This week we were to reflect on our online experiences so far this semester in EC&I 833 and comment on the impact the class has had on our learning. Further, we were asked how we would feel about teaching online or distance education classes to our present students and discuss the possible impacts.
My online course
This term I have appreciated the richness and wisdom my colleagues have brought to class. I have felt inspired and re-energized to teach. I have taken risks and gained confidence in trying new technology. Our online class has enabled me to saved time and money in getting to and from the university. I appreciate not having to pay for parking and not having to walking to class in the cold. On a personal note, the online class has been a huge advantage for me because I am able to easily feed my enfant son and not worry if he will go hungry while I am in class. For these and many other reasons, I would recommend taking an online class.
Taking classes from home does present challenges. In past and current online courses, I have missed debriefing with classmates, orally and informally, what was learned. I continue to find myself craving face-to-face conversations post class with colleagues. I am often so excited about my new discoveries, I want to share them immediately. I find it challenging to contain my excitement and to have to wait to post or comment on my thoughts. A personal challenge for me has been concentrating in class when I hear my children upstairs playing or upset. Even with the volume turned up and headphones in, I can not block out my ‘tuned ear’ for their specific voices.
As a late adopter of technology, I have had a sharp learning curve and often felt out of my element blogging. This unease with blogging has improved with time. I am hoping to remain on the path of ’embracing technology’ however, I acknowledge that I will require ongoing support from colleagues and administration. I will also require consistent access to technological devices (I would love a smart board) or I could risk falling into the same old habits of teaching how I always have taught because it is easy and comfortable. I am elated to say I feel as though this class has empowered me with the required language I need to advocate for permanent access to technological resources in early childhood. It has also been reinforced that it is okay to ask for help and learn alongside my students.
Kindergarten Online: Possible Advantages
I can foresee numerous advantages to teaching my French Immersion Kindergarten’s online. Financially, this could help our school division, as Dayley and Hoffman state that online systems “(s)old to and run by individual school districts, provides home-school educational opportunities at a significantly discounted price to the school district when compared to the cost of a traditional school. Two teachers can meet the needs of about five hundred students online, where the same two teachers would instruct about sixty in a classroom.” Therefor not only could divisions potentially save in teacher salary, school divisions would likely have a cost savings in transportation, infrastructure and insurance. The Saskatchewan School Board Association views school bus operation, air quality issues, property loss, boiler and equipment failure as potential risks for school boards. If students took online courses from home, it is presumed that the school divisions would not be required to carry as much insurance as they are not assuming many of the high risks.
If my French immersion kindergarten’s learning was delivered uniquely online, they would have the opportunity to learn independently, at their own pace and they would not be distracted by classmates behaviour. I believe that self motivated driven learners could excel academically at home. If my kindergarten lessons were online, students would be able to replay all or part of my lesson. This would be advantageous for them as repetition is an important teaching/learning aid, especially in a second language. As an educator, I would enjoy having formal assessments all being conducted online. I do not enjoy carrying heavy portfolios home to mark students work. Grading early childhood aged students in class time presents its own list of challenges. If my kindergarten student’s all took online classes, they would also benefit from flexible learning times. I find teaching the afternoon kindergarten class always more challenging to teach than the morning kindergarten class. The reason for that is some 4 and 5 year olds physically still require naps in the afternoon. With flexible learning times if one of my student’s was tired he/she/they would have the opportunity to rest in the comfort of their own home.
Kindergarten Online: Possible Disadvantages
Having stated all the positives, I must state my MANY concerns in offering online classes in early childhood. For starters, kindergarten is a play based, activity orientated program. Working online you are removing a large part of the social aspect of kindergarten. Students need to learn certain social norms. They must learn to be able to physically sit next to someone while respecting their personal space. They need to learn an appropriate voice for indoor and outdoor setting. As I have previously stated, children need to learn how to resolve conflict independently with same age peers. It takes time and ongoing support throughout the day to learn how to function in a small group and a large group. Turn taking does not happen over night and to say that your child can play with their cousin is not the same as your child learing how to play with 24 other personality types. Children in the ‘brick and mortar schools’ learn for example how to be a good friend, patience waiting in line, and many fine motor and gross motor skills. All these skills we require in real life. I practiced turn taking at the four-way stop, waited in line at the bank, apologized to friend when I ran late for a coffee date. Yes, some of these skills could be practiced at home, however, learning them alongside 24 other students is in my opinion richer and simulates ‘real life’.
In this clip, Dr. Peter Gray highlights the evolutionary function of play and calls attention to the societal consequence of the decline in play.
Having stated the advantages and disadvantages I do need to acknowledge a grey area. I do believe that some of the ‘academics’ of an early childhood program (learning rhymes, patterning, counting etc.) could be online if students had appropriate ongoing engaged adult support at home when taking the class. However, overall at this point and time, I would advocate for the greater importance of play in an early childhood program and for the program to remain in ‘brick-and-mortar’ schools.
Audrey Watters acknowledges, “experience colors (her) views on online educating today (…).” I must admit that I too am tainted by my history of online classes and the positive experience I have had. Do you feel that your experiences have tainted your view of online classes for your students?
Do you see more advantages or disadvantages to teaching kindergarten online? Let me know your thoughts.