What has Remote Teaching Taught me About Teaching?
Here in Victoria we are three weeks in to remote teaching and learning. To say that it has been a big learning curve would be an understatement. Would I say this is a bad thing? Absolutely not. I've actually enjoyed the challenges but I know that my experiences are different to others.
My role means that I don't teach as much as I used to. I have four classes; one Year 6 TV class (a creativity based video production subject) and three Year 8 Digital Technology classes. The rest of my role involves leading our Junior School Specialists team (F-4), running the STEAM (F-4) and Technologies (5-8) domains as well as providing support for teachers in relation to educational technologies.
In these times of remote learning, I have found that the teaching aspect of my role has been the easiest. This could be because I am already familiar with online learning platforms that we use (Seesaw and Google Classroom) and my students too are used to using them in my classes. It could also have something to do with the fact that anything relating to Digital Technologies is suited to remote learning. The biggest reason I suppose I find it easier is because I love using technology to support and enhance learning and I enjoy the challenges it throws at me.
I know other teachers are having very different experiences and I appreciate the hard work people are putting in to adjust to these new challenges. In fact, I really love the supporting nature of my role and seeing teachers build confidence.
I have learnt a lot though and this is really what I wanted to talk about in this post, especially in the context of teaching.
1. Patience is important.
I have had to remind myself that all teachers and students are at very different skill levels when it comes to using technology. Some things just need baby steps and that's OK. Progress is important but being patient has taught me that this progress looks different to different people.
2. There is not one perfect learning tool.
I enjoy using Seesaw and Google Classroom and have dabbled with Showbie, Compass and Microsoft Teams. Are any of them perfect? No. As teachers, we will always find that some things just can't be done and we'll develop preferences for one tool over the other. What is great about this though is that it forces us to be innovative and find different ways of doing what we want. A good example of this is our Junior School Specialists not having the time to be able to share individualised messages with all 22 of their classes. Instead, they are adding them to their weekly activity and scheduling them out. Work smarter, not harder.
3. Consistency is important.
Speaking of the different learning tools, it's important that you focus on one and only one. The more platforms you use, the more confusing it is for your students. My son is in Year 11 and is getting work delivered by Google Classroom, Email AND Microsoft Teams. This is not ideal and causes him (and I) confusion. If everything is in one place, students only need to learn the technicalties of one platform. This means more time can actually be spent on learning.
4. I prefer asynchronous learning.
Being able to prepare a clear and concise instructional video is a great way to deliver content. I prepare the week before and schedule it's release, along with work instructions for the Monday of the next week. I love doing it this way and I can tell my students appreciate it. It means they can re-watch/ re-read instructions and work at their own pace. It gives me time to answer questions via email or on Google Meet chats. I've found it helps me to differentiate learning better.
5. Assessment has become easier.
Remote learning has made me more organised (and I already thought I was a well organised person). I am able to see all my students work quickly and easily through Google Classroom and by having them post everything there, I am collecting more evidence of learning than ever before. It's easier to quickly provide feedback on tasks and easier to see where confusion is happening.
I am also keeping spreadsheets so I can track who has done the work, where they are up to and who I need to contact to follow up.
We are all learning an immense amount right now but ultimately, we are all going to be better teachers because of it. My biggest advice to everyone is to just take it slow. Do what you can at a pace that matches your skill level. Ask for help if you need it (both from your own leadership and your external professional learning network). See the silver lining which is that we will all be back at school soon enough and we will be able to work smarter than ever before because of our new experiences.
Take care everyone and happy teaching.