Saturday, January 16, 2021

Sabbatical Over ... Back to Teaching

 So, the end of December marked the end of my half year sabbatical and return to the classroom. While the sabbatical was a good one - even if only half a year (I confess I certainly enjoyed the previous full year one more). I only took a half year since I am retiring in July and when taking a sabbatical, our CA states that you must come back for at least as long as the sabbatical, or pay back the salary earned. I did manage to finish some things up, have an article under review (on coding), and started a few other projects. One with a colleague who I have done collaborative work with often looking at educator use of social media during the covid school shut down last spring. Some interesting data, that is currently being analyzed so an article can be written before I retire! It was nice to do something on social media - it was the topic of my dissertation and other work I have done. Another project with 3 other colleagues is also going - I am the lead for now, but will hand it off when I leave. 

So, back to the classroom, I started in this profession in 1978, every year I had a course to teach - 27 years in a high school classroom, then as a Principal I taught a course as a sessional at BU. The only year without teaching was my full year sabbatical. This year, of course, is different. While I have taught several graduate courses online, all of our course are now online, including the undergrad courses. This winter I teach 2 sections of Using ICT in Ed for senior years and Internet for Educators. I am going to use an approach with synchronous classes using zoom and asynchronous 'classes'. I am so used to being in the classroom to demonstrate, have group work and discussions that this will be different. Even after 42 years, there is always something to learn ... in fact, I often tell my students that as a Principal I did not want teachers who thought they knew it all and nothing to learn about teaching/learning. I digress - I think 4 hours/ week on zoom (especially for all their courses) is mind numbing, so I will, for the mist part, go 2 hours on zoom and the rest asynchronous activities, with me available for individual meetings. To help demonstrate some ideas and apps I have been creating screencasts (Using Camtasia - it works very well - I should have been doing this for years and not waiting until my final 3 courses!).

In Internet for Ed I have always had guest speakers almost weekly, and this year is the same. I love the various voices and experience brought into the class, and the students blogs are always interesting as they reflect on each speaker's message. In the course we examine issues such as Internet (And issues - privacy etc.), literacy, identity, and citizenship, social media, online learning, and so on. 

In my ICT in Ed classes, I have a few projects that students can work on asynchronously. I will describe them in a later post, but one is a book club, and the other a 'passion project'. I hope that this will allow them to dig into topics of interest and allow some time off of zoom. Adapting and changing a course for online does pose challenges, luckily I have, as stated earlier, taught online before, but I am sure it is a lot of work for those new to it, especially for an audience not used to this mode of learning. It does requires more motivation and independence on the students part. This recent short article about a study of teachers about online learning points out what happens in many instances, and this is true not only of K-12, but also post-secondary, a tough thing to do when thrust into the situation with no previous experience, to be sure:

The report cites evidence that many teachers have tried to re-create the physical classroom experience for students by hosting long whole-group videoconference calls and sharing documents in the learning management system, approaches that are contrary to the advice of online learning experts.   (article on Education Week)

In a future post, I will describe some of the major projects mentioned above in a bit more detail. That is if I feel the urge to blog, something I have not been very good at doing, although I ask my students to do it in #I4Ed class ;-)