This was the week that I had been most looking forward to in DigPINS. I enjoy learning about new online apps and tools. However, I sometimes hesitate in using them with my students, partly because it always takes longer than I expect to get my students comfortable with new technology, and partly because it requires a lot of thought and planning to adapt a lesson to include a new technology and to make sure that it would not be easier to use other means. Using technology is not always the most efficient way of doing things! As Michelle D. Miller writes, “In technology, as in so many things, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
When we were forced to go online in March of this year, it became essential to include a variety of activities using different technologies. I depended heavily on Zoom and I recorded explanations and discussions and shared the videos with the students. I used breakout rooms so students could work in groups, and prepared detailed worksheets for students to complete. This helped those who were not able to attend class to submit the work and get the participation grade. I also included other apps and tools, including Google Docs, Sites, Slides, Padlet, etc, to vary the pace and engage the students. However, I found online classes extremely tiring, especially on the days when I had four hours of classes. I also found that I was not able to cover as much online as I would have in face-to-face classes. The students complained that they found online learning very stressful and that they felt they had a lot more assignments than when they were on campus. I suspect they also spent longer on each assignment. Overall, they were not very happy with online learning. The prospect of having to teach a whole course online in the fall is daunting. While I feel I did a good job in the spring, I know I have to do better in the fall.
I had the opportunity this past week to read different articles from the DigPINS reading list. I particularly enjoyed What an Ed-Tech Skeptic Learned about Her Own Teaching in the Covid-19 Crisis by Manya Whitaker, and How to be a better online teacher by Flower Darby. I was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the OLC Innovate Conference and a few other online workshops. I now have some plans for the fall. Since I am concerned about building rapport with students in an online environment, I will invest time in getting to know the students and will arrange meetings with individual or small groups of students to create a bond. I’ll work on adding more variety to the activities and tools that I will use and will poll students more regularly to get their feedback. I now know that I probably relied too much on Zoom in the spring, and that there are other ways to handle online classes. So I plan on incorporating more asynchronous activities, such as conducting online discussions and introducing online annotation tools, to replace some of the synchronous meetings. I’d like to create an easy-to-navigate class site to try to avoid student confusion, and I will continue to include group assignments that give students the opportunity to work with different classmates.
Since the whole world has been affected by this pandemic, everyone is talking about going online and there are so many opportunities to learn about best practices in online teaching. I will continue to read up on this throughout the summer and revise my teaching practices, and hopefully I’ll be prepared in September to engage effectively with my students and ensure that we all have a positive online experience.