A few years ago, I worked for a publisher who piled newspapers, books, and glasses like a miniature, decaying New York City skyscraper. This was a man who invested in up-to-date computers to design newspapers completely in black and white. I owe most of my amateur InDesign and computer training to that newspaper, but I always wanted to do something about that desk.
Courtesy of blogs.volunteermatch.org
Maybe your emails, important Word documents, and other online communications are – in the words of Elrond from the movie The Fellowship of the Ring – “scattered, divided, leaderless.” The most important ideas from Scott Warnock’s chapters 5 and 6 in Teaching Writing Online are considering everything we, as teachers, need to take with us into an online environment. As Warnock wrote in the introductory chapter, we are not completely changing our teaching style, presentation or information. He wrote in guideline 2, “You want to think about migration, not transformation, when teaching online” (xvii). I think this guideline applies to organizing information for online classes, too.
Links, information for a syllabus, and emails might look like a pile of canned goods before organization. If you’ve had experience organizing recycling, you might know that each type of recyclable can be organized within your home. For example, my family uses a box system. We label each box “glass” or “aluminum cans.” The same concept of organization applies to planning for an online teaching structure.
The four most important points I found in Warnock’s chapters 5 and 6 include: title, communication, availability, and planning. When you begin with any document, syllabus or paper, a title is a great starting point. I struggle with creating titles for my creative writing, but – as Warnock suggests in both chapters – a title of the syllabus or in the subject line of an email should be specific and match the course or subject matter (38, 50). For example, if I create a semester syllabus for a ninth grade English 1 class, I might give the syllabus the title “English 1, First Session.” It states the exact title of the class, and lets high school students know which session they are taking. In an online learning environment for high school students, the traditional block or period might change to session. What word would you use?
In applying Warnock’s advice to an online classroom, it is important to me, as a teacher candidate for middle and high school, to think about how the material can be applied to an online or hybrid environment for students. I have read, watched videos, and seen ways in which technology is applied to middle and high school classrooms. But, how much further do online teachers of these students need to take their organizational skills online?
Communication and availability are two of Warnock’s most important points, and it is important to find ways to adapt Warnocks’ advice for an online environment suitable for middle and high school students and teachers. South Carolina Connections Academy, a free public charter online K-12 school, and Calvert Academy, a free online public elementary and middle school, show and tell examples on their websites about how teachers communicate on a consistent basis. The video from South Carolina Connections Academy shows examples in the video.
Courtesy of South Carolina Connections Academy
At one point in the video, the teacher is on the phone with a student. In another scene, a teacher uses audiovisual during a synchronous lesson with an online whiteboard. These are great examples of day-to-day contact between students and online teachers, but how does a high school or middle school teacher adapt a syllabus for the grade levels they teach? I believe everything Warnock mentions in chapter 5 should be considered, including listing times you are most likely to reply to emails, chat rooms, or through a CMS (41). For example, some of the students at the South Carolina Connections Academy are athletes who practice during the day. Their schedule may allow for them to take classes and complete assignments at night. The teacher needs to make sure his or her schedule matches the student’s schedule in the syllabus for a synchronous lesson, phone call, text or email.
In chapter 6, Warnock presents excellent advice about planning and organizing methods. One of the most useful tools I found, and remembered, is creating sub-folders in emails or in a tool like Google Drive. Specific directions should be included in a syllabus on how to do and what is expected for online group activities. If a class or group does a project, Google Drive is a great tool for students to work on a project at once or during their own time. Folders can be created within Google Drive for the Project and then for each of its parts.
For example: The Book Thief Lesson Plan (Folder)
However you organize your materials for online learning, Warnock provides great reminders, new lessons, and tips to staying organized. The best solution is to name everything exactly as it is: Chapter5and6ResponseBridges. Three tips familiar to most learners are using folders, filing, and titles.
Warnock, Scott W. “Introduction.” Teaching Writing Online. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2009. xvii. Print.
Warnock, Scott W. “The Writing Course Syllabus: What’s Different in Online Instruction.” Teaching Writing Online. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2009. 38-47. Print.
Warnock, Scott W. “Organization, Redundancy, and Helping Students—and You—Keep Things Straight.” Teaching Writing Online. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English, 2009. 48-57. Print.