My Experience with Virtual Learning as a New Educator

History in Education

Hello, I am an educator that graduated high school with a 2.something GPA and I do not have a degree in education, it’s a pleasure to meet you! See, I am a welding instructor at a technology center in Oklahoma which is a fantastic job as long as the students behave and are willing to work, so, rarely a fantastic job. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and won’t be leaving anytime soon, but with no formal training in education it can be a bear at times. Back in 2015 I started teaching short term adult welding courses and I loved it so much I decided I would try my hand at teaching full time if the opportunity ever presented itself.

It’s June of 2018 and the opportunity arose for me to become the full time instructor at the school I had been working for for several years. After some serious discussion with my now wife, she’s an actual educator with the degree and everything, I still decided to try my hand at teaching the future of the welding industry. For those unfamiliar with the career technology education system in Oklahoma, high school juniors and seniors can attend a technology center for free and ideally be prepared to join the workforce career ready from day one of graduation. In case you missed it, I voluntarily took a job teaching high school students 16-19 year old people and I have no formal education for this (I’ll continue to say that in this little article).

It Can Only Get Better Right?

On the off chance you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, in which case I seriously envy you, I’ll break down some interesting things happening in the world of education. See, back in 2020 this kooky little virus took the world by storm not in a fun Beatlemania type way, but more of a horrible “is the world ending?” way. In Oklahoma, the pandemic caused all public instruction to shut down and switch to virtual after spring break. I would like to remind you all that I’m no ordinary teacher, I teach a trade, I teach a hands on can only get better with real experience trade meaning March of 2020 was time for me to panic! At this point in my education career I have one full year and one full semester under my belt. For anyone keeping track one and a half years in any career is more or less no experience and now I get to create online content that keeps teenagers engaged and learning how to weld.

There are ways to keep virtual learning interesting for most things, but for welding there’s really only one way and that’s virtual reality. There are plenty of companies that have VR setups for welding education and just as many that offer these systems for five figure purchase prices. As we all know education is important and should be valued and given nearly unlimited funding and while those statements are true education, on the whole, is poorly funded. All that to say that I don’t have enough $50,000 virtual reality welding simulators to send them home with my 30+ students.

My Solution

Alright so, the 2019-2020 school year ends and then the pandemic ends and the 2020-2021 school year is off to a great and totally normal start…wait no…that’s not right. Oh, right, I had to spend the summer between 2019-2020 and 20-21 school years figuring out how I’m going to be prepared to teach virtually if we happen to go virtual again and also for students that end up on quarantine. Basically what it amounted to for me was having the theory side of the curriculum in an online platform for students to complete in those strange cases when they cannot be on site.

This paid off with only a few weeks left in the fall semester as our school ended up doing a split schedule with only half of the student body on campus at any time. My system paid off once again just this month whenever some drunk arctic weather system stumbled it’s way south and dump bunch of ice and snow on us which sent us on a two week virtual bonanza! So, I’m in my third year as an educator and, still with no formal training and as a blue collar guy that hadn’t owned a computer since 2012, I’ve learned technology things like google classroom, zoom, canvas, power school and many more new and stressful things. Please, wish us all luck, even the teaching vets.

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