I remember standing in the airport check-in line at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in 2015. I was waiting to check in for my flight to Nanchang, China to start my first year of teaching. I had been to China before for an optional third practicum for three weeks so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. However, as I stood there I could start to feel the weight of both my decision and the travel bag on my back. What would this lead to? What is my apartment going to be like? What is the school going to be like? How am I going to eat with my pitiful chopsticks skills? Do they have forks in China? Why did I not bring a fork with my in my travel bag?
I eventually got on the plane, found a fork to use, and successfully finished my first year of teaching, international or otherwise. Aside from a few hiccups in learning how to teach Chinese students about Canadian history without them ever having been to Canada, the year went great. This led to two more years working in China. It was during my third year working in China I started to work on my M.Ed as a way to challenge myself and open up future possibilities.
After living in China for three years, I moved to Spain to live with my girlfriend, now my wife, who was finishing up a Masters in Tourism through an Erasmus program. We had lived apart for my last year in China, as she had studied in Denmark and Slovenia, and agreed that we would spend the year together in Spain where her last two semesters were. I was still working on my M.Ed so that took up most of my time, and the rest was taken up with a job working at an after-school English academy. One of the courses from my M.Ed that had the biggest impact on me was an introductory course on Educational Technology. It was different. All the other courses were informative and helpful, but followed a typical format of online courses. This EdTech course asked us to find our own resources and integrate them into the classroom. We had to blog, create a website, and connect with others in ways that gave meaningful feedback. In looking at the different tools out there for education, I started to think how I could use them. I also started to wonder why no one taught me about it during my B.Ed.
I am now working in Singapore as an EAL teacher and over the last two years have had the chance to use technology in the classroom. Each student in the school has their own Macbook and the expectation is to routinely use Google Suite tools in our teaching. Having taken the course on EdTech for my masters, I jumped at the chance to bring technology into the classroom. With help from our schools EdTech head, Patrick Holt who is also a COETAIL graduate, my knowledge grew and I found I was using technology in lots of different ways.
Yet, I started to wonder if I was using technology in a beneficial way or simply because it was technology. Does doing something online mean it is a better learning experience just because it is online? Do my EAL students progress and become better learners if they are working online or on paper? Which offers better feedback? These questions have swirled around in my head for the last several months. I am coming up for contract renewal and will be switching roles; I will be an InS (Individuals and Societies) and L&L (Language and Literature) teacher at the start of the next academic year. With the changes I wanted to challenge myself again to upskill and learn new techniques for educating students. This is where COETAIL comes in. My classroom is right next to Patrick’s and after mentioning to him I was interested, he would check in on me about twice a week to see if I had signed up yet. His positive endorsement of the program helped give me the push to get started.
I can be a bit slow to get going on things as my brain usually needs a bit of time to make a decision. Even if I know what the decision is going to be, I may need a week to finally accept it. But once I am on board with it, then I can take that and run with it. I am excited to be part of Cohort 13 and see where this journey takes me and my fellow cohorts. I hope to gain answers to some of the questions in my head as well as learn things I have not contemplated. I think always knowing exactly what you want to learn can be a bit of a barrier, so what I am looking to learn is something that is not even on my radar yet.
You can follow along with journey on Twitter @MrBTheBeardedT1. Diana has already become my first follower, so the race for second is on!