Reflections on the eLearning Consortium Crash Course

Alison Hunter Stewart
For the past five days, I have been engaged with 80 other independent school teachers in a “crash course” on remote learning delivered by eLearning Consortium Canada in partnership with CIS Ontario. I entered the course with some trepidation as new tech tools are not always intuitive to me, but ultimately, I need not have worried.
I was concerned about the number of new apps and platforms that I would need to understand in order to give my students a rich and varied remote learning experience. What I have learned over the past week was both reassuring and inspiring. Here are my key takeaways...
  1. While I did learn how to use some new online tools, I already had everything that I needed to create a rich learning environment. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to incorporate new tools like EdPuzzle and Flipgrid into my teaching, but collaborating with my peers made me realize what powerful functionality I already have at my fingertips through OnSJK and G Suite. I began the week worried that I might have to overhaul all of the lessons that I had already prepared when really, it’s about rethinking how to best use the technology that I already use every day so that my students will benefit. On top of that, familiarity brings comfort, and I want my students to feel as comfortable as possible, especially in our new learning environment.
  1. It’s the students, not the apps, that matter. I was surprised at how many valuable insights I got from the course that actually had very little to do with technology. Attending the course helped me to really think through how I will structure my lessons so that students feel engaged but not overwhelmed. Even little details, like starting each lesson with a short video message from me or thinking about how to incorporate formative assessment have much more to do with student comfort and well-being than integrating new, flashy apps. In that way, my teaching philosophy has not changed at all; my focus is always on how to deliver the curriculum in a way that keeps students engaged and happy.
  1. Flexibility is crucial as we move forward. My goal is to have two weeks of material posted for each of my classes by the time students begin their remote learning on March 30. This will allow them to work at their own pace and to move ahead if they are ready, but will also give them lots of time to check in with me if they need help or have questions. As students progress, I can modify my lessons based on their needs. I also can’t think of any adult who is as fluent and adept in the online environment as our students are. I hope to invite an open channel of feedback so that my students can let me know if I can be delivering my material in a more intuitive or helpful way. My students are some of the most creative thinkers that I know and, with their feedback, I know that my remote teaching can only improve as we go.

All in all, it was a very productive week that has left me motivated and inspired to create the best learning experiences that I can. Some of my colleagues were also registered in the course this week, and I know that several more are taking it in the weeks to come and that they will find it very beneficial. 

As many of you know, I am an SJK parent as well as a teacher. These are tumultuous times, and I know we are all facing a lot of uncertainty. I am so grateful to be part of the SJK family; a community that not only provides incredible support for me as a professional but for my child as a student. I look forward to providing that same support for your children in the weeks to come.

St. John's Kilmarnock School

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