2020 started out normally, as everyone remembers, but with this murmur building in the media of a strange illness developing in China. Nobody in my circle was overly concerned until March hit. At light speed, everything went from normal, to ” we are shutting down for a few weeks”. As an educator, this was both shocking, and scary. I was not only worried about my family and friends, but as the weeks went by, I was concerned that my students were not going to be able to complete their classes. I was a little luckier, however, since I had some experience with Google Classroom. In my first year of teaching, I had been given the opportunity to go to a Google Summit and I learned the basics there. I had been using this platform after that as a supplement to my regular teaching practices for things like submitting and presenting Google Slide presentations.
After March of 2020, I realized, along with the rest of the staff in my division, that I had to quickly, and effectively, step up my game. We were instructed to get our resources adapted for online learning, and go to work from home. Immediately, since we had 3 children of our own doing online homework, and my wife,( who is also an educator, but in a different division), was also working online, we realized our Wi-Fi was not up to par with what we were trying to accomplished. I was trying to use Google Meet quite often, as was my wife, and this was not successful. Scheduling for all 5 of us was the only way to make it work.
My students were having many of the same problems. In a rural division, connectivity was a serious problem. Any synchronous meeting with my students inevitably had a group that had audio or visual issues, sometimes even both. I eventually found that it was easier to have one on one conversations on the phone or via email. Our division had given out Chromebooks for students to use but without the proper infrastructure, this was not always successful.
The other issue we had was accountability. When the government told the public that no student would fail a class, I had students that instantly quit attending class meetings or doing any work. They essentially took the “pass” so to speak , and moved on. This was disappointing as an educator.
After some time ,however, I did improve my understanding of Google Classroom and now I use it in every class I have taught over the last 2 years. I am using many more of the available tools with it and I like the ability to give instant feedback, as well as being able to have students get notices and reminders right on their phones.