I participated in an online seminar organised and hosted by Professor Judy Robertson and Jenni Doonan of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at Moray House.
With the current measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in education are trying to support our students as best we can by using online resources. I have operated my own VLE in various forms since 2004, most recently using Moodle and Blackboard Learn. Most recently, face-to-face teaching has been replaced by online tutorials and meetings. This seminar enabled some practitioners to share their experience and to discuss methods and tips for the hundred or so participants from around the world.
My colleague, Holly Linklater, shared her experience and some of the challenges and opportunities she has found in operating her own virtual classroom for children of Primary age (“Holly’s Home School”). She has found, like me, that interactivity can suffer as the number of participants increases. My own sessions have left me thinking that the usual variation in confidence levels becomes sharply contrasted in the online scenario: it can be much harder for those less forward to particiapte and feel included.
Tommy Lawson, a local authority officer responsible for technology and online learning for the past couple of decades, shared his own views on the approaches taken in schools and how teachers can be confident in delivering good learning opportunities for young people. He warned of the need to be circumspect with new platforms, especially the free ones currently on offer, and to be sure to check that any application you are thinking about using has been checked for safety and compliance with data protection rules. Tommy was very clear about the need to focus on being safe on line, and also for teaching professionals to create their own teaching Twitter account.
It was good to spend an hour thinking about my own online teaching experience as the presenters talked about their experiences and reflections. In particular, to have validated some of the ideas I had shared with my own PGDE students earlier this afternoon in relation to their own practice, both in person and online.
I have asked Judy to consider in future sessions, addressing the question of dealing with inclusion in online classrooms. I find differences in confidence seem to be brought more sharply into contrast within a group of learners when within an online space than in a physical classroom.