Reflections on Teaching from Home

Since 2013 I have tried to open my classroom more. I have applied different methods of teaching to engage my students and hopefully let them build skills which will be needed in the future. When our schools in Norway closed because of the Covid-19 virus the 12th of March, the digital classroom was front and center like never before.

First, we are very lucky to live in Norway! Our government has handled the virus well, and we are a developed country. In my county, Bærum, our students have the advantage of having an iPad each. They are digital natives. In addition, my colleagues and I had the infrastructure necessary in terms of learning systems, like itslearning and Showbie. My challenge is thus not so much reaching my students, which have been hard for a lot of teachers since the lockdown, but instead teaching online for an extended period with no fixed end in sight.

During the first weeks, my students and I settled into a sort of rhythm. We greet each other in the beginning of lessons. I learned to divide the content into smaller parts, and to adopt a step by step approach, instead of publishing a flood of information all at once. I provide booklets with material, and those who want to can listen to a recording instead. When they hand in tasks they receive a comment, and their work is registered as accepted in our learning system. So, in tandem, we managed to achieve structure and accountability quite fast.

Feedback from students and parents has been vital. Our culture of open dialogue between teachers and students, and a quite flat organisational structure is important. Teaching online can feel like walking around with a blindfold. I depend heavily on observation in my classrooms. By watching my students, I can tell what I need to repeat or change in a lesson, and if someone looks very happy or maybe sad. This is much harder when we are teaching online. One might be inclined to think something is working well, until we ask directly.

It is hard to replace face-to-face meetings!

Getting to the point of talking directly with my students proved to be a stumbling block for me. We didn’t have a reliable and safe online tool for meetings at my school. A tool surfaced, but half of my students had trouble of some kind when trying it. Hence, we were back to talking on the phone. We talk once a week or so and these are opportunities to listen to any grievance. We have tested the online meeting, and I learned that only half of them could see me, while the other half could hear me but they didn’t see anything. However, what also manifested was grief, the awareness of everything we are missing!

In Norway we are onto week six of teaching online for Grades 5-10. Grade 1-4 will start tomorrow, and if all goes well, I hope we might get back to school before soon too. I know now that I will be able to teach online if it is needed another time. I am grateful beyond words for our situation of worrying about lesson design and the quality and safety of online meetings. I know colleagues all over the world have much more pressing concerns to deal with. My hope is that we will bring what has worked in this lockdown into our work on site. By sharing our experiences we can learn from each other and improve as educators. I have learned that the digital classroom has worked beyond expectation, but it is not everything. I miss teaching at school!

My school: Ramstad Secondary School in county Bærum in Norway.

Digital tools in my classroom

A cascade of leaves

A cascade of leaves

I work as a teacher at Ramstad middle school in Baerum county next to Oslo in Norway. I teach grade 9., and my subjects are English, social science and international cooperation. This term I decided to try to make my classroom more global.

My inspiration came from many persons, but among those was Svein Andreas Horgen: He held a really inspiring lecture about Web 2.0 at a conference about education that I attended in Bergen in February last year.

Also, the experiences made at one of our neighbouring high schools: Sandvika, put in motion by a teacher called Ann S. Michaelsen was calling out to me. She wrote an e-book with one of her classes about creating a global classroom:

Fore some years I have used MS Office, youtube, wikipedia and  different websites in combination with a computer and a projector, in an attempt to make my classes more relevant for my students. This seemed to work quite well with regard to teacher driven lessons, but I want my students to use technology more for themselves in their learning, and to cooperate more, and not just watch the teacher having a go at it.

First, I enrolled in the EU program eTwinning, and found a partner class in Slovenia for my international cooperation class. We share a project called “You, me and the others, that’s us!”. This will allow our students to learn more about the similarities and differences between them, and they can practice using English too.

Next I had my new students explore one digital tool during their second week at school: They made wall posters in all my classes. The posters were great, but we didn’t manage to print them so easily. However, as the main objective was to learn how to use the tool, the product was less important!

This week I am asking my students to establish accounts with , and I intend to have them using wordpress to blog about an English novel this term. I think everyone deserves to know about evernote, because this is the digital tool closest to my heart right now! I also hope that x-mind will become useful to them when they want to brainstorm an idea and make a mind map. Next I want them to explore for organizing all their bookmarks and websites they use during their week, and for saving all their work in the cloud.

Using these tools together can take your learning to another level I think, and I want this for my students!

So, my goal is to let my students experience how digital tools can help them organize their notes and thoughts better, and hopefully let them learn how sharing their knowledge will increase it!

Finally, to help me develop a deeper understanding I have entered a MOOC at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology about “Technology and Change in Society” So, I am exploring some very interesting new digital tools this term, with the goal of making my classroom more global, and helping my students use technology more in their learning process. Along the way, I am learning more about digital learning and the digital economy in a MOOC organized by professor Arne Krokan at the NTNU.

If you have ideas that you think I should explore regarding my work towards a global classroom, please write a comment about it, so I can check it out.