Any illusions that I was playing it safe and mainly avoiding what George Couros refers to as “the discomfort of growth” by sticking to familiar educational technology, have been shattered.
Fortunately, Couros’ post is called “Comfort in the Discomfort of Growth”. If I have “growing pains” that must mean I’m growing (aka LEARNING ) and that’s a positive thing to remind myself of.
Getting through September could have been even harder if I had been grappling with unfamiliar programs, right?
But first, let’s backtrack for a minute.
Yes, I AM a “masked teacher”!
As a Special Ed teacher, I continued teaching at school for a longer period of time, while others had been moved to remote learning. And I certainly keep my mask on in class. It’s a clear, see-through one so my Deaf and hard of hearing students can see my lips. At present we are also in remote teaching mode but I expect to resume teaching at school before the rest of the school system does.
So, over the summer I did my best to create /post material in a manner that would let students continue working whether they were in class or at home, on their phones (or in some cases, the computer).
But then technology, both hardware & software, which I have been using intensively, “unmasked” some hidden curve balls and started throwing them at me.
Where should I begin?
From the middle, of course! That will give you a “taste” of what I mean!
I’m in our learning center with eight students. One of the two classroom computers is in use. Two students are using their cell phones to continue activities they began online. The others are using their books and notebooks.
Within minutes a 12th-grade student working on his phone is annoyed. He had previously begun an exercise I had posted on Edmodo and wanted to continue working on the same task. Edmodo saves your answers automatically so it has always been easy to continue from where you left off.
At least, on the website it is easy.
The student is using the app. He has no problem accessing a new task but cannot find his previous answers and neither can I. I send him to the vacant computer – all his previous answers are right there, waiting for him to continue.
Okay, I think. Now I can work quietly with the other students, as planned.
However, to my genuine surprise, the other student who is working on the computer calls me over repeatedly. She is working on a task on a LiveWorksheet, which the students find very convenient to use. She has an additional window open – the student clicked on the link I had added at the top of the exercise, leading to a Quizlet vocabulary set, with vocabulary items needed for the task. Since she’s a strong student who actually followed instructions and had the “support material open, I did not expect any “distress calls”.
What could be the problem?
After trying to tell her how much I believed in her ability to do the task well on her own without coming over, then coming over and wasting time trying to explain sentences to her that she actually had understood, I finally discovered the source of the problem. A huge advertisement was blocking half of the word list on the set! No wonder she was frustrated – partial information is confusing! Surprisingly, we could not scroll down past the advertisement. That had never happened before!
I asked the student to use the app on her phone while working on the computer.
Meanwhile, some of the students who were “working with their coursebooks” were happily playing with their phones…
The fact that the bell rang and we all went home didn’t mean that there weren’t additional curveballs in store for me. Ones that came before I had time to deal with the ones that had just been pitched my way.
The next day we moved to remote learning. A student, whom I’ll call N. , sends me a message complaining that I didn’t give him the Quizlet set needed for the tasks. I go and check the Quizlet class and he’s certainly a member of the class. I send him a direct link to the set via WhatsApp (which he can access without any missing words, thankfully). He claims he doesn’t have this set in his app (he does have a different set I assigned though). He starts sending me pics of other sets he finds, of classes he isn’t a member of!
At some point, it dawns on me that he is going into “other recommended sets by the same teacher” which appears below the set he sees, instead of swiping right to see the additional sets in his class.
I quickly understood that the student with a very old phone and no computer (who doesn’t install apps) needs the original WORD version of worksheets, not the PDF version which is a much better choice for almost everyone else. But I ran into trouble with the rest of the class regarding a particular section on one out of a whole series of worksheets I had created.
This task required the completion of a few words inside a short text. How do you do that on a document saved as a PDF file?
When a student wrote to me asking how to fill in the missing words I admit, I was surprised. I hadn’t noticed this potential distance learning problem. My immediate solution was “Write the missing words on a piece of paper, take a picture and send it to me”. Fortunately, later in the same remote lesson, another student completed the task on her cell phone, with the missing words placed in the task. She kindly made a brief video showing how she did that, along with permission to share it – having students solve problems like that is wonderful!
- I couldn’t teach in these crazy times without the wonderful Edtech I currently use.
- Even “wonderful” can still be hard. I’m learning too.
- Even when I “get the Edtech right” – teaching nowadays is HARD. And it’s O.K to say that out loud.
Hang in there!