High School Teacher Confesses Fears, Finds Solutions

Research Post, Week 4

High school teacher, Stephanie Imig, who teaches at Connections Academy in Oregon, writes an insightful, introspective essay about doubts and successes of teaching writing online. “Innovative Writing Instruction: Writing Rewired: Teaching Writing in an Online Setting” by Imig and Valerie Kolich feeling alone online. (You access the article by clicking on the last hyperlink. Sign in with your last name and Winthrop id number. Once you’re signed in, you will see the article.)

I chose “Innovative Writing Instruction” for this week’s research post because Imig admits fears teachers have when they are new to online teaching. I enjoyed discovering how Imig uses differentiated instruction solutions in her online classroom. As an English teacher, Imig admits she was –and remains uncertain – of the online environment. It is not a replacement for “brick-and-mortar classrooms” (Imig and Kinloch 81). She uses synchronous and asynchronous instruction making students more comfortable in the online classroom through exploring and understanding process of writing.

According to Imig and Kinloch, a weakness in the curriculum Imig taught in 2010 is that students were expected to read guides and click on links that led students through the writing process (81). Students felt lost, and they were satisfied with a C (Imig and Kinloch 81). After reading Scott Warnock’s suggestions in Teaching Writing Online about online class organization, the teacher should be involved as an active facilitator, and have links organized in a way students can find them. However, Imig discovers differentiated ways to teach students.

  • Constructive Comments. After Imig’s students had experienced frustration at the beginning of the curriculum – wandering through links and guides – Imig’s commentary on their posts provides student guidance with which students do not feel aimless. More importantly, Imig suggests that it is important to write commentary with the next writing assignment planned (81). This allows the teacher and the student to plan for the future.

I wanted them to consider my comments and engage in reflective inquiry, but this was as successful as assuming more testing would raise student achievement” (Imig and Kinlock 81).

To demonstrate a plan for writing in the future, the student learns the teacher is not thinking from week to week. The teacher considers the student’s future in the course, which may help the student feel important.

  • Workshop. Imig uses whiteboard technology to model for students how to write introductions, proper use of quotes, and writing conclusions. This method is done synchronously while students watching the teacher in real-time. Imig provides students the chance to write, and she gives immediate feedback (82). The workshop on the whiteboard provides another solution to students feeling alone in the online environment. According to Imig and Kinloch, students participate in a communal environment (82). The teaching tool brings a valuable f2f to the online environment by encouraging student participation.

  • ORCA. Scott Warnock writes a lot about asynchronous teaching, such as message boards in Chapter 8 of Teaching Writing Online, but Imig presents an example of a virtual classroom tool. What is the importance of an online virtual classroom? It offers students the chance to participate as they would in an f2f environment, and two, to think about their questions in real-time or consider questions they might ask later.

    Oregon Connections Academy provides teachers ORCA,
    the virtual classroom. If students miss being in a classroom with their classmates, I think the virtual classroom provides live-time opportunities to participate and share. Through this method, students also practice writing on the spot, and provide comments about each other’s writing.

  • Chat Room. The chat room should not be underestimated, according to Imig. It is another communal opportunity for students to interact with the teacher and classmates. Imig makes an important point. She allows students the first few moments to converse casually in the chat room before switching to semi-formal writing (Imig and Kinloch 83). While Imig does not mention it, all students’ interactions are written. They practice casual writing and then switch to semi-formal text, which allows them to recognize the difference what qualifies as writing conversation versus classroom writing.

Imig and Kinloch’s article is a valuable to read because Imig confesses fears of teaching writing online, but she offers a variety of instruction solutions. Differentiated teaching provides students the opportunity to practice their writing in different ways. They participate in chat rooms, virtual classrooms, posts and prompts. Can we, as teachers, use any of these tools? Do any of us have a current CMS with virtual classroom opportunities, or would we need another option? These are questions Imig also asks in the article.


Imig, Stephanie, and Kinloch, Valerie. “Innovative Writing Instruction:

             Writing Rewired: Teaching Writing in an Online Setting.” The

English Journal 99.3 (2010): 81-83. JSTOR. Web. 27 June 2014.