Allowing our students to capture their learning in new ways challenges us to see them differently as learners. When students own their learning and showcase it for us, how can we ensure we are using this evidence to inform future instruction? What tools do we have to enable our students to make their learning visible? In this workshop we will Explore some current uses of digital tools to document learning and support reflective teaching practice.
In Ontario, AQ [Additional Qualification] courses for Teachers are Approved by the Ontario College of Teachers. There are very specific components of an AQ Course that must be completed in order to achieve the qualification, which then demonstrates to others in Ontario that you are capable and competent in teaching in specific grade or subject areas, or in certain areas such as eLearning or Special Education.
Most of these AQ Courses are now available online.
The tension comes when teachers taking an online AQ think that online secondary school courses should follow the same principles and practices as the online AQ.
AQ Courses are normally provided through an LMS (Learning Management System). They are content driven, linear, and require the completion of specific tasks. Much of the “community building” and sharing is through online text-based discussions. Assignments are uploaded to a dropbox and evaluated by an instructor, normally without any triangulation of assessment (conversations, observations, products).
But is this how we want teachers to then go back and teach our students in online environments?
Are we demonstrating that online learning is not meant to be the “dissemination of teacher-driven content“, but a way to give learners agency and ownership of their own learning, outside of the confines of classroom walls, and teacher-defined content?
And when the course is the credential [AQ] for “Teaching and Learning Through eLearning”, how can we ensure that we model open practice, inquiry and learner agency, within a linear, compliance-based model?
Those achieving the AQ must recognize that eLearning is much more than what the online AQ is modelling, or we continue to perpetuate old teacher-directed product-based classroom structures through those we qualify to lead online learning in this province.
This year’s Technology Enabled Learning and Leading Symposium for Principals is wrapping up today. Yesterday we had the opportunity to have conversations with Dr. Tony Wagner about how the current pathways for our students are no longer leading to success.
Creating that Compelling Case for Change is so critical. We are in times of exponential change, yet for many, this change is invisible as we continue to do things as we have always done in our education system.
Earlier in the week, I had the pleasure of leading, with Mark Carbone, a group of PQP and SOQP instructors in an examination of why change is needed and how we might start considering our work in online spaces differently.
We have included the slides and some of our thinking below.
As we think about the needs of learners in online environments, there is one dichotomy that we often forget.
Some students take online courses because they need a credit or qualification for a life pathway, not because the want to learn.
I was first introduced to this thinking as a secondary online teacher , and I wrote about it on my old blog, School 2 Go, seven years ago .
I am returning to this dichotomy today as I think about how to differentiate the AQ I am currently teaching. Many of my teacher candidates have yet to find consistent work in the teaching profession in Ontario even though they have a wealth of experience. For some of them, this course is just a qualification needed to help them find work. They are busy raising families, doing other paid work and just trying to make it in a system that is so challenging for new educators.
How do I, as an instructor, challenge their thinking and model the kind of online learning we want for our students and teachers, while respecting their need to just “get through it”? How do I remain present in their learning from a distance without becoming a burden to achieving their goals?
This will be part of my personal inquiry going forward.
What if you are the only student at a high school needing a credit in SPH4U? eLearning might be your only option.
As educators, are we really saying that eLearning might not be for this student?
Or should we be saying, eLearning is just learning, and we will adapt our instructional methods to the learning needs of the student just as we would in any other public education setting.
Would we ever say, “Oh, classroom learning might not be for you because you have difficulty sitting in one place for 75 minutes”?
It’s time to challenge the myths around eLearning.
eLearning is NOT putting distance learning materials into an online format.
eLearning is NOT putting a course into an LMS.
eLearning is meeting the individual needs of every learner, just as we would in any other “classroom” in a publicly funded school.
Technology has come a very long way in the 20 years since eLearning began in Ontario. We can meet our students through the digital f2f on many different platforms. We use many synchronous and asynchronous digital tools to collaborate and plan and provide feedback.
Continuing the myth that eLearning is only suited to some students is holding us back in providing all of our students with options that allow them to design their own personal pathways to success.
