Behind the Whiteboards: Online Teacher Experience (Week 3)

I had to know.

You know?

I really had to know what K-12 online teachers’ experiences were after reading Scott Warnock’s chapters 5 and 6. After reading about organizing material for college distance learners, I needed to know what online teachers had to say about their experiences in K-12 virtual schools. Two articles shed light on the K-12 online teaching experience. Both articles stress that online is not easier, but requires more involvement in writing and communication through emails, discussion boards, whiteboards, and gradebooks.

Virtual Schoolteacher by Karen Faucett in
Educationnext

The narrative article – written by Florida seventh and eighth grade virtual teacher, Karen Faucett – shows even in a math class, students and teachers have to do writing. Faucett mentions she takes time in the morning to write in her gradebook (para. 3). The gradebook writing produces instant communication for parents and students about their progress in the class. Faucett states that she thinks about writing positive feedback first, and then productive feedback (para. 3).

The online gradebook is an essential tool for online K-12 learning, and not one I had thought about until reading Faucett’s article. The gradebook is another tool the teachers use to communicate students’ progress. The gradebook may show a student’s written progress over time. Academically, it provides a record for the student, and the comments are tailored for what the students have accomplished.

Since the article was written in 2011, a few parts of online learning have changed, including the program Elluminate. During the same year, Elluminate changed names when Blackboard bought it. Other audiovisual and whiteboard combination tools are also provided by a virtual school’s CMS or through apps like Google’s Movenote.

Fauccet discusses how she uses the whiteboard tool to show students the steps in a problem using what was Elluminate (para. 6). How is it important for an English and writing teacher? A program combining audiovisual and a whiteboard can help students with grammar lessons. If a student struggles, then the teacher can model it for him or her, and the student can respond verbally or through writing.

What DOES an online teacher do? By Rob Darrow

I wanted to include perspectives from two different articles because I disliked the fact that Fauccet said that she communicates with some students weekly and others monthly (para. 6). To me as a teacher, that is not enough communication with a K-12 student. Some students may work great independently, but I think that weekly communication is essential to keep up the (professional) personalization between teacher and student.

Rob Darrow’s blog “What DOES an online teacher do?” focuses on 2011 Online Teacher of the Year, Kristin Kipp. She is a high school English teacher, and she uses synchronous sessions with her students (Darrow para. 2). Kipp writes about her experiences, but what is fascinating is how she presents the perspective of her students. To me, her way of using audiovisual and whiteboards more often make online learning more personal for the students.


Courtesy of Pearson Foundation and Rob Darrow

Kipp mentions that discussion boards allow students more than 45 minutes to respond to a question. Students who are shy may take the time to respond. According to the video above, Kipp says students can think more deeply about what they want to say. This is important because I have been in a classroom where the same six students will answer a question, and other students, who are always quiet, remain quiet. What if those same students are given a chance to thoughtfully respond in an online environment?

For example, a high school student who has Asperger’s Syndrome sees the answers in his head. He may communicate the answers very fast, and spin off on what interests him about the subject. If he is in an online environment, such as responding to a discussion board, he has the chance to think about the question, and answer what it asks through a thoughtfully written response.

In the video, Kipp says that the online structure allows her to differentiate instruction because students are working at different levels in the course. There is not an expectation for all students to read or write the same assignment at the same time.

What I like most about Kipp’s video is how she maintains an online presence through her written responses in email and gradebooks, and also through her video teaching.

 

By Becca Bridges

Bibliography

Darrow, Rob. “What DOES an Online Teacher Do?” California Dreamin’ Blog (2012): WordPress. Web. 23 June 2014.

Fauccet, Karen. Educationnext 11.3 (2011): Educationnext. Web. 22 June 2014.

Advertisements

Keep it Simple: Take Your Classroom to the Internet (Week 2)

 

Courtesy of Edudmic.com

 

In my philosophy of education class, the question comes up: Can the profession of teaching have the same prestige as lawyers or doctors?

One aspect professional teachers will require is training with new technologies.

The approach author Scott Warnock takes in Teaching Writing Online chapters two through four reflects a professional, yet keep it simple approach. Teachers need not leave their teaching styles in the physical classroom. As Warnock states in the first chapter, teachers need to think of migrating their instruction online instead of being nervous about losing a part of their teaching.

