It is 2021, and I am back in Melbourne, doing what I was doing all those years ago … precarious employment as a ‘university academic’ working in Pre-service education. Since 2020, pretty much remaining in ‘lockdown’, practising and developing my skills as an ‘online facilitator’ or tutor of pre-service teachers. I’m battling with being able to ‘make do’ with the current situation, limited (if at all) ability to travel or work overseas (where I’d rather be), trying to be thankful for what I have (house, food, family, relative comfort) and a brain that can’t stop quiet and be content.
Today I signed a piece of paper to sell my house of 20 years. This brings relief, hope for the future, new opportunities, a change in lifestyle, a view to being able to lock the door and move on to where I want to be, to be alleviated of the challenges I don’t think I should have to be dealing with at this time of my life. Covid has put us in Melbourne back in lockdown, partially alleviated in its third week, but realistically, not offering much more than the life I’ve been living since returning from the Solomon Islands. Every time I venture out into the ‘real’ world, I feel like a stranger who doesn’t know how to behave, or dress appropriately for the situation.
There is talk about moving back to face to face teaching – I can’t quite imagine having to face my students without their names under their video feed, if they choose to have their cameras on. I feel as if the closest relationships I’ve had over this period of time has been with my students who have cameras on and who talk directly with me. The next closest, with those who will email me to discuss issues related to their learning and assessment. To tell the truth, I enjoy ‘online’ teaching. I can plan opportunities for students to meet and discuss issues with their peers, to contribute their thoughts to the whole group, and alongside carefully constructed 2 hr seminar blocks, to have time to lecture, discuss, critique, share, collaborate and feedback in regards to course related topics. This form no doubt benefits some students more than others, and I do wonder whether my ‘enjoyment’ has much at all to do with the ‘success’ of learning. But I have learnt that my passion for the subject matter, and for the collaborative work of my students, actually does matter, and does contribute to the value acquired from taking part.
I have recently completed a subject “Facilitating Online Learning” and part of this was setting up an ‘Edublog’ in which I have been exploring ideas relating to technology, with my usual overly critical bent. See: https://abelspace.edublogs.org
This has given me some new ideas, but also reinvigorated my critique of technology as more of a gimmick than necessarily improving learning. I get that technology provides us with many tools and accessories for teaching and learning, but not all of the world is ready, willing or able to access this. Making something more ‘engaging’, or ‘interesting’ does not necessarily improve the quality of learning, but has become a ‘necessity’ for educators. Finding a balance, recognising and knowing how to use tools that are available, and not simply using them because ‘students find them more appealing’ is important. Isn’t it? Maybe I’ll be outvoted on this because educational institutions depend on good reviews from their students, not long term investigations of the ‘success’ these students encounter throughout their careers.