This is a timely topic: planning for tech-rich learning. Around the world, some schools have been closed for weeks or months to slow the spread of COVID-19. What more than a global pandemic to springboard us all into planning tech-rich experiences? Not just tech-savvy teachers, but most teachers have been forced to transition online, often overnight.
BUT right now, instead of ‘tech integration’ as trendy jargon, as something we aspire or dabble with, I’d argue the global educational climate right now is tech integration in the trenches. Our world has been turned upside down; similar to war times, there is a sense of collective grief. The beautiful part of this new collectivity is the sheer amount of teachers around the world willing to share their resources, companies offering free subscriptions to premium services and students genuinely doing their best.
There has been much debate about the best way to plan for tech-rich learning. Going back to the SAMR model as a foundation, technology shouldn’t be added for the sake of it. Technology shouldn’t replace traditional learning materials such as books, pens, or pencils but should transform and elevate what is capable, in terms of how we are able to collaborate or interact and what we are able to produce or create.
We may not know the full outcome of COVID-19 on education but past education emergencies tell us to expect a social and emotional impact. It has been important for me to explicitly address this impact. I found this UNICEF article with 6 strategies to help teenagers protect their mental health during this new (temporary) normal to be insightful.
In Mongolia, classes have been canceled since late January with rumors not to open until September. I’ve been teaching 100% online, using Zoom and Google Classroom on a daily basis. I’m trying to address the social and emotional impact as well as boost the number of Digital Citizenship lessons I normally would facilitate, due to the increased screentime. I highly recommend Common Sense’s Digital Citizenship curriculum for the secondary level.
I’m not new to adding technology to my classroom. But never before has it been like this. Even for students, this has been an adjustment. It may be dangerous to stereotype our digital natives, they need explicit instruction on how to rethink education.
Since COVID, I’d added the following tools to rethink education. I’ll add the tool link and also an example activity that I think has been effective.
- Vocabulary.com: Host a vocabulary jam live in our Zoom meeting to gamify learning words for our novel units.
- Google Classroom, but amplified: I used it before but now it’s my rock, my base. I find with planning for tech it’s important to use what students already know and build from there. Quality over quantity with assignments.
- So much can be said about using G Suite for online learning. One example is having a silent discussion in a Google Doc during our Zoom meeting, where we are all talking and contributing to a list of discussion questions collectively. They all have a voice and can contribute to the Doc where and when they can. For me, this has replaced in-class whole discussions (the bread and butter of ELA). I also want to try out Parlay to achieve the same purpose.
We are seeing so many disruptions to the traditional model of education that I’m wondering what can just be thrown out entirely: IB examinations no longer being held, suspended requirements for major higher education institutions, etc. I am left thinking about what really matters.
How are we addressing the equity issue for digital age learners?
What tech integration strategies have worked and should be kept once brick-and-mortars reopen?
We know the world’s institutions can function without high stakes tests, why add them back?
How will my classroom change for the future?