We live and work under unusual circumstances in the last months and a new setting in education is required. All schools are closed and our classrooms have moved to our homes. We all need to adapt to it. It is not realistic at the moment to expect the usual rhythm of work.
In the beginning, I was wondering which platform to choose for the online teaching that would be appropriate for all my students. I decided that initially fewer activities were needed in online classes because students needed adaptation. I made a plan of my distance teaching and decided to use Google Classroom because all my students have Gmail accounts. I attached their accounts to the virtual classroom, then sent a password and instructions in the form of a step-by-step photo guide of Google Classroom. This was the first distance learning lesson with my class.
During the first week, I did not assign the students many activities but tried to create interesting online materials that would intrigue and motivate my students to learn. As a Science and Chemistry teacher, I know that to keep the interest of my students is very important. I discovered how to transform the traditional printable worksheets into interactive online exercises with self-correction using liveworksheets. These interactive worksheets included sounds, videos, drag and drop exercises, join with arrows, multiple-choice, and even speaking exercises, that the students must do using the microphone. Students did the worksheets online and send their answers to me.
Experimental science is a major part of STEM education. Closed at home students can miss out opportunities for authentic science due to a lack of accessible lab resources. Through using the interactive simulations of PhET my students have the opportunity to experience science in new ways. The simulations include verbal descriptions and feedback, the use of sound and music to represent foundational science relationships, and alternative navigation that moves beyond mouse or touch inputs. These simulations helped them for easier understanding the scientific knowledge but cannot substitute the skills and knowledge that experimental work gives. I believe that classical lab exercises are the best way to put students in the center of the educational process and to make them feel as small scientists. It is proven that the most satisfying and interesting Science lessons for students are in the laboratory. That is why I have decided to make my students feel the thrill of being chemists at home. But how it would be possible under quarantine?
Inspiring of STEM Discovery Week 2020 and Scientix Resources I have put my students in the role of scientists at home. The lesson that I created for that purpose was following the model of the inverted classroom but adapted for online teaching. It includes preliminary preparation, discussion during online sessions, and finally, implementation and sharing of lessons learned.
I have made an online discussion session about Acids and Bases via meetings in Teams. During it, I gave instructions to my students on how to make an indicator from red cabbage at home. See the screenshot taken by me during the online class.
Students have been given a project to explore the acidity of the solutions of various substances that we have at home, such as vinegar, laundry detergent, bread soda, ammonia soda, soap and etc. using the homemade indicator of red cabbage.
The result was excited students who realized that Chemistry is everywhere around us and Science is relevant and important for our daily life.
This is my online teaching experience. It is amazing how the distance online education started from one night to another in Bulgaria and still shows that anything is possible when a teacher has a motivation, access, resources, and are eager to pursue life-long learning. Innovation in education and among teachers in my country keeps on improving. For more than one month of closed schools, the whole society understood that being online does not, in any way, prevent meaningful communication and learning.
After the pandemic, the world will not be the same and education too. After all is “over” we cannot just return to the classrooms with the pre-pandemic methods and tools. Mixed trainings – a reasonable combination of traditional and distance learning – should be the main model of work. But distance learning needs to undergo digital transformation to meet the expectations of the digital generation.
Be safe! Remember that we are all together in that learning process and must feel self-confident because in Scientix community can always find sharing teachers who are ready to learn and help each other.
Author: Vesela Todorova, Scientix Ambassador in Bulgaria
Vesela Todorova is Science, Chemistry and English teacher. She is also senior expert of science education in department under Ministry of education in Bulgaria. Vesela has just finished her Ph.D. in motivation of learning science at school in Sofia University. She is Scientix ambassador in Bulgaria, a teacher trainer for Chemistry and Science and an Erasmus plus projects coordinator.
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