To make the transition easier for teachers in an online environment, Warnock explains the difference between a hybrid course—taught partially online and then in the traditional classroom—and a 100 percent online course. I believe the hybrid course is a practical example of Warnock’s use of the migration from the traditional classroom to the online environment because the teacher and students are dipping their toes in the water. They are not completely losing comfort level. Teachers are not overly worried about all the technology tools or how to organize their content online through a school’s CMS.

As a student in undergraduate and graduate courses, I’ve experienced hybrid courses that were asynchronous and synchronous. In an undergraduate course, a small group from the class met with the professor in a chat via Blackboard to discuss course material. In the asynchronous environment, professors let me work on assignments during my time. This may also benefit the professor because he or she may experiment with new technology tools. He or she may want to introduce the Web 2.0 tool during the next traditional class.

Keep it simple. Warnock makes it clear in chapters two through four that teachers need not be an expert with all tools. They should familiarize themselves with their school’s CMS (content management system) and think about how they might transfer their teaching style and content online. One of the useful tools Warnock shows is the chart in chapter three. Teachers evaluate exactly what technology tool they can use for a particular pedagogical need, such as discussion, its availability, and if the teacher requires training. This gives teachers a way to self-evaluate what they know and don’t know.

For example, a teacher may plan the section about Chaucer. The teacher wants to have a discussion at some point during this section, so the teacher analyzes possible tools in the content system available to him or her. It maybe as simple as a listserv or email. The teacher may pose a question or even select a student leader to pose a question to begin the discussion.

One of the tools—discussed in chapters three and four—that I would like to further explore is whiteboard space online. I am familiar with some of the basics, but I think it is a great idea to experiment with it, especially if it is a place where teachers can collaborate with students. It can become a space, which is student-centered, and gives the teacher plenty of opportunities to provide individual help or instruction. For example, students could host a workshop editing their first drafts. Students could also work with the teacher during this time.

 

Projecting Personality Online (Week 1)

Write.

That is the beginning. It is a sentence. You and I know the implied noun, you, is there although it hides from the written form. Just because we, as teachers and writers, sit behind keyboards or look down at tablets while typing does not mean our personalities are missing from our text. Scott Warnock makes an excellent case about the persona teachers show in the online environment. In place of facial expressions, we are left to literally read behind the words. As Warnock states on page 1, the “text of those messages created a personality.”  Through Warnock, other authors’ research, and professional workshops, teachers can find ways to ease their nerves and create the right professional personality in an online writing environment.

In a f2f classroom, my teachers and I, as a teacher, have used icebreakers to connect with students. Warnock suggests using the same tool in an online environment. Using icebreakers online is a great idea because you show that the class is not centered around you, but around the students. You are already building a platform on which you are a facilitator because you include the students’ input about themselves.

A Policy Research Brief” by the National Council of Teachers of English presents an important point, which is rarely mentioned in other courses I’ve taken about online teaching and their course content. On page 4, the council writes that teachers need use “explicit instruction” showing students how to avoid plagiarism in a digital environment. I believe in teaching students how to cite online materials as more content becomes part of the academic and media writing world.

As a journalist, my articles and my pictures were published in the newspaper and online. The most important details with those stories was the name of the writer, from whom information was received, and the photo credit. In other blogs, pictures have been copied from other Internet sources without any credit. As students learn how to write online and create hypermedia content, how do we as teachers keep up in showing them how to cite text, photos, and video? To me, writing online is becoming a three-dimensional world in which MLA, APA, and even AP formats must one day translate into a hypermedia platform. One of my questions is how do we do this? How do we, as teachers, make sure our instruction is explicit and up to date in avoiding all forms of plagiarism in a digital environment?

For the schedule and assignments on the class website, I like how every piece of information is displayed. Just like labels and cards, everything has a neat title. It is in order, and I know exactly when something is due.  As a graduate assistant for the director of graduate studies in the education department, I work a lot with new technologies, researching the digital divide, and the latest technologies schools are using. Most recently, my boss and I have been researching Google Chromebooks in place of iPads because most school districts are switching to them. With the Chromebook I learned about a program called Read & Write Google, which is a tool helping ESL and other students with learning disabilities. It reads text out loud, provides a picture, and text dictionary. I would be interested in researching the online tools that would benefit students with disabilities who are a part of the online writing environment.

 

Becca Bridges