August 25, 2018

During the past two weeks, I have been posting about the SEVEN PRINCIPLES of eLearning according to me. But when you start teaching with technology you have to be aware of the eLearning reality.

eLearning reality 1 – You will make mistakes

There needs to be a first time for everything. You can not know what will and won’t work in your class until you try it. We expect the learners to be brave and try new things every day, but are too scared of making a mistake to do it ourselves. And anybody that has ever worked with computers will tell you that sometimes it just doesn’t go the way you plan.

eLearning reality 2 – There must always be a plan B

While it is true that there will be mistakes, you must always have a backup plan. I remember our principal saying, “Loadshedding may never be a reason why you can not teach your class.” The same goes for bad wifi or an internet line that is down. I find that the most common technology fail is devices that do not work. Unless it is a test, this can easily be solved by making learners work two-two on a device. It has the added advantage that it keeps them from getting too distracted. Nobody wants to check their email with there friend looking over their shoulder.

Also, make sure you always know your lesson well enough that you can chalk-and-talk if you need to. A set of printed copies also comes in handy if, that way you can quickly make a set of photocopies if needs be.

eLearning reality 3 – Technology is not cheap

You do not incorporate technology because it is a cheaper option. You will soon find that teaching with technology feels like a bottomless pit, there is always another tool, program or device you want to get for the kids. Not only do you need to invest in infrastructure and training, but you also need to budget for good quality tools/programmes. There are a lot of free options out there, like Google Classroom, and some of them are really good. But you can’t expect software companies to make their products available for free. Somethings you will have to pay for.

eLearning reality 4 – It will not save the environment

Lots of schools are proudly proclaiming that they are Going Paperless. I can relate, I used to constantly fear that I will be buried under a pile of paper in my classroom since I started using Google Classroom not only is my classroom a lot less cluttered, but I save a lot on paper. But I don’t fool myself that we are any greener than before. The paper we save is replaced by electricity and electronic devices.

eLearning reality 5 – You will never know everything

One of the hardest things about technology is that you will never get there. There is always something new to try, something new to learn. And some of the things you learned a year or two ago might not work anymore. One of the most valued skills of the 21st century is to unlearn and relearn and to fall in love with change. We cannot teach the learners to do that unless we can do it ourselves. While there will be times where you do a lot of PD on technology and years when you do less, schools should always plan for at least some training in technology every year.

You should always ask yourself, “How easy would it be to put this on another platform, should something better come along?” Software developers don’t want you to change when something better comes along, so they try to tie you in and the best way to do this by making it difficult to export your resources to another platform. But the reality is that you will be changing at some point, so prepare for it from the beginning.

eLearning Reality 6 – It will not save you time

Teaching with technology not only means you have to learn how to use the available tools, it also means that you have to plan your lesson to the finest detail beforehand. Most of us can do a class discussion off the cuff, after a few years you can deal with anything that comes up. That doesn’t work with technology. To make sure you have all the resources at the tips of your fingers, you have to script every detail of the lesson. If it works well, you can use it next year again, but be careful of any platform that promises you that once you have designed the activities and uploaded everything, you will be able to use it next year, as it. Every good teacher now that what works for one class does not work for the next class.

The advantage of spending so much time planning beforehand is that it frees you up during the lesson. You can spend less time handing papers out and writing on the board and more time engaging with the learners.

The only valid reason for incorporating technology in your school 
is to provide learners with a richer learning experience 
and prepare them better for the world they are going to life and work in. 

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