Since beginning my Master’s degree in the fall of 2017, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a few areas of interest and to delve into topics that were terrifying to me. The last three semesters of classes I’ve taken with Dr. Alec Couros have led me down a path that I would never have imagined possible. Instead of fearing technology and its implications on education, I’ve learned to embrace ed tech and use my curious nature as a means to an end. One thing that lead me to where I am right now is a shift in my thinking about “Schooling” and “Learning” … and how we can design learning environments that will help our students learn in the 21st century with an antiquated model of school.
One of the big questions we discussed in EC&I 834 is how we can best design learning environments for students – regardless if the environment is in person, blended, or online. If I’m being completely honest with you, the traditional “school” is not an environment that is good for all of our students. No matter which school or which classroom or which teacher we put under a microscope, there is a good chance that at least some of the students are not learning. WHY? Because of how the environment is designed.
In thinking about and searching for inspiration about how I can help my students best learn in the classroom of today, I stumbled across a graphic that was designed in response to a blog post from George Couros.
The graphic really reminded me of the conversations we’ve had in our class, and the statement “If done the wrong way, school can actually go against what is needed for learning” from Couros’ blog resonated with me. I agree with this so much. There are bigger issues that some of our students are facing today, and they need to have a flexible learning schedule.
Maybe I’ll draw some fire for saying this… but it’s my opinion. Sometimes it feels like we as educators are being asked to push kids through the system as quickly as possible. Didn’t meet the outcomes at grade level? Doesn’t matter! Social promotion indicates the students will fare better with age alike peers. Until the student has missed so many outcomes that it is impossible to do the work … and then what? As a high school teacher, I see the implications of this every single day. Each student learns differently and at a different pace than their peers. That’s totally acceptable and I can roll with that. HOWEVER… we as educators are also being pressured to have all of these students graduate in a set amount of time. So we’re supposed to change the delivery and adapt to the circumstances … but we need to have them all reach the finish line at the same time? Why? Wouldn’t it be better if students could access the type of learning environment they need to be successful at all levels of their education?
I really do think that this is where Online or Blended learning can make a huge difference to students. By utilizing ed tech and designing learning environments in a variety of ways, we have the ability to reach more learners! Prompted by the need to help my students who are struggling to attend school, I dove into the design of an online Pre-AP ELA 20 course. As I continued to work on my course and after getting feedback from my peers in EC&I 834 as well as some of my colleagues IRL, I am confident that I am indeed onto something that could be REALLY GOOD for many students. Why should geography or school size dictate who has access to a particular course? Why is attendance at a brick and mortar school a requirement for learning? Shouldn’t we explore options for students who need accommodations?
I have a dream… or maybe the better word is GOAL. Online AP classes – blended! Sounds like a James Bond-style recipe for success, in my opinion!
It is my hope, based on my experiences in my Masters program so far, that I can continue to design learning environments that will help my students and other students in Southeast Cornerstone Public School Division. There are quite a few schools in our school division, but only a few that have Advanced Placement ELA classes. I would love to be able to have more students accessing these courses so they have the opportunity my face to face students have – to advance their critical thinking skills and learn university level material and strategies, all while completing the SK Ministry of Education ELA curricula. A bonus that they get as a result of their hard work is the opportunity to take the international AP exam in their grade 12 year – success on this exam could allow them to bypass the introductory English courses at whatever post-secondary institution they choose. saving them time and money in their program!
I know there are some barriers to having these courses available to all of our students. Accessibility may be an issue for some. Our school division works hard to ensure that our schools are connected and have appropriate bandwidth to use for learning purposes. Many students live in areas where accessing the internet from home is slow, costly, or isn’t always reliable. Therefore, for some students, most of the learning would likely need to take place during school hours. It might be a logistical nightmare, but maybe there is a way to do a synchronous online component where we all meet up and collaborate!
I’m not naive. I do know that this all will be much more “difficult” to make into a reality than I am implying here. Perhaps the most important aspect of this whole situation is the desire to make it happen. I became a teacher because I care about learning. I remain a teacher because I care about PEOPLE. I guess I have some goal setting and planning to do in order to make my dream into a reality.
Thanks to Alec and my classmates for another great semester of learning! You all inspire me to be a better educator!