September 1, 2020:
I hop into my self-driving car, voice command “high school” and sit back as the monitor on the car dash brings up my RSS feed. I voice click on presidential race and read the latest about the predictions for which way the November elections are shaping up. I really hope Amber Green gets elected. She’s run on the platforms of continuing to expand clean energy sources, health care equality, nutritional support for families, support for small business, education funding, and upgrading the U.S.’s existing technology grid to bring increased internet support to our inner cities and rural areas. Last night, I couldn’t get my tele-nursing health care info to upload to the echart (again). This area is still lagging behind in accessibility, although we can now stream television programs without choppy results – something that wasn’t remotely possible back in 2014. My students are also noticing that our virtual conference discussions have a video and an audio lag.
Skype rings in – it’s my principal reminding me that we’re going to meet today with the Vocational Director from the Department of Ed. There’s been a new initiative to offer more collaboration between secondary education and business partners. Since health care is still one of the biggest employers in West Central PA, my program and students are competing to participate in a pilot program. I panic for a second about forgetting my notes for “talking points” and instantly realize there’s no need to be alarmed as I’ve cloud stored both these notes and the student information they need for their presentations. I’m really excited about this opportunity. Many students are looking for ways to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and health care workers, while seeing a decrease in wages in the last five years, still have stronger earning potential than many other industries, especially if you’re able to navigate the tele-health world and provide hands on care, which my students start to learn as sophomores.
Dang, it’s Tuesday and I almost forgot that it’s my day to pick up breakfast for the vocational department, but luckily my e-reminder sounds and Thiri (Siri’s updated version) tells me to stop to pick up the order that he placed for me yesterday. (How did I remember to do these things in the past?) I’m still the one who gets to work 30 minutes early, so I won’t be late as the café always has my order waiting for me.
The last thing I wanted to check is how the last night’s Vocational meeting went. I couldn’t get there because I had Skype office hours for my homebound and blended classes. I can’t remember the site’s name, but thanks to Diigo+ and voice commands, I can quickly access the meeting summary online. I grab the veggie egg white omelets, whole grain muffins, and coffee (with each order labeled with its recipient’s name) from the cafe. I know the guys are going to groan again with my choices, but hey, I have to put up with their jelly filled doughnuts! Some things never change.
My 35 minute drive to work has been productive as usual. Sometimes I long for the drive when I simply listened to the radio as I was focused on the road. It was sort of relaxing, but those days are long gone.
As I head to my classroom, I voice text the department, letting them know that breakfast is waiting in the faculty room. I login to my tablet, turn on virtual classroom and quickly check attendance. The early birds have already logged in and submitted a list of their goals for the day. A couple others have messaged that they’re going to the sim lab today and will upload their skills demonstration videos when complete. I make a mental note to check back after my meeting on the ones who haven’t logged in yet, then think the better of it and set a reminder on my tablet.
Tuesday’s are sophomore day. That means all the tenth graders have to be physically present in class. Three days a week they have the option of working from a remote site. Interestingly, most of them show up at least four days a week. Most parents want their children to have direct contact with the instructor and don’t quite trust the virtual initiative yet. Leaving 15 year olds to their own devices (pun intended) at home while the parents work is a scary proposition for many parents. The seniors and their parents are more trusting of the one to one device and virtual initiative, having worked with this for the third year. Many seniors appreciate being able to access the classwork at convenient times and have developed the maturity to understand their responsibility and accountability for virtual learning.
My substitute will keep the sophomores on task today, having them log into teacher video presentations, helping them collaborate on concept presentations and write reflections on the classroom blog. The classroom wiki needs updated on the Red Cross Community service project progress. (Although synthetic blood has been developed, there is still a great need for human blood components as scientists haven’t yet been able to formulate effective white blood cells and platelets.)
Today is also a HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) meeting day. Students will virtually sit in on the district level meeting and find out whose presentations got picked for the statewide competition. The site is already set up and ready for the sub to click on at 10:00AM. I wish I could be in the classroom to help them get through the emotions of being picked (or not), but that face to face meeting takes precedence today and my sub is great with the students. I silently remind myself that I did the best I could with the activities we did to help students learn about copyright. Flickr now has an educational student share license. Students can use these items as long as they give credit or embed the source within the presentation. Preziandmore.com has a wizard that makes this easy, but the bugs still need worked out.
Three of my seniors appear at the door. They’re nervous and a little in awe about today’s meeting. We’ve practiced their presentations, uploading them to our school’s video site, asking other teachers for suggestions for improvement. The English and Drama teachers really helped us with the finer points. We could have simply shown the video presentations to the Department of Ed Vocational Director, but decided to do face to face presentations. My students felt that this would be more powerful. They want to convey how strongly they feel about caregiving as a career and how much business partnerships can make a difference in helping them learn the skills they need to be successful.
Fast forward to 3:00PM. I’m a bit exhilarated and exhausted. The senior presentations went really well. The Vocational Director told us that he was glad that he came to visit our school and the nearby medical center. Talking with the students and seeing how well they work with the medical providers gave him a view that he felt he would not have been able to truly appreciate had we done the visit virtually. Three of my students’ presentations got picked for the statewide competition. The sophomores got most of their work completed today. Tonight, there are skills demo videos for me to grade and an agenda for the work activities for the junior class to post on the class website. Long gone are the days when I turned in my weekly lesson plans and kept them in a binder. Today’s events prove just how far we’ve come from 2014 with one to one device initiatives and online access to classes, collaborative apps, virtual office hours, and sim labs. Education is also collaborating more with industry so that students can apply the skills for success in the real world.
But one of the most important things I think about as I get into my car and voice command “home”, is that it is the face to face contact that still matters, that students still need to learn the soft skills for helping clients manage their health care, and that a face to face meeting can impact the decisions that are made by the ones powerful to make them. However, teachers are now adapting their lessons with the virtual tools we have and can reach more students. Excuses for being absent and not being present for a lesson are no longer viable. Teachers have changed the way they present information and students are benefiting from the collaborative tools we routinely use in both the face to face and virtual classrooms. Helping students learn both soft skills and technical skills has continued to be a focus in education. It has also been a priority to help students learn to navigate the wealth of information available. I can only hope that education and technology access continues to be a priority within our political system. Nix that – I can vote!
Acosta, C. (2009, March 2). Technology in the Year 2020. Retrieved from YouTube: http://youtube/uug8m0BHzZo
Dillow, C. (2012). 12 reasons 2020 will be an awesome year. Retrieved from Innovation on NBCnews.com: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/43015182/ns/technology_and_science-innovation/t/reasons-will-be-awesome-year/#.U1w_8vldWLE