Teaching Blended and Online Learning: Is it for Me?

My experience with technology began at an older age than most people who are currently in their thirties. I always felt myself to be a bit of a technological “late bloomer”. I learned how to use the family computer in my middle years, amidst taking typing tutor classes and playing Oregon Trail at school. I didn’t have much time because, like everyone at that time, my computer was hooked up to the phone line and we had to dial up to use the internet (and only if someone wasn’t on the phone or was expecting to use the phone in the near future). It also took a long time to turn the computer on! I could usually flick the on switch and then go make myself a sandwich while I waited for it and Window 95 to finally load up.

 

I was never one who really got into social media (I didn’t join MSN messenger until high school and joined Facebook a few years after my friends.) (I just joined Twitter last year!)

Fast forward to university when I actually got my first cellphone (because I had to pay for my own and could not afford it till then). I used the computer mostly for typing up university assignments or for checking the university library to see what books were available for me to use for my essays. I still went to the stacks at the U of S, to get a good old hard copy of a book for research more often than using anything online. I wasn’t comfortable with the internet, nor was it as accessible as it is today to get information. I also didn’t have the “know how” to navigate what was a good source and what really wasn’t.

As I entered into my first internship in a grade one classroom, I had my first experience with a SMART Board.  My co-op teacher used it sparingly as she was not very comfortable with it.

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So, I got some experience with it, but did not use it to the potential that I could have until I got hired at that school (about a year later) as a part time grade 4 teacher. The teacher, with whom I was sharing a position, was the school’s tech guru. I ended up using the SMART Board for most lessons and loved the interactivity I had with my students.

When I moved to Regina and got hired to teach in Moose Jaw, I was introduced to a new educational technology device, the Promethean. It was supposed to be a similar device, but I was never found technology easy to work with (still don’t), and I had a difficult time. I could not convert the SMART Board lessons (which I had spent many hours creating) that I had to work with the Promethean. It always seemed to stop working mid lesson every couple of days or so, and getting the problem fixed took a lifetime. So I ended up using it as a glorified (and very expensive) overhead projector, or not at all. The document camera was old and had a yellow tinge, so I couldn’t use that either to the extent that I wanted. I was giving up on technology in my classroom because it was causing more trouble then it was worth.

We did have classroom Ipads in the classroom (or to share with 3 other classrooms) that we could use in efforts to supplement our teaching methods and student learning. But, sadly, most of the time, we had to sign up in advance when we were going to use them, the programs always had to be updated or students were forgetting how to log into them (or plug them in), they wouldn’t work or were broken somehow and again I was fighting with a tool I had previously thought would be useful.

Fast forward a few years, and a few graduate classes later and I began to get back into the technology that was available at our school. I feel that just recently since I have come back from my second maternity leave, that our school has had an increase in the amount of working technology that continues to be updated and maintained. I also feel more confident in my own skills with educational technology, (especially since taking EC&I 833 with Alec Couros), that I have been incorporating technology more often into my lessons. I am experimenting with Google Classroom with my students (since we now have classroom laptops) and I have a new document camera that works (almost all the time) and a AV system that doesn’t crackle every time I move.

As for blended learning, I think it is a work in progress in my classroom. After reading the chapters by Tony Bates Chapter I believe that fully online learning would not work in my classroom of grade five and six students. I agree that with him on the fact that it is more likely to be used by adult learners and not middle years students. I do not feel that they would have the discipline to learn on their own. They are still at the age where most of them complain about “hating school” or “being bored” because they cannot see past their own issues and life changes. Most of them are not mature enough, nor have the self discipline to learn on their own. I believe that I would be able to begin (I think I have started already) a blended learning class, but it would still be mostly face to face because of the needs of the current students in my classroom.

If I were to create online course, it would be directed to adult learners. There would first need to be a huge learning curve for myself in order to get myself more comfortable with the technology. And as for the content, I am not sure what I would teach. I do not feel that that is the way my educational career will move towards, nor to I want to teach adult learners. I think I will always prefer the face to face experiences as an educator and do not believe that it will change much in my lifetime. But, I do want to continue to  learn about the educational technologies that I can use to better educate the students that I am currently teaching and to further my own personal goal of my life-long learning.

 

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3 thoughts on “Teaching Blended and Online Learning: Is it for Me?

  1. Hi Sonja and thanks for the great post. I can relate to your story and you mention some important points worth noting. First of all, technology evolves and just when we think we have it figured out and we are prepared to use it, it changes and all of the work we just did is now obsolete. If you make the wrong decision on the type of technology to use, what now. Remember, Beta versus VCR format? Blackberry that owned the market for years is almost non-existent now. Second, technology may not work for every age group, however, I am not sure I would wait until they are adults to get them to start using it. I teach in post-secondary and my students who have had no or little experience struggle. It is used in all of the courses I teach and it is becoming an expectation now as I travel to other schools to see how they are delivering their course content. The earlier the student is exposed to it, the better they will adapt. Next year in our program, laptops will be a requirement for our Program as students will write all exams online, access some textbooks (ebooks), and all courses will be blended. Crazy times we live in!

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  2. Girl – I feel you on all of this! I love how you can see your journey building and growing and I commend you for not giving up! I wrote this on Anne’s blog this week too, but I think that many people look at using technology in the classroom and see something hard and don’t bother. We are doing a horrible disservice to our students by not giving them opportunities to get comfortable with the technology considering it will likely be the main way they communicate and do business in the future. 🙂

    I am excited and hopeful to see how blended learning is used in middle years classrooms and I am excited to see if they can be self directed and motivated the way adults are expected to be with online learning…I can’t see it but I would over the moon to watch someone successfully do it! Kids brains are not developed enough (in my opinion, in the majority of cases) to understand why their schooling is important and therefore work and learn even when the distraction of the device is there. Lots to ponder!

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  3. Thanks for the post. Many things you wrote resonated with me. I have always been trying to understand how to best use new technology in the classroom and hardware used to be a huge issue. It has got better although there is still the occasional challenge. I also got caught in a ‘SMART’ board switch as we changed to a product called mimio. Also a challenge of how to harness the power of the devices the students bring to class and how to teach the skill of self-regulation rather than banning and how social media can be used for research and positive outcomes.

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