Eva Strømberg Kiehn, a Community Story from Denmark (from Epale)

I am 43 years old. I am a qualified teacher from Holbæk Seminary in 2002. I qualified as a teacher for dyslexic students from UCC in 2011 and as a DAV-teacher (Danish as a second language) from the University of Southern Denmark in 2019. I work half the time at VUC Storstrøm (link is external), as the professional coordinator for the dyslexic teaching (OBU) and the preparatory adult education (FVU), and the other half teaching Danish as a second language at the general adult education (AVU) and dyslexic teaching for adults (OBU).

I have only recently learned about EPALE through the project consultant at VUC Storstrøm. EPALE is an interesting initiative, and I am looking forward to reading about other teachers’ experience of online teaching, and, especially, getting good ideas for solutions I hadn’t thought of myself.

COVID-19 has meant I have had to complete all my teaching exclusively online and with the use of digital tools and solutions.

In my workplace we use Microsoft Teams and Canvas as LMS system. Canvas is the system my students and I are used to using in our face-to-face teaching, and we have had to use Teams as well. When we had to teach from home my colleagues and I discussed at length how best to carry out the teaching. In terms of the DSA (Danish as second language), I work closely together with a colleague and hold regular meetings to discuss our students. My colleague and I agreed that we would complete the teaching online using the Teams platform, and thus follow the curriculum so that our students still had a structured day.

After the first week, I was constantly forced to come up with new solutions, and I was continuously learning something new.

I was determined that the classes should sing along to DR’s (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) morning song. Everyday throughout the COVID-19 lockdown DR livestreamed two separate songs for all of Denmark to sing along to together. I shared my screen with the help of our IT consultants and I figured out how to share sound on Teams. It was non-stop for the first couple of weeks – both challenging and exciting. The students also developed their basic IT skills. Especially our DSA students for whom it was not a given that they would be familiar with using computers.
In the DSA class, we met all 20 students at the same time. They learned to open and write pdf-files, to handle multiple tabs, to work on assignments in the well-known Canvas but also in Teams, as well as OneNote.
My colleague filmed our teaching. The footage was administered on Canvas, so that the students who hadn’t been able to participate nevertheless had the option to follow along. It requires thinking outside of the box, because sometimes there will be technicalities or connection issues. Half the class is on top of the technical aspects of the virtual teaching, the other half experiences problems – some more than others. The students are great at helping each other out both online and by calling each other on the phone. A few received help from their teenage children, who are more familiar with these platforms, and can explain how to use them in the student’s mother tongue.

The biggest difference between online teaching and face-to-face teaching is that the students are left entirely to themselves with the online teaching.

Although I can guide them, they have to do the work themselves. It is both a blessing and a hindrance. It is a blessing because the students are able to learn by doing. However, at the same time it requires enormous amounts of patience, self-discipline, courage and strength from them. The students, who are not able to do this, give up. I experienced this with my dyslexic class. Out of the five students, three gave up because of very limited basic IT-skills. The challenge in teaching English to dyslexic students is also that I need my physical blackboard. Without it and the materials that go with it, it is virtually impossible for me to complete the teaching I have planned. We work with elements from the course, where the students for example learn how to pronounce vowels and consonants correctly. Sometimes it is quite a challenge, because it is very difficult to hear the difference between sounds like /b/ og /p/ in the online teaching environment.