The classroom is flat

Some rights reserved Jillian Nichols

As I have been taking refuge from the floods in Bangkok, I have continued to provide instruction online for my students. We are now beginning our 4th week off from school due to the flooding crisis in Bangkok. The first couple of weeks we were mandated to remain closed after our half term holiday by the Thai Ministry of Education. Last week, while many other international schools finally opened their doors, on Wednesday, November 9th only the teachers went into school to prepare for the students’ arrival the next day. While we were catching up with our departments and planning lessons for our students return, dirty khlong water started creeping up on the only entrance now to our school (the other entrance had long been flooded). Again, the school administration had a difficult decision as to whether or not remain open. The school doors were closed again, but the main item on the agenda that day concerned how to make up lost instructional time, especially in the form of online or distance learning.

The tools are out there. One of my colleagues Paige Prescott, also a fellow COETAILer, had a classroom session using BigMarker that I joined in on. It is a video conferencing site that students can easily access via an invitation/link sent to their e-mail. Everyone is able to see one another, just as if you were Skyping, but there is an added component. The administrator of the conference is also able to teach utilizing almost anything they have access to on their personal computer. Everybody conferencing is able to see what the administrator puts on their computer, whether it be a Google document, a PowerPoint presentation, or a specific website. Basically the options are limitless.

It is becoming increasingly simple to teach online without ever having to step foot into a classroom. If a teacher has their own website that students can access on a regular basis, such as a Wikispace, Google site, or Edmodo, students can access whatever it is you post on them. Google documents and presentations can easily be embedded, as well as instructional videos from Youtube or the Khan Academy. Video conferencing can be supplemented at specific times utilizing BigMarker or with Google’s new Hangout feature on Google Plus.  Assessments  can even be given online through various sites such as Quizlet. I would like to familiarize more with online assessment systems. It begins to make you wonder what the future of teaching will look like.

Thomas Friedman wrote the book The World is Flat, which highlights the growth of globalization expedited by the age of the internet. As educators, are we not seeing the same change about to occur because of the internet? Is this necessarily a good thing? At Ruamrudee International School, I would say almost all of the secondary teachers now use a classroom website of some sort. Because of this fact, it seems like an easy transition to do distance learning in the event of unfortunate circumstance such as the current flood. Of course there are large discrepancies between the quantity and quality of distance learning taking place depending on the teacher, but what I have noticed as far as student outcomes has been surprising. Our students today spend hours a day on their computers posting on Facebook , chatting on Skype with their friends, and playing computer games. It seems like it wouldn’t be a difficult transition to have their schooling take place online as well. Unfortunately, whether my students truly don’t have access to the internet because of location, or many claimed to not have brought their laptop, the results of the distance learning assigned that has actually returned has been approximately less than 5%.

Why is this happening? What is the hang up? Most are familiar with procrastination, and being distracted in times of crisis is understandable, but I am fairly confident that teachers aren’t going to easily be replaced, even though the classroom is now flat.

The photos I have taken I have not yet had time to put on Flickr, but I will. My husband and I volunteered for the Thai Red Cross a couple of weeks ago and saw a province near Don Muang flooded. The pictures that I took explain our experience much more than I can.

Some rights reserved Jillian Nichols

I’m  thinking about making a video or a VoiceThread presentation for my next post on my experience volunteering. More to come on that.


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One Response to The classroom is flat

  1. Avatar of Jeff Utecht Jeff Utecht says:

    You bring up some great points and I can’t wait until your students get back and you find out why only 5% of or so did any work. Of course you’ve been out a lot longer then we were and you’re students probably more directly effected, but we were seeing returns closer to 90% on work.

    If nothing else there will be some good data to be had from all this in preparing for the next time we need to close.

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