March 17, 2020 marked the beginning of a new teaching paradigm for schools all over Ontario as the province began its quarantine efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. As a result, schools had to instantly switch to 100% online delivery, which in a way also marked an acknowledgement that teachers are indeed instructional designers (and rightfully so). After all, instruction is not about technology for technology’s sake, but rather as a means to empower others to learn, to act on their learning, and to become independent, global citizens. With the shift online, it has become evident that as teachers we must embrace technology to be able to operate in a virtual world and do what we do best: Impart knowledge and awaken the desire to know more.
Will we ever be back in the classroom face to face? While the answer is most likely yes (later rather than sooner perhaps), now is the time to use digital technologies and embrace their endless possibilities, including the affordances of:
- Providing accommodations to students with special needs without singling them out. Online learning lends itself well for multiple modes of representation from video presentations to podcasts, closed captioning to transcripts. This flexibility allows teachers to offer students different options without the need to single out those students who do not feel comfortable with face-to-face interaction or have differentiated learning needs.
- Making digital devices a welcoming tool for learning. Many times, especially in the language classroom, students are asked to bring a print dictionary during examinations. In an online environment, this policy does not work. The advantage in this case is more teacher-related than student-centred since, in an online environment, electronic devices are most definitely allowed. This translates to less worrying and policing!
- Bringing 21st century skills to the forefront. This time learning extends beyond the use of social media as both teachers and students adapt to technological changes. The advantages to this are obvious: We live in a globalized world where online interaction is commonplace, so being comfortable with technology benefits everyone. For students, the need to feel comfortable with various digital technologies is a given. It is a pre-requisite for employment and day-to-day life.
The new normal is here. Let’s embrace it. The possibilities for learning are endless. What possibilities have you experienced, witnessed, or embraced?
Looking forward to your input!