School Online – Journal – Day 11

It’s Thursday, and I know that our teachers’ anxiety is growing. We will see students next Tuesday, and no one in our Online School has yet been told what they are teaching.

This afternoon a virtual meeting took place with the guidance counsellors from all of our “bricks and mortar” schools.  They’re getting ready to resolve all the “conflicts”.  That means the timetable is done!  Well, at least for the students.

The next task, and not a trivial one, is to match up teachers with classes.  We sent out a survey a week ago, and I coded all the results. So, we have lists of who is qualified for what, and what they prefer.  They could just assign teachers based upon our OCT records, but this will be better.  However, it’s not going to be faster.

What is it they say? Go slow to go fast?

They’ll likely use the strategy that we use each year when staffing: fill the most difficult first, and leave the easier ones to the end. In this case they will likely start with single courses, and end with those where there are 40 to 50 classes.  And then when it doesn’t work, backtrack and re-do.

Who knows how long this will take? No one has ever done this before, so it’s almost impossible to predict.

In the meantime I’m doing some “action research”, and figuring out how teachers will do daily attendance with their various flavours of computer hardware.  Our Student Information System was designed to run on PCs, and its interface requires Java. There is a workaround for Macs that involves clicking on a series of options, ending up at our attendance interface (though some people have not been successful making it work with their older Macs).  No one has tested it on Chromebooks yet, so I am awaiting emails back from the two teachers who volunteered to try it out.

Today I had another taste of what our teachers will experience next week when taught my Ontario Tech University Education Law class online.  I had 36 students out of 38 attend, and we were working in Adobe Connect for two hours. I needed two screens to juggle between our interface, shared Google docs, and our Canvas course. Perhaps my students will be able to manage better than I, although the one student who connected via phone was likely unable to see all that they needed to see. We also learned how important it is to have a headset or earbuds.  One student with speakers on created a dramatic echo when I was speaking, so they had to mute almost 100% of the time.

The same challenges are being faced by our “bricks and mortar” school teachers when they are working synchronously in the last period of the day. And to make it even more of a challenge, our Internet dropped in the last 10 minutes of the period. Not a great way to end a long day.

But, tomorrow is Friday! Actually every day this week has felt like Friday, without the reward of a weekend.

I hope that our teachers are able to find some relaxing time, where they are able to distract themselves from the concerns of the week. It promises to be sunny, in the mid teens, so I’m hoping that everyone will get out, get moving, and enjoy this beautiful Autumn weather.

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