For Kathy Cassidy, going back to school means “I set up my classroom, I think about how I will meet the needs of the students I will have, and I plan new ways I will meet my curriculum outcomes.” She’s done these things her entire teaching career, of course. “But because I am now a connected educator, I no longer do them alone. I do them with an entire network of educators online.”
Management of our iPads is more of a hassle than I had anticipated. But it is clear to me that these devices ARE making a difference. When I see the studentsâ€™ engagement, their learning, their sharing and their pursuit of their passions, I canâ€™t help but be convinced that these devices have the potential to transform my classroom.
Skype enables students to connect, collaborate, and communicate with students across the globe. It creates an opportunity for students to learn from each other, to have authentic audiences for their work, and to meet musicians, authors, and others who can further their learning. The possibilities are truly endless. Skyping is no longer a novelty — a once-in-awhile special event. It’s becoming a routine part of being an effective 21st century teacher.
Another major a-ha for me as an online teacher is the dynamic and potential for group involvement. When I describe what I do to people who are, shall we say, “not connected to the world of web culture,” they are amazed. “You mean the kids can see you and hear you? Don’t they get bored?” Well, if all they did was listen to me teach, then yes, they would get bored. Wouldn’t you? Which is why I make sure that my classes do not involve lecturing.
During my time as an online educator, I’ve used a variety of video conferencing platforms. I have taught students in public schools, Catholic schools and Jewish Day Schools and complementary schools. The technology is powerful, but there is something that catches my eye each time I run a session: it’s the human reaction to these technology-supported events. I think there is a need, in todayâ€™s wired world, to connect to another person far away, living a different, yet somehow similar life.
Students sit in the test-taking room, with full access to computers and wireless connections. As they work on national exams, they can be seen accessing the internet from time to time. Are the results from this testing going to be corrupted because these test-takers are not isolated from global information resources? Cheating — or high-tech cheating, as it is called today — what is that exactly? And is it really a problem? Do our old-school definitions of cheating need rethinking?