You know what the best smell in the world is? Secondhand books. It’s that slightly damp, musty, papery smell. The top floor of the comic store Rogues Gallery in Windsor, Ontario smells like it. Mark Jokinen Books in Peterborough, Ontario, smells like it. There is a store on Etsy that sells a candle that smells like it. I bought one. It’s for real.
I’m a traditionalist. When e-readers arrived on the market, I was set against owning one. The idea of digitizing something I loved more than anything else was simply blasphemous. But as the years passed, I found myself drowning in books. They were infringing on my space. They were increasingly hard to store. So I caved, and I bought a Kindle. I would say now I’m a 50-50 person. The technology is such now that it just doesn’t feel like I’m reading a screen, and that’s really helpful. I buy certain books, but I also download a lot of books, too. It keeps my library manageable.
The idea of teaching e-learning five years ago was a real turn off. I didn’t have any idea how I could be able to connect with students through a screen, and how they would be able to connect with me. But, like the Kindle, I started to come around when I realized just how many really interesting options were available with today’s technology. I also really like having all of my assignments saved in Google, where I can edit and change them. Teachers tend to be packrats, and my office still has remnants of what I like to call “The Age of the Binder.”
I think e-learning for students, is a bit like this. Although our students are more plugged in now than ever, the idea of an online classroom is usually pretty foreign to them. However, I think it’s worth a try. Typically, they’re usually pretty satisfied. I would have liked to do Grade 11 English in my pyjamas, on a lawn chair, at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday.
It’s really easy to limit e-learning to a particular “type” of student. Typically, one would argue that e-learning is for the motivated, high achieving, self-starter. These are the students that are already successful in a conventional classroom. It is easy for them to transfer this success and motivation to an online format. They’re technologically savvy, and they have good work ethic.
However, I would argue that if people are saying that e-learning isn’t for everyone, then we aren’t doing a very good job at it yet. It SHOULD be for everyone, and it NEEDS to be for everyone. If e-learning isn’t able to meet a student where he or she is at in terms of skills, exceptionalities, or learning styles, then it needs more work. It is my job, as an educator, to at least attempt to make my courses for everyone.
The province of Ontario also needs to work on factors that students and teachers can’t control. E-learning currently is not available to all students due to the lack of adequate Internet in remote areas, and some students don’t have access to computers or tablets. We’re getting there.