After reading through this week’s assignment it is clear that those practices that make for “good” teaching in the face to face classroom environment are also considered to be practices that would lead to an effective virtual learning experience. The similarities between the two are obviously overwhelming. As classroom teachers we are also expected to establish a rapport with our students that allows us to build trust and help motivate students toward success. We are expected to design instruction that takes all learning levels and styles into account and create lessons that are organized, content driven and motivate students to want to learn. Teachers in both arenas should be experts in content knowledge and in the most appropriate methodologies to present that content. We are expected to provide timely feedback, communicate with students and parents effectively and utilize data to more effectively prepare instruction. Modeling behavior, elements of class activities and appropriate communication is also expected from both types of educators.
In terms of potential differences, I only found a few, and those weren’t necessarily total differences but varying levels of expectations between the two. As a classroom teacher in 2016, I am expected to incorporate technology into the classroom more and more every day. However, I am obviously not expected to utilize technology in the same way and to the same extent a teacher in the virtual classroom would. I am expected to be flexible of my time as a classroom teacher and to make myself available to students for after school tutoring, communication after school hours etc. but I am not required to be as flexible as those who are facilitating online courses. As stated in the reading, the nature of a virtual school course is “24 hour a day”; students have the ability to self-regulate their learning experience which means they are not following a typical school day. I would think that online educators have more access or ability to utilize and analyze data from their courses considering everything is online, but this could be a misconception of mine. Finally, it seems as if the “behavioral management” portion of an online course would be fairly different because the occurrence of misbehavior would be far less. I would think that educational integrity (cheating) issues could certainly be more prevalent in the virtual arena, but because you do not have a large group of personalities all coming together physically, the distractions and instances of defiance, disrespect etc. would be lower.
The only practice that stood out to me in terms of questioning it personally was the idea of online educators being able to “identify warning signs of a student who may be in crisis”. I do not intend to suggest that through the building of a positive relationship between student and teacher in the virtual environment you would not be able to recognize such warning signs, however I do believe it would be far more difficult to notice changes in attitude, appearance, demeanor etc. that typically lead to a classroom teacher spotting potential issues. I do not know that it is fair to ask a teacher who has never met a student face to face to have the responsibility of recognizing those warning signs. I am sure there are methods in place for students to check in with other professionals if they have concerns or a history with stress, depression or anxiety, but it’s often hard to recognize these things in the students we see and speak to every day, much less those who we only communicate through written, virtual communication.
In terms of what’s missing, I don’t know that I read anything about identifying those students who may be struggling to the point where the “virtual” learning environment just simply isn’t a fit. What resources do online teachers have available for identifying and addressing such issues? Obviously, each state would handle these situations differently but I would be interested to see the “best practices” for doing so.
I am interested to know what the term “flaming” means. It was mentioned in the NEA’s guide when discussing fostering an appropriate and positive learning environment online. I am assuming it has something to do with inappropriate behavior or the encouraging of such behavior. (“Flaming the fire”)