according to Feenberg (2009, as cited in Migueliz Valcarlos et al., 2020, p. 355), these tools “are implicated in the socio-political order they serve and contribute to shaping.” The tools chosen by educators will help determine the roles of teachers and students in their learning experiences. For example, discussion boards disrupt the traditional view of teacher as the knowledge owner/developer since students and teachers can co-construct knowledge in these kinds of spaces (Migueliz Valcarlos et al., 2020). This “learning among learners” is connected to constructivism (Ananga, 2020). Online learning tools can also have ties to behaviourism, such as multiple choice and true of false quizzes (students are positively reinforced when they answer correctly). Students have the opportunity for more autonomy, flexibility, and resources with distance education. Caruth and Caruth (2013) also point out that along with being a teacher and learning themselves, the instructor is also the technical support person. Thus, it is critical that teachers are given training in technology for effective online instruction.
My school division switched to two weeks of remote learning before the break in April. Similar to last March, we informed the office if a student did not have access to a device at home so they could borrow one from the school (limit of one device per family – this lack of devices was a challenge mentioned on my group’s Jamboard). My principal directed all the teachers in my school to have a 30-minute Zoom session with their class focused on ELA content in the morning, and a 30-minute Zoom session focused on math content in the afternoon. Along with shared lessons on Zoom, I posted videos and examples for students to follow while working on assignments posted on Seesaw. There was very low engagement on Seesaw as opposed to the Zoom meetings. Attendance was still being recorded and most parents/adults were able to make arrangements for their child to get on a device twice a day. Thirty minutes definitely went by too quickly, and I invited students to stay on longer for extra help (which only happened once with two students, while their parents sat with them). On Seesaw, I noticed the academically stronger students were completing their work while struggling learners were not. Had this lasted longer than the two weeks, I would have tried more strategies to work closely with those students and their families to keep them caught up. Overall, it seemed that my synchronous sessions were far more successful than the asynchronous ones.
If I return to remote learning in the future, I would like to explore using other tools to engage my students, such as Nearpod. Does anyone have experience with Nearpod while teaching online, or other suggestions for tools that may prove more successful than Seesaw?
Ananga, P. (2020). Pedagogical considerations of e-learning in education for development in the face of COVID-19. International Journal of Technology in Education and Science, 4(4), 310-321.
Caruth, G. D., & Caruth, D. L. (2013). Distance education in the United States: From correspondence courses to the internet. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 141-149.
Migueliz Valcarlos, M., Wolgemuth, J. R., Haraf, S., & Fisk, N. (2020). Anti-oppressive pedagogies in online learning: A critical review. Distance Education, 41(3), 345-360