Monday, May 04, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning Day 4



Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 4.

It's Not About the Tool...Or Is It?

For so many years, as we've been thinking about embedding technology into learning, we've heard "It's Not About the Tools" and I wholeheartedly agreed. It is about the possibilities and the creation and what we do with the tools. It is about pedagogy and practice that is right for kids.  As long as technology has been around, there have been tools that providing exciting possibilities as well as tools that are digital practice of easy-to-measure skills.  

During this online/pandemic teaching though, it has been a bit more about the tools than we would like.  We have to make the best use of the tools we have, the tools our students have access to. And different tools provide different possibilities. I know teachers who have to prepare paper packets because their students don't have internet access. Packets are probably not their idea of great teaching but it is the tool their students have right now. It is the only thing they can send home to support learning.  So they are making the best of it. I love Google and am so glad we have Google Classroom with Google Meets. But I am a tad bit jealous of my friends who have Zoom instead because Zoom allows small group breakout rooms. I am thrilled that Epic Books gave students free home access during the pandemic and I emailed parents about those free accounts right away so kids had access to books. But there are  other tech companies offering resources free to teachers and students that I am not so excited about. Those tools don't invite authentic reading experiences.  

One great example is Pear Deck. I wish I had spent more time playing with Pear Deck because I see huge possibilities for learning in reading, writing, revising and annotating, but I didn't learn the tool like I wanted to, so it isn't really an option for me right now. I need a bit more time to learn it so that I don't fall back on some of the skill and drill, multiple choice type things it advertises. When I looked at it a few months ago, I saw lots of things we could do with draw tools to annotate and think together around a text, film or piece of writing, but I never really explored. A summer goal I think. 

So  I guess my point today is two-fold. First of all, I get frustrated with people in the tech world who remind us during this crisis that it is not about the tool. Because it kind of is.  We only have the access and resources to the tools we have and that our students have. Every district has put things in place and we have to use the tools and resources we have.  And they have to be tools I know how to use well. I think for this crisis time, this is the right move.  Teachers, students and families are dealing with a lot and using tools we are familiar with takes away some of the stress. 

But I also know that it is my responsibility to examine the tools I am using and try to use them in the best way possible and avoiding those sites and apps that go against the kind of learning experiences I want for my students.  And in the future, to build my toolbox.

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