If you had asked me back in September what I thought my second year teaching would look like, I doubt I would have answered with, "stuck in an apartment teaching my students online from my kitchen table." Like many educators in North America right now, it is quite the shift going from seeing students every day to being confined to teaching students at home using an electronic device of your choice. Perhaps, in some ways, this new teaching predicament warrants gratitude because it does give us some time to reflect on our practice and find rest from managing challenging behaviours every day. However, despite these challenging times I can't help but be reminded of that common phrase "the grass is not always greener on the other side, it is just different." I get it, it is a global pandemic that has everyone's lives turned upside down, perhaps it is only natural for all people (including teachers) to have waves of fear, anxiety and restlessness. Even though the world is so uncertain right, now those of us who are teachers still have a duty to our students to teach. I have come to accept that in these times it requires a bit of creativity to make lessons engaging and the use of online platforms to deliver learning opportunities. Here are the platforms I have been using the past few weeks to help teach from the confines of my kitchen table.
Instant chat and video conference seem to be the only way to connect with students these days. I set up a Google Hangout chat for my students to maintain a sense of community and provide opportunities for students to engage in ongoing real-time dialogue.
Classcraft has been a tool that I have been using for the past several years. Classcraft continues to be an engaging way for students to solidify their learning. Specifically, I have been using self-paced quests and the boss battle options to give students a fun way to solidify their learning. For many of them, it makes learning feel like an actual video game.
Seasaw has been something new for me. However, I particularly enjoy how it gives students different options to display their learning whether it be pictures, documents or digital drawings. Not to mention, it helps everything stay organized in one digital student portfolio. The only downside is you can't get premium for a single teacher.
Although I feel this is the common platform most teachers are using during this challenging time, there seem to be very different ways teachers are using it.
Flipgrid has been one of my personal favourites for a while. I have used in every subject band, social studies, ELA, art and even drama. The biggest bonus is it allows students to share their learning through short videos and comment on each other's answers.
Google Docs and Drive have been a life savour in keeping everything digital. It also provides an easy way for teachers and students to share ideas and collaborate in real-time. Lesson planning together can happen on the same document in real-time or students and teachers can co-wite a story or assignment. Personally, I like to colour code everything on Google Drive and have them all in folders but to each there own.
Yes, I said it, Wix. I have been using Wix to create a website for teaching music and band online. I can't help but remain grateful that I grew up in the age of technology which makes creating a website not feel daunting. A website has been the perfect format to share instrumental music learning with students because it allows me to upload videos, recordings, fingering charts and whatever else is needed for student learning. It also allows all grades to have their learning organized in one space instead of having multiple Google Classrooms per grade.
I'm sure in the coming weeks there will be more digital platforms I integrate, but there is my starting list.