1. What do you teach and how long have you been teaching with computer technology?
Okay, so I teach English 12 which is now English Studies 12. I teach Writing Foundations levels (supposed to be 5-7 but it’s more like 3-7) and I teach English 10. And I’ve also taught in the past, Social Studies 10. I do it in the classroom and I do it online. And in BC, I’ve been doing it since 1997 and I’ve been doing online since 2006. When we went to online, actually you may not know this, but School District X continuing education was the first to start online classes and we had to do it in response to adults who could not make it into the building or teacher led classes because of childcare issues, work issues, transportation. I mean there were many issues so we went on and we started with Moodle because at that time, online learning was really new and we phoned all over North America to all the different centers that had successful programs going and they were all using Moodle. So that was the program we went to. Now we weren’t working under the instruction of how to use Moodle, we were just told to switch your course on Moodle…and that’s what we did (laugh).
2. For you, what are the benefits of using computer technology?
For the online, that’s just Moodle. But in the classroom, I started using Edmodo. I discovered Edmodo when I was doing a PDP with SFU and I liked it because it was very easy to set up, very easy to use, and it was like Facebook. Students I was working with at that time you know, they were all very familiar with Facebook and it gave me a place to put handouts and assignments so that if a student missed a class and with adult ed, you have to be aware students are going to miss classes. They had some place to go to, to see what had we done that day, what were the assignments, what were the handouts, and they could get the notes because I recorded everything on the smartboard. And then I just…well actually it’s a smartboard I just make it a PDF and then I put it on so then at least see the notes of what we went through in the classroom. So, that we really, really beneficial.
(Do you think that there are other areas in which computer technology plays in education?)
I feel like it could be more than that, but we’ve never had students comfortably enough to really explore. Now I have to say a couple of semesters ago, the English 10 class really got into it and they were communicating back and forth quite a bit. They would send me a question, I would respond and then they would all respond to the answers so it became a very interactive site. That was really great. But they were the only group that’s ever done that. I’m really interesting to see this time when no one’s in the classroom, will they start interacting with each other?
3. Can you describe a class activity or assignment that you recently taught using computer technology? Did the technology make it easier or more difficult to meet the learning objectives?
So using the technology…my online class, some my students have reached a particular spot where they’re doing a documentary project. So, in the documentary project, they have to find a documentary that they like and they have to do an analysis of it and we have an example of an essay that we want them to follow and we have all of the rules on. But when I do it with my classroom people, it’s much better because I can first show the movie and then we do the discussion which is obviously the opposite of what you want because you want one that works best online. I haven’t got one that works best online. Everything I’ve done works better if I can talk to the students, then we can put it online. I’m still looking for those ones that we can do well online.
4. How about smartphones? Some schools have banned students from using them during class, but do you think these tiny, but powerful gadgets should be considered a valuable educational tool as well?
They have a major role. Now, I don’t know about high schools, because see I’m with the Adult Ed centres. Adult education is quite different. One thing…they’re the adults—most of them. Although, in my English class at night, I have 14 what we call cross enrolled. So these are students who go to high school during the day, but for one reason or another, aren’t taking English 12 so they come to the classes in the evening because it’s an open…it’s like an extra block for them and they’re taking English 12 with us. And the other half are adults. But the smartphones, they’re great for dictionaries. They can look up words really quickly, they’re good for researching if we’re doing something and I’ll say, “well what does that mean?” and they’ll look at me and I’ll go, “you’ve got the phone. Go to Google. What does it mean?”. They’re very quick and on finding that information and sharing it with the class. It’s a downside with my ESL students…because they use it as a translator…and that gets to be a problem. Now, high schools and elementary schools, they’re quite different. Their issues are really different. I did have a student who had a phone call—well actually he carried on quite a conversation in the middle of a movie that we were watching and I couldn’t figure out where the sound was coming from until I found him, took him out, and made him hang up his phone. And I have students who are constantly on their phone playing games. I mean, they’ve got the work to do, they’re supposed to be working, and I’ll look and they’re on their phones. They’re texting, they’re playing games, and I think that’s where the high schools have a problem. I really don’t know how you’re going to stop that unless you have…I’ve heard teachers talking about doing some kind of a block. So once the student enters the classroom, the teacher has some kind of device, they hit the device, and it blocks. Unfortunately, that also means the teacher can’t use any internet or website so if they want to do something, they’re also hampered. They were going to do that school-wide and that became the big issue, like well…what about the teachers? They can’t get on and do their attendance because they have to do it on the internet, right? They can’t get on and they want to watch or show a movie or doesn’t matter what they were doing, so they didn’t do that. I know teachers who have a basket on their desk…I don’t know that’s sort of the big debate in the schools right now. The fact is, the students have them and there are parents who want them to have them because a way of tracking them.
5. Steve Jobs was famous for saying, "There's an app for that". But is there an app for everything, at least in education?
No. I wish there was. I like to be able to just click on something and have it done for me. Uh, no. Even when they this is going to work, it does not.
Interviewer: Shua Her
Date: Mar 26, 2020