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Opening up our schools, it is a whole new world

Welcome back to all our students

Today was the first day of school for half of our senior students. We are cautiously opening up our school one step at a time.

The question is what will we prioritize in the five weeks we have left? Will it be to test our students, will it be to meet and socialize, or will it be to learn? Perhaps a little of all three. I’m sure there will be research on what was done before and after.  I’m sure different schools have different takes on starting up again. The safety measures take up most of our time, those of us who are trying to organize this by rearranging the timetable to meet the given requirements of safety these days. You can see from the picture here how we met our students for the first time in eight weeks. The red carpet routine, and the disinfection. And odd, but appropriate combination. 

Will we be more digital now than before?

I just listened to a podcast where Alan November speaks to Eric Mazur a Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and Dean of Applied Physics at Harvard. He is also the inventor of Peer Instruction, and pioneer of the flipped classroom. Peer instruction is something I am very interested in now and something I truly believe will enhance students learning. In the podcast, he talks about teaching as a transfer of information and then helping the student make sense of the information. How does this align with the digital teaching that has been going on these last two months?

I think one of the things that people are discovering or much more likely to discover right now is that it will put much more emphasis on that second part of education namely the sense making how to find ways for instructors to help students online making sense of that information through interactive teaching through activities that can be done online where the learner is not just sitting there passively listening to the instructor but is actually actively engaged. And I think there’s plenty of evidence to show that we can actually engage students using technology regardless of where they are on the planet and regardless of whether or not they are at the same level in their education. It doesn’t need to be a synchronous process nor one where the pace is set by the teachers.  When I move my own course online I try to actually move as much as possible away from synchronous, everybody together at the same time. An asynchronous model where students can engage in the activity when it is most convenient and best for them and rather than teacher timed, it is  student based so that the students can complete the activity at his or her own pace. Why would everybody be learning at the same pace anyway? Quote Mazur

So true. Why should students always work synchronously?  Does this new way of working, online with digital tools allow us more leverage here? Working online is the same as collaborating and learning from each other. In other words, do not be afraid of cheating, because working with someone else is not cheating. We have to work together and synthesize the information that is available. Students should be encouraged to work together and have access to everything that is available. Creating new things and new solutions to problems. We do not have to remember facts, but we have to be able to verify facts and know what to trust. The most important added value of a teacher today is to be more as a coach.

Digital tools

When it comes to digital tools in education it is best not to think about the tools but it is better to think about the pedagogy. Think about what approach would be the best to help your students learn, and then look for tools that facilitate that approach. The focus should always be the students, not the teacher.

Today’s digital tool

When listening to the podcast, I used the dictate function in Word. The result was not great, but it is a good way to take notes from a lecture or podcast. The real work is going through the notes afterward, there is a lot of learning there.

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