In my opinion the tools that were most useful/relevant to facilitate and structure online and blended learning for me was an LMS program- specifically Moodle. Using this platform, I was able to:
- Have a one stop shop for my classes that allowed me to organize
- Assignments: Course outcomes highlighted, expectations and assignment descriptions provided, further explanation and exemplars offered
- Assessments: rubrics are built right into the platform, so students know expectations and grading practices for each assignment/task
- Instructional videos:
- Embedded in the platform using H5P to slow down student thinking and ensure they are getting the main outcomes of the videos.
- Journal Prompts:
- I was able to assign journals that gave opportunity for reflection and interaction with the content. These journals were less about “right/wrong” responses, and the focus was on learning about students thinking and connections. It also provided a forum to see how they were doing in their personal lives so I could understand how to support them as students. It bred community and relationship even when we were apart.
- Discussion Boards:
- Students were provided opportunities to engage with content and expected to interact with each other using :
- These discussion boards helped foster community. As stated by Valcarlos et al (2020), these discussion boards provided opportunity for interaction and gave space for diverse epistemologies to be shared and students to be validated, legitimated. The discussion boars also:
- “Most of the educators in the reviewed articles discussed and employed pedagogies that valued students’ accounts of personal experiences, connecting students’ lives to the course content (Valcarlos, 2020, pg. 353)
- Furthermore, these discussion boards required students to write reflective responses in which the students needed to provide a reflection “by discussing the extent to which the materials resonated with them, personally and professionally, and new insights and thinking they constructed.” (Valcarlos et al, 2020).
In addition to using Moodle as the location where content was shared, assignments were located and assessments were built in, I also relied heavily on Microsoft Teams. This program allowed students to contact me while they were working remotely, or on days they were home during hybrid delivery. It also gave us a tool to use to connect daily during remote learning so students could listen to a lecture, or ask questions, or connect with peers. Further to the ability to connect when they were away, I had students who struggled with anxiety and thus preferred to message me even when they were physically in class. This will inform future practice as an option to engage in dialogue with me while ensuring the students feel comfortable. This small opportunity reminds me of the need for intentionality in the classroom and how inclusivity is a conscious choice to offer choice to students of how they interact with the content, their peers and myself.
Moodle not only allowed me to embed the above material into the courses for students to see and interact with, but students were also able to see the structure of the class so they could plan and execute their time effectively and efficiently. I designed my courses to follow Unit Plans/Modules so students were aware of the tasks that were assigned, where to find them and also saw the connection to the Course Outcomes.
This visible structure that they had access to since day one illustrated where we were, and where we were going. Its intention was to allow students to plan and prioritize their work whether we were Remote or in Blended learning. I found my senior students really needed this structure as their days at home as many of my students were working part to full time hours in essential services . In our presentation Josie spoke about the positive and negative of students being given the opportunity to work independently. I saw this in action as their teacher. I recognized that my students’ schedules were complex and complicated, and that independence would help students complete the work. With that being said, I also saw the challenges of this required independence as some students had difficulty finding the motivation to work when they were not in school. It was essential that I shifted my teaching and delivery to not only be about the content but helping them create personal plans that allowed them to work independently and ultimately succeed in the course (and learn an invaluable life lesson).
In students’ lives they are expected to manage many different responsibilities and to do so to the best of their ability. Time management is a skill set we learn throughout our lives (check out all the thoughts in the Productivity posts) and high school and post-secondary can help prepare us to continue to manage work life balance throughout our lifetimes. Thus, the LMS platform I used allowed students to plan and prioritize, that allowed them to be successful both in the course (and ideally in their lives). Further to discussing content, we talked about time management, about setting boundaries and letting work know when things were getting busier with school to ensure they were able to manage all that was being thrown their way. Utilizing Moodle allowed me to model what organization looks like, how one can plan their life knowing the expectations of the course along with upcoming assignments and assessments and how those skills can and must be transferred into personal lives as well. I’d like to think that this positively impacted student learning, but to be honest, a lot of students were just trying to “get through” this year. I observed that some thrived with this freedom, and others really struggled. Upon reflection, I wonder how they would speak about this structure and design and how it impacted their learning? Personally, I found that this delivery of content in both remote learning and hybrid delivery greatly impacted my learning experience. It was a challenge to keep students motivated, create personal plans, deliver content, provide adaptations while simultaneously maintain COVID protocols in the classroom. I found I was very much exhibiting what Fallery and Rodhain (2011) speak about- “an approach by scenario” where I was often making decisions about interaction about content dependent upon the situation I was faced with. This “reactionary” approach is not sustainable long term, but I do plan on continuing to discuss real life applications of being a student in the 21st century moving forward.
There are many lessons I learnt from teaching remotely and in a blended model this past year. I can say with certainty that I will continue to use Moodle as a delivery method of content and assessment. I can also say with certainty that there is room for reflection and growth. My ultimate hope is that I take this past year as an opportunity to define a “new normal” where we take skills and lessons from this past year that worked and implement it in my spaces.