School Online – Journal – Day 7

Isn’t technology fun? Maybe, or maybe not.

Here are some snippets from my Friday:

Welcoming new pre-service teachers to Ontario Tech University

  • Adobe Connect was new to them.
  • Several didn’t have earbuds or headphones, and so any audio from their speaker went back out their mic, creating a disconcerting echo. I’m hoping that they’ll have them on when classes start next week.
  • With almost 30 students, our thumbnail faces were literally “thumbnail” size.
  • This was the FIRST orientation activity where they were actually asked to speak to each other.  All previous had been webinars…. three days’ worth!
  • Result?  We had a great time getting to know each other.

Picking up a new laptop

  • I had to sign in and out at the board office.
  • I had to wait to be escorted, rather than heading to my meeting.
  • There were two of us in a huge room, both of us masked.
  • We were almost finished when I mentioned that I would be in a school next week, and found out that they then needed to add more to the setup so that I would be able to access Wifi.
  • Result? It works well…. except that you must be on the Internet to use many of the new tools.

Internet

  • As mentioned in a previous post, our ISP “up north” has disappeared.  And they billed me twice for last month, so I’m out a rather large sum of money.
  • So, when I made the trip up the 400, it was to a place with no connectivity.
  • Thank goodness for my personal phone and its data plan: I was able to tether to download, and send email.
  • Result? Headed in to town today, signed a contract with the ONLY LTE provider, and am now back online.

Data Tools

  • I was able to download the results of the Google Form survey of our online teachers, and bring it into Excel.
  • We made the survey simple for the teachers, but that made the data much more complex.  For example, when asked what courses teachers were assigned this year, some replied with course codes, and others with text descriptions.  And we asked one question, but received up to 8 data points.
  • I created columns for each subject, and then hand-entered the first letter of the subject (M for Math, E for English), as well as a few more specific codes.  What is the logic of having GLE as a special education course, and GLC as careers?
  • Once each record was coded, I was able to sort.  I then created a new worksheet for each subject area, and copied the teacher information to the new worksheet. 
  • Within each worksheet we may need to create more columns, in order to sort by specific course codes.  However, for many subject areas it may be sufficient merely to scan to pick out who wants to teach BOH4M0 or BTA3O0.

Timetabling

  • The building of the timetable is ongoing, and a gargantuan task with more than 9000 students and about 400 teachers.
  • Most of our most experienced timetabling Vice Principals are either retired, or have been promoted to Principal.
  • So, my contribution next week will be to fill in for one of the latter, who will join our School Online team in order to ensure we timetables for classes to begin next Wednesday.

It’s the weekend.  I finally have Internet again, and am capturing yesterday’s experiences before they disappear.  I’m looking for clothes to wear next week. It’s been six months since I wore my “Principal” costume, so I’ll have to dig.

On Monday I’m looking forward to experiencing our new hybrid secondary school model, where 50% of our students will attend for the morning, and then return home for both asynchronous and synchronous learning.  I’m going to learn all about PPE and distancing with teenagers!  And I would imagine that my afternoon will be spent trouble-shooting with our teachers who will be teaching synchronously for the first time from their classrooms, after working from home in the spring.

Because I also teach, in the morning I’ll be meeting my pre-service teachers, with whom I worked throughout the 2019-2020 school year, but this time it will be in Adobe Connect rather than at Ontario Tech University. I’ll be behind closed doors in the “Principal’s Office”, and if I’m interrupted by school staff it will just be a learning opportunity for my students.

I hope everyone is taking time for themselves this weekend, and doing something that relaxes and refreshes.  There are going to be a lot of new experiences next week for our students, for our F2F teachers, and for our Online School teachers.  I’ll be listening, observing, and learning along with all of you! I’ll let you know what learned in my next blog post.

Photo credit: Hans-peter-gauster-252751-unsplash.jpg

School Online – Journal – Day 1

September 1, 2020 was a day unlike any other since I began “school” at age 5 in 1965. While students remain at home, our teachers have begun the first of three Professional Learning Days. But, unlike other years where we have met prior to the Labour Day Weekend, this one began online.

We were all online, viewing a welcome message from our Director of Education. Then we completed COVID-19 training and WHMIS training, with choices of video, slide presentation, or text.

Those heading back to “bricks and mortar” schools were then permitted to attend a staff meeting… but only 50 at a time in a physically distanced space. Next week that all changes when our elementary colleagues welcome classes as large as 30 into very small classrooms! ….but I digress.

Our online teachers didn’t yet know that they are our teachers. They found out that they are “excessed” at the end of today, after they had already met with half the school staff, and then with their departments. And they know little beyond the fact that they will now be leaving their school as of Friday. We have 8200 students joining us, so you can imagine how many teachers headed home to share with family that all that they had planned for this fall has changed.

Those of us who do know that we are working online, along with those who are occasional teachers, then headed on for more online learning: Anaphylaxis, Concussion, and Asthma. The last two are provided by a central organization whose servers could not keep up. So I did that training before bed.

I am excited at the prospect of working with teachers to extend their skillset in this new online environment. I wish I could whisper “it’s going to fun” to each of the teachers who learned today that they are “excess”, so that they don’t spend their nights worrying.

And I’m excited that we will be working with new tools, in a new way, and will be learning together.

But, in the meantime we have to wait until timetables are built, teachers are assigned, and we figure out how we will work as a team to support them and their students.

So, I’m awake at night as well, imagining scenarios, and brainstorming ways to utilize our technology in service of learning, connection, and growth.

I’m hoping to document our journey in a series of blog posts: three this week, and then daily after the Labour Day Weekend. Please comment, or contact me directly, to add your perspective, or to ask any questions about the new path we are building for our students.