I am an ICT and Computer Science teacher at the Secondary School I.A. Bassarabescu, Ploiesti. I have been working in education for about 22 years and I am the coordinator of European programs and projects from the school, but also, I consider, the most important: I am a Scientix Ambassador.
I feel that I cannot begin to describe the activities I carried out during this time of “international pandemic – CODIV-19 “, without specifying the advantages and the opportunities offered by the Scientix platform. Through the resources that it offers, through the projects promoted on the platform, the events that I attended to, and the novelties I discovered, I developed myself personally, professionally, and had the opportunity to practice certain skills that I acquired.
The learning process must continue beyond school! With online tools accessible to everyone and with much involvement, I have been able to make progress with the students – whom I have encouraged to learn independently and in teams.
Scientix is an open participation platform, and as a teacher, I was able to get in touch with educational policy developers, experts, and project managers involved in STEM education and other teachers. By joining the Scientix community, I received information about the new events, the latest projects, lesson plans posted on the platform. I also had the opportunity to participate in webinars, on-line training, courses, various competitions and to be invited to workshops.
Scientix has provided me with numerous information about useful tools and online platforms for teaching-learning-evaluation (example of free-access collaborative platforms: Go-Lab, Graasp, Platon, Learning Designer, Padlet) that has enabled me to create my personal materials and adapt them to the students’ needs. In addition, the access to information sources and wider knowledge access helped me endorse student’s independent work, inventiveness, creativity and to help the students to learn about STEM.
The current era is characterized by the rapid development of digital tools, which offers multiple opportunities. The integration into the “home learning ” process can be challenging, however, the online platforms – essential digital tools -, motivate students to participate in activities based on research, exploration, and investigation.
To support online learning, I often use Google apps and services, because, personally, I find these more accessible for class communication (example I use is Google classroom); however, there are several other class communication platforms that might work better for other teachers, such as Zoom, GoLab, the school own platform, AdobeConnect (SOMR Rooms), Microsoft Teams, etc.
As a Computer and ICT teacher, I feel ready to face this challenge and to compensate for the drawbacks and shortcomings of some digital tools available, through didactic creativity, meticulous design, and personalized training. I often use the Graasp platform to create lessons and activities. It has all that students need: theoretical support, Go-Lab applications, virtual laboratories, video materials, students can participate in discussions and comments, they can give each other feedback, they can connect directly to the Google classroom and/or video conference with Zoom application. All integrated into the one platform!
Considering my experience, some days ago I organized an online meeting on Google meet and I offered information to other teachers about some lesson plans created with Graasp. I also provided them with theoretical support about the use of laboratories, inserting of the applications in the lesson plans, how to create a new activity that includes tasks-based learning. That way teachers awake the student’s instincts to discover, invent, solve problems, experiment, build on teamwork, independence, individual work, communication skills, collaboration, cooperation. All through real-life examples and correlations between theory and practice that can be done.
Why Graasp? Because it is very well connected to Google Classroom.
- As a teacher, Graasp makes the time more efficient, organized and it helps the structure of lessons and themes,
- It provides me with a space for more effective communication both in the classroom and outside the classroom with the students and other teachers. I can post announcements, questions, topics and learning materials for teachers and for students,
- Students can upload materials from any device,
- The easy access can help students to be more interested and attracted: with a single click, they have access to the information and the materials related to the lessons.
I see a good result while using Collaborative Education Apps, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Slides applications. These can be very effective to work with the students. They allow teamwork, both inside and outside of the classroom. (Similar platforms that offer also collaborative work: Microsoft Office Online, Dropbox, OnlyOffice, etc).
Collaborative tools are easier to track, verify, and evaluate. Information is also automatically saved, helping many students that often forget to save their worksheets or that save them in had to find places.
In my lesson plans, I always included as part of the tasks applications such as Padlet, pools, EducaPlay forms, questionnaires, among others. These engage them, allowing to provide feedback, participate in discussions, and give comments. The participatory online lessons will give students the opportunity to develop their ability to become good presenters, to analyze results, to comment, to develop critical thinking.
Before my lessons, I always create lesson plans on Graasp and I sent the link using Google classroom – where I also attached other interactive materials. Follow some implementation examples.
4th grade: I created a puzzle “Discover the words” (a puzzle in Romanian here) with a limit time on the EducaPlay and a template (in Romanian here) on the Story Jumper, where the students have to create an online book about “What I like – My story“.
6th grade: I invited the students to a video lesson on Zoom about “Scratch projects” and they had the opportunity to participate in the debate about “how to create the best project?”. In groups, I recommended them to discuss the following topics: “I would like to become a programmer, an engineer…”, “My future career is…”, “What if I was a geologist…”, “I like the job ______ because…”, “Being an astronaut is…”, among other topics based on STEM. I presented them with some commands/ scripts to use in their projects. See content in Romanian here.
7th grade: See the online book and my Lesson plan – in Romanian. Through the supporting applications on Graasp, I oriented the students in a research and investigation process, where they formulated research questions and hypotheses, conducting experiments, analyzing results, and specifying conclusions. Helping the development of critical thinking, the decision-making of the students also possibly orientating some of them towards the IT field.
The Difficulties and Bumps on the Road
It is important to remember that not all the students have the same results on the online learning process, some students have special needs and they need authentic communication and human relationships, additional explanations for understanding concepts, individual counseling, etc. For them, I try to adapt the tasks so they can write/draw on their notebook or sheets, and with their phones, they need to upload it to the Google classroom as a task.
When it comes to the students who have serious impediments to learning and/or technical difficulties such as access restrictions, browser limitations, insufficient level of digital skills, lack of a computer/tablet/smartphones… To these, it was created a program, that is not yet well structured – there is no control and monitoring of their activity, they have limited Internet access, lack of interest, prohibitions from parents who claim that they spend too many hours in front of their computer or tablets. So, with them, I see the biggest challenge. When face to face school starts again, I will have to do additional lessons for them to achieve the same level as their colleagues.
Finally, distance learning makes students “get off their benches” and helps them work as a team. It prepares them to give feedback to each other and to describe/discover their qualities and passions. Students also gain more and more skills and literacy regarding digital tools use. Plus, everything developed so far, could orientate many students towards the STEM fields. I noticed that my students more eager and even excited to participate in discussions and to communicate their thoughts and ideas. This can be a very promising and enriching experience, let us learn with it!
Author: Lidia Ristea, Romanian Scientix Ambassador