Different times. Different locations. Disconnected.

I have been teaching asynchronous classes for four years. There are a lot of benefits of asynchronous learning; however, one of the downsides is the lack of personal interaction and engagement. When I look over my courses to see how much interaction there is between my students, the reality is that I have very little opportunity for my students to connect. This prompts me to reflect:  How can I build an online community in my asynchronous classes?

In an ideal situation, students would actively participate in their online classes by confidently posting videos, participating in forums, and providing feedback to their peers. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The challenge of asynchronous learning lies in its inherent flexibility, where students progress at their own pace. As a result, forging connections becomes a difficult task.  While synchronous interactions are limited or non-existent, building meaningful relationships and creating a supportive learning environment is still possible.  In order to improve my community building in my asynchronous courses, I  am using the guidelines outlined by Lindsay Harris in her article Building Community and Connection Between Students and Instructors in Asynchronous Course. I really like how Harris’ guidelines are simple yet effective.  Below, I have reflected on some of my current online practices and methods and have come up with one new idea that I will be adding to my courses:

  • Getting to know each other
    • Teacher Intro Video (Screencast-O-Matic)
    • Student Get to Know You Survey
    • Forum that students post on: grade, hobbies and interests, favorite classes, food etc.
    • New idea: Students create intro videos,  students do a personality test (color test)
  • Empathy
    • Provide check-ins through Moodle Questionnaires
    • Provide clear and concise videos walking students through my course
    • Use more empathy statements “I am here for you”, “If you have any difficulty, please reach out”
    •  New idea: Course empathy statement sheet
        • I am here for you.
        • My goal is for you to learn and understand the material and see how it applies to your life.
        • I am here to support you.
  • Communication
    • Be very clear how students can contact me and when (email or message me in Moodle)
    • Moodle Messaging allows me to select which students (or all) to send group messages to
    • Monday Morning Memos go out each Monday through Moodle Announcements Forum
    • Create Meili’s Motivational through Moodle Blocks
    • New idea: Send out a Weekly Wrap-Up Video Message on Friday
  • Feedback
    • Give praise when students demonstrate effort and strong understanding of the content
    • When students struggle with an assessment, provide specific information on how they could do better in the future.
    • Provide feedback in a timely manner.
    • New idea: Provide individualized audio feedback

 

 

 

Mental Health Education in Schools

As an educator, I aim to create an inviting, inclusive learning environment so my students can succeed. Some of my students can succeed in this environment; others cannot. Unfortunately, for some of my students, coming to school each day is a struggle no matter what environment I create. The mental health struggles of our students are a concern for all stakeholders in education. When our students struggle with their mental health, they often struggle in silence. They feel stigmatized. They have no one to turn to. It isn’t until poor academic performance, that someone notices and begins to ask why. Multiple factors affect mental health and they extend beyond the academic. If so many students are struggling, what can the education system do to contribute to the enhanced positive mental health in children and youth?

Currently, in Saskatchewan schools, students are not required to take a mental health course, despite stats showing that 38 per cent of surveyed children and youth in Saskatchewan reported a decline in their mental health as a result of the pandemic.With statistics so alarming, we have to ask the question, what are schools doing to promote mental health literacy and awareness?

The Government of Saskatchewan has acknowledged the urgent need to address the mental health and well-being of students since the pandemic by including Mental Health and well-being as one of the four pillars of the Provincial Education Plan Framework and with its recent funding announcement, it solidifies its further commitment. To further support Mental Health in Schools, The Mental Health Capacity Building Program is an initiative that the Government of Saskatchewan is investing in and promoting. The program is currently in a number of schools, and “focuses on prevention and mental health promotion, early identification and intervention.”

As part of this comprehensive approach to student well-being, I am so pleased that some school divisions are offering mental health courses as a proactive effort to raise awareness about mental health. I have had the privilege of teaching a Mental Health Studies course face-to-face, in previous years, however there was never an opportunity for online students to take the course. The course I am designing is a fully online Mental Health Studies 20 course available to students. My prototype can be found below.

Mental Health Studies 20

 

 

 

My Relationship With Technology

My relationship with technology has been rocky for most of my teaching career. Whether it was moving from one management system to another- Powerschool to MSS to Edsby; going from a TV with a VCR to a SmartBoard and now a TV with Airtame; or flipping between learning platforms such as Google Classroom or Moodle, technology has always been something that has intimated me. 

My introduction to online learning happened right before COVID hit.  In early 2020, I was asked to develop high-performance online courses and although I knew NOTHING about anything online-related, I said yes. When COVID hit, I was at home trying to figure out how to not only, connect with my students virtually and try to teach them through Google Classroom, but I was also trying to build courses on Moodle that were to be ready by the summer. 

When I look back on that time, yes it was incredibly stressful, but I believe it was the best thing that could have happened to me in my teaching career. Technology was something I feared. It frustrated me. When I said “yes” to creating online classes without any experience or knowledge, little did I know the impact it would have on me and my career. 

  • It forced me out of my comfort zone and that it is okay to take risks and try new things! 
  • I have gained more confidence in my abilities and skills. 
  • It has made me a more engaging face-to-face teacher.
  • I am able to assist my colleagues with questions and concerns about online and blended learning.
  • It has sparked an enthusiasm and excitement for learning. 
  • It has presented new opportunities.
  • It has kept me current with educational trends. 
  • It has kept me relevant and relatable.
  • It has made me believe, that no matter how long you have been teaching- we are all capable of learning new things!!

Technology no longer scares me. In fact, I actually get excited when I learn about something new I can try online or in the classroom. Whether it is about a new platform, like Mentimeter, Padlet or Flipgrid, or a new Chrome extension like Momentum, which I can share with my students, technology is now something I embrace. 

 

My First Ever Blog

Hi! My name is Leanne and this is my first ever blog! I am thrilled to be stepping into the world, offering a platform to share the experiences, insights and reflections I have gained over decades of teaching.

As a veteran educator with 26 years in the classroom, I’ve witnessed the ever-evolving landscape of education – from curriculum changes to technological advancements, and everything in between. Through it all, one thing remains constant: my passion for teaching and guiding the next generation.

When you visit my blog, I hope you find something that piques your curiosity, challenges your thinking, or simply captivates your interest! Whatever it may be, I am glad you are here!