Education at home
Each day this week, I have awakened with a surreal, unfamiliar feeling. It has been disorienting to realize in the few moments after waking that life is a different normal. We are in the very beginnings of an education plateau. No new, meaningful, strategic learning can take place without dedicated caregivers who can access all the tools being made available online. I can help my own children access learning tools, but can everyone? Although I can teach literature analysis, help with reading comprehension, and discuss history, science, and multimedia, there was a reason I did not become a math major in college.
We had the talk with our 13-year-old son. Quit playing with multiple kids outside. This is it. He wasn’t happy, but he will comply. So when he wrestles with his sisters, chases the dogs around the house, or hits baseballs into the net in the basement, I will need to lock my lips tight, sit on my hands, and create a blank face. And if I let the kids sleep until late morning in order to get a few quiet work hours, please do not judge.
In higher education, we have been fortunate to already have several online delivery systems in place for optional use among professors who teach face-to-face courses. Shifting immediately to online spaces is not easy but also not impossible, particularly with the level, timeliness, and constancy of support the tech teams are offering. We are attempting to make online classes feel the same as face-to-face meetings with tools such as Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom, and I plan to test other interactive tools – Padlet and VoiceThread – for consideration in a true online version of this course that was already in the works. Who knew that I would be testing them so soon?
But the struggles are still real. One student has reached out to ask if the synchronous Blackboard Collaborate session during our scheduled class time was required. She has taken more shifts at her grocery store job in order to make up for the hours lost as a teacher’s aid. She assured me that she can figure out a way to attend class virtually at the scheduled time if necessary. But I would rather figure out a way to engage her in the class without costing her essential income.
These are disorienting times. The current situation is forcing our nation to redefine essential jobs. This may be the biggest and most important lesson that our children will learn right now.
Black and white picture of the Dam of Kerspetalsperre. http://www.flickr.com/photos/102769624@N02/46789657202/ Markus Trienke via Compfight
The Edublog Personal Blogging Challenge has pushed me to generate more words and design more content than I have in quite some time. Oddly enough, I needed the step-by-step structure to break the dam that was holding back my creativity.
Step 7 challenged me to rethink whether I collect or curate resources. Learning how to embed codes on my blog site has encouraged me to be more conscious of my audience and how that audience might explore the resources I have bookmarked in Evernote or uploaded to a Mindomo map.
The intentionality of setting up a blog and writing posts has not escaped my notice as a teacher. Selecting a theme, finding widgets, embedding codes, and designing pages before ever generating a blog are all parts of real-world communication. I changed my theme at least three times in two days before deciding on a crisp, clean look. I did not want too many or not enough widgets. And what if my Evernote files are of some interest to someone? I added those links to a Padlet to find out.
One of my rediscoveries was Mindomo, which I used for several projects some years ago. I found my old maps and then upgraded the account to add more. I embedded the code for one of my resources on Teacher Inquiry on my research page and hope to update the map in the near future.
This is a view of a large lake at sunset. The photographer is at the rocky edge facing in the distance the outlet of water between two rolling hills. Katrinitsa via Compfight
There is something inspirational about water. This picture aptly title “View of Paradise” invokes a feeling of peace and tranquility. I find myself in a state of mind to write more reflective and, perhaps, whimsical posts quite different from the current realities of winter.
Walking to my car last night after the first class of the new semester made me realize that I’m kind of okay with not having a window in my classroom. Perhaps we focused more intently on the lesson because we could not see the drizzling sleet outside. We were analytical and purposeful in our writing and discussions.
What environment do we need for the most productivity? But then what kind of productivity do we demand of ourselves? Is it okay sometimes to pause so we can look for the perfect inspirational picture? The compfight plugin allowed me to browse Creative Commons images with ease. I hope the caption will convey enough about the picture for a screenreader.
If my goal is to write routinely, then no matter what the end product is I should feel productive. Yes, blogging by following steps outlined by a team of professionals has helped me tap into a fountain of words that I’m thankful still exist after so long a dry spell. I also plan to share these tools with fellow teachers and teacher candidates, particularly steps for accessing and using images and copyrights.
So as I continue with the blogging challenge and find my footing as a writer, I add this picture to remind myself of our own getaway. My picture of the setting sun at Rough River Lake in Kentucky will be my inspiration.
This view of Rough River Lake was taken beside a dock with the photographer facing the nearly setting sun. Fall foliage can be seen on the trees surrounding the large lake.