Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Online Classroom – Boon or Bane to a Teacher’s Existence?

I was speaking with a teacher friend of mine the other day about his normal day at school. He confirmed the assumption I have always held that a New York minute cannot hold a candle to a teacher’s time. I was exhausted after hearing about his normal day of juggling faculty meetings, team collaboration discussions, grading papers, preparing lesson plans, answering questions from students outside of class, copying handouts, parent-teacher discussions, teaching multiple subjects, and after school activities.   

He mentioned the online resources his school uses, which has a student population that is predominately in middle to upper middle class, that let him post assignments, calendars, grades, handouts, and other tools online. He made note how the system has alleviated his time in some regards but created more work in others – easier communication with parents, one more thing to maintain in the classroom, and a greater demand of students wanting instant feedback on grades.

I remember using such a system in undergraduate school because it allowed my professors to post extra examples online that were not discussed in class or textbooks, let me print out the homework assignments and handouts without being fearful of losing them, and kept me better in tune with what was going on in the classroom.  And I do remember refreshing the page constantly waiting for my grades to be posted – exacerbating the instant feedback frenzy.

But this led me to think about the schools that have student populations with far lower household incomes. I can see how my friend’s school could easily use this technology since it is safe to assume the students and parents easily have access to the internet and computers at home. This isn’t necessarily the case for our poorer school districts. So are there any teachers out there who work in low-income districts that use this technology and have found creative solutions to overcome the lack of internet access at home for students? What was the justification to fund such technology in these districts?

And for every teacher who uses this technology, how has it helped you in your classroom? Do you wish these services would improve in certain areas? And are there unintended consequences from using such technology that have in some ways made your job a little harder?

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