School Online – Journal – Days 35 to 41

In my last post I wrote about “gradual release of responsibility”, and now it applies to me.

Last week was mark reporting, and so we were busy supporting teachers to enter marks, and ensuring that report cards were distributed via email to our students. Among our teachers are some with years of experience, alongside those who have never determined midterms marks. So it was a busy time, with many emails back and forth as we supported and educated.

We’ve now had three teacher-led workshops: each one providing our teachers with new tools to bring to their online classrooms. I am so appreciative of the efforts our teachers have made to share their expertise.

While not nearly as experienced, I’m going to be co-facilitating a workshop later this week, and again the following week, working with another instructor from Ontario Tech University to share best-practices in online secondary school instruction. Her work is based upon that of Garrison, Anderson & Archer (1999), which was developed in a text-based online environment, but applies equally well to our multi-media synchronous environment. We will be engaging with secondary school teachers, making connections between this theoretical framework (see illustration at top) and their daily work.

If you’re interested in this, or other workshops, please check out  Each session is 90 minutes in length, facilitated by Ontario Tech University instructors and friends, and costs $10.00.

Back to the “release”.  My work has been “dwindling”, and I’m spending my time responding to emails that could easily be managed by others on our team.  I have no exciting challenges on the horizon, and so I am preparing to head on. There are those on our team who will be continuing to support our Coop program through a full semester, and to manage the shift of some of our most vulnerable students into the new model. But I am seeing myself without any agency to influence our program and processes in Quadmester Two, and I am feeling useless.  

Our online teachers will be bringing a huge toolkit back to their “brick and mortar” schools, having instructed synchronously 75% of the time, with strong asynchronous content for the remaining 25%.  They have worked entirely online, both with their students and with colleagues and admin.  They have juggled new tools, with little training or support.  And they have thrived.  One teacher told me that he didn’t know why so many of his students were doing so well in his class. He was triangulating his assessment data with conversations and observations, and they were still exceeding all expectations.  He said “What should I do?”. I said: “I guess you celebrate!”

With the new demands to teach to both the students in front of them in the classroom, and those online at the same time, they are facing new challenges.  If the hardware and connectivity work, I know they will succeed. The challenge to connect students in all three cohorts, and build community, will be a greater challenge than that of instructing. Teenagers crave connection, and they have been starved since March.  Bringing online tools and expertise to the F2F classroom should begin to address that need.

I wish our teachers well as as they embark on Quadmester Two in mid-November.  They have proven themselves, and should be proud.

School Online – Journal -Day 22

Teaching Synchronously:

On August 13 of his year, the Ontario Ministry of Education released Policy/Program Memorandum No. 164, referred to by the short form: PPM 164. It defines “remote”, “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning.  And it addresses seven areas:

  1. minimum requirements for engaging students during remote learning
  2. minimum requirements for synchronous learning
  3. process for exemption from synchronous learning
  4. protocols for delivering remote learning
  5. access to remote learning devices – such as laptops or tablets – and the Internet
  6. standardized suite of synchronous learning platforms
  7. cyber security, privacy, and online safety

It requires synchronous learning any time a student is at home more than three days in a week, and specifies the length of time that teachers should be providing synchronous instruction:

Secondary Grades 9 to 12 The higher of 60 minutes for each 75-minute class period** or 225 minutes per day for a full course schedule

And it specifies that “synchronous learning platforms should include live video, audio, and chat features and be fully accessible”.

While many of our teachers who were teaching in the spring have developed facility with our synchronous learning platforms, Brightspace or Google Classroom with MS Teams or Google Meet, many of our long-term occasional and short-term occasional teachers have not. Most found themselves unemployed during the shutdown. So they are beginning this school year with workplace demands that they have had neither training for, nor experience with.

Having accepted a position they are now working from home, without the support of “the teacher in the next classroom”, and are struggling. There is an option to have them work from a local school, but there are few spaces available as we spread out our students in our “bricks and mortar” schools.

Our challenge now is to ensure that they are supported, and that they don’t become overwhelmed. I have begun this by connecting each teacher with others who teach the same course. I have shared our Empowering Modern Learning resources, created by our central staff. And I am now brainstorming ways in which will be able to provide professional learning opportunities that will work for our teachers, within the intense, draining workday they are experiencing.

If you are one of our online teachers, and have any suggestions for how we might provide this professional learning, please connect with us and share your ideas. You are working differently, and so must we.