it’s teaching online, not online learning

Posted by: Lynn Tran

The global pandemic requires us to all practice physical distancing. In the face of this distancing, we must push for social closeness and care

I sent out an email last week inviting and encouraging us to come together to learn and socialize from a distance. We scheduled four meetings in April for RoP Facilitators to meet online and learn from one another. Our purposes for those meetings are to

  • Make space to talk with each other
  • Model online teaching practices
  • Spark ideas for problem solving

I recognize not everyone are able to attend. That’s understandable. To make lessons learned from those meetings more broadly available, I’ll share the highlights here for our whole community. 

The transition to using technology to teach has been abrupt, but necessary. In the mad scramble, it’s easy to forget our strengths and skills. It’s easy to overlook we have each, and must rely on one another even more in these uncertain times. 
In this rush, we are all chasing down digital and online technologies. The companies are also throwing themselves at us, for free for now (be wary of their generosity). There is a lot out of services and platforms out there, and they change fairly quickly. We find ourselves needing to learn quickly to do our jobs so we can keep our jobs.

I have three thoughts to keep in mind as you proceed:

  • Start from what you know about how people learn, and use that to guide your use of the technology. Don’t let the technology define your teaching. No offense to the designers and programmers who make these platforms and tools. They are skilled and expert at what they do, no doubt about that. We need them. But remember, you are the expert in teaching in your context. You are teaching online to support your learners’ learning. The humans have not changed (evolution doesn’t work that fast), though the way the interaction occurs has changed. The fun comes from finding creative solutions to address our new problem.
  • It takes time to learn to how to teach online, just like it took you many years to develop your in-person teaching practice. All that to say, cut yourself some slack. Be patient with yourself. Troubleshoot — there are tons of “how to” videos out there. It’s not going to be perfect. It’s not even going to look like how you usually do it in-person … because you’re not in-person with your learners! Reflect on your practice and try again … you know, those skills. You’ll get there. You’re not alone in this journey. Just remember, everyone is good at projecting the illusion of productivity and expertness. 
  • Adjust your expectations, don’t lower them. This change applies to our learners and ourselves. We were barely holding it together before everything changed. Now, we’re all doing more, and juggling multiple roles and disruptions. Adjust what you expect is doable and equitable by you and your learners. You might not have all the time and devices to troubleshoot. Your learners might not be able to access the technology to keep up. This situation is definitely deepening and widening the social inequities in our society. Ever more important now, we must be vigilant about supporting our most vulnerable learners. Look for their strengths, and adjust your expectations to match.

Tip for the day. Use multiple browsers and accounts. I use four different web browsers simultaneously when I’m developing and testing. For every platform I use when I teach, I have two accounts for the teacher and learner perspectives. Some platforms have a toggle switch built in for you to do this within your one account, but I find it cumbersome. It’s easier to just use one web browser for your student view and another for your teacher view.

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