It is not about students being well-suited for eLearning. In 2016, it is the eLearning that must be suited to the students – all students – and it is up to us as educators to ensure that it is.
Twice this year I have been fortunate to hear the very engaging Provincial School Attendance Counsellor, Tony Di Lena, speak about the persistent absenteeism issues in Ontario – northern Ontario in particular.
Persistent absenteeism is defined as missing 10% of school days – 2 days per month, essentially.
Last time, he was speaking to a group of parents.
Parents were quick to defend the absences. In the north, it can be a 4-hour one-way trip to the orthodontist, and all of the children in the family have to go, because the parents cannot get home in time for school dismissal.
Sports days mean that students must take a full day – or more – off school to play a single game of basketball in the north. Hockey tournaments need driving days. Grandparents live far away and family visits are important. Poor weather limits bus travel. Reliance on the 2-lane Trans Canada Highway means access to school is frequently cut off because of accidents and bridge closures.
It’s hard to attend school regularly even when you desperately want to.
So why aren’t we connecting children with the school remotely?
Instead of purchasing school computers and devices, why not purchase devices – with mobile data plans – for kids? A child in a car for 8 hours can attend school and learn remotely while travelling. A child at home on a snow day can synchronously collaborate with the classroom.
And that child away for two weeks to visit grandparents in Texas? Think about how much that child can teach her class about Texas! She is a resource for classroom learning, not a “make work project” for the teacher who has to “send work” for her to do while she is away.
We can do so much more to keep students “in school” even when they physically cannot attend. And we can start today.
While certainly we want to work to involve our communities and ensure that we all believe our schools are the best places for our children to learn, we do know that there are some factors that we have little control over.
When medical appointments require long drives and the necessity for entire families to miss school, and when a single school basketball game means a full day absence because it is a 6-hour round trip, we need to think about ways to have a bigger impact on the “learning that occurs outside of school”.
Blended learning – using digital tools to support student learning when they are not physically in the building – demonstrates a willingness on the part of the school to support the lives of young people. Collaborative technologies support synchronous and asynchronous learning for students separated by time and distance. They allow teachers to asynchronously provide assessment for and as learning in multiple modalities, even when the student is away.
Students who are travelling become resources for learning as they share what they see with the class back in the building.
Innovative thinking and simple, free, available tools allow us to provide ongoing learning support and empowerment for our students no matter where they are.
Learning is not confined to a school building. Technology can transform our thinking about what learning looks like, sounds like and feels like for students and teachers in 2016.
#ltelt – Leading Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching. Are you an Ontario educator looking for help with Blended Learning? Contact your board’s TELT Contact, a position in each board, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Education. TELT Contacts engage in regular professional learning to help support TELT in their board.
How can we provide rich digital learning environments to ensure that all students have access to the pathways they need for success?
This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina!
Over the past 2 years, I have been incredibly fortunate to be learning with an innovative group of eLearning educators in Algoma District School Board.
Last spring, the group shared their story with Ontario at On The Rise K-12. David Truss was a keynote speaker at the event, and as a leader in the Inquiry Hub, we shared many ideas around how to engage all students in rich, authentic, relevant learning opportunities.
Recently David connected me with his colleague, Will Eaton, and I offered to share the work of the #elADSB educators to give him some idea of how Ontario is working to use innovative strategies to make online learning an exceptional opportunity for secondary students.
In Algoma District School Board, there is a 3-year commitment to eLearning teachers to provide opportunity and the supports needed to work on a collaborative inquiry around best practices in eLearning. During the first year, over 20 teachers worked together to think about how to move from text-based online courses, to online instruction that put relationships ahead of content, and utilized a strong understanding of student assessment to allow for choice in how students demonstrated evidence of meeting course expectations.
The Theory of Action for Year 1 was: “If we as e-learning teachers develop rich learning tasks for/with our students and IF our courses incorporate effective on-line collaboration and communication strategies (s-s, s-t, t-s, s-w,t-w) THEN students will become more actively engaged RESULTING IN a positive experience and a stronger sense of classroom community”.
The story has been captured in this video:
Several of the eLearning teachers in Algoma District School Board are now blogging about their work, and it is worth learning about their personal journeys.