Best Practices

I enjoyed both readings this week. The Michigan Virtual study supported my belief that a good virtual teacher is very similar to a good face to face teacher. I can see that the time used by each type of teacher would be divided up quite differently.  The face to face teacher spends most of their teaching day actively teaching the lesson to different groups of students.  The online teacher is not doing the day to day teaching so much of their time is spent in evaluating student work. Both teachers still need to plan their lessons and the face to face teacher still needs to evaluate their students.  The time each teacher spends daily is probably about the same… it is just how they use that time.  I especially enjoyed reading the teachers comments in the article. There was a statement made by one of the Michigan teachers… “The teacher has to make sure they are logging in at certain times every day, they have to make sure they’re checking certain areas of the course, for example, the message area, organizing the discussion board, having grades set, and sending grades back to students” I think the flipped classroom and blended learning teachers probably have an even more difficult time as they need to check the online resources as well as plan and teach the daily lessons.

Every teacher needs to give feedback to their students whether it is online or on paper. I gave an online assignment a few weeks ago that had my students simply comment on a video they watched on Schoology.  I have to admit that it took me a lot longer to grade their responses online than it would have on paper.  But for some reason while I was grading the online student responses, I was inclined to give more feedback.  Maybe it was the ease of typing the comment to the student that led me to give more feedback than I usually would.  The nice surprise was that some of the students responded back to my comment and that led to a discussion with individual students that I am pretty sure would not have happened with the paper version of the assignment.  I was able to respond to a few students and let them know that we could carry on a more in-depth conversation when I saw them in class.  I can see how the online teacher would have to spend considerable time providing detailed feedback to students on a daily basis if they never had the chance to see those same students in class.

Another Michigan teacher commented that “When the instructor doesn’t respond at all … the kids lose their drive for excellence because they don’t feel that they are working toward impressing anyone. So, the communication is really important and in particular when a student asks questions, Michigan Virtual requires a 24-hour turnaround during the week.”  I think that often even students in high school will work harder for a teacher they can relate to. If you do not give that positive feedback to students they can lose interest and drive.  The responsibility to respond to a large number of students in a 24 hour period would be somewhat overwhelming to me.

Another rather depressing statement made by a teacher …. “The longer I taught online, the less students shared with me and confided in me and that worries me because that tells me that they are getting used to the idea that I turn it in, I get a grade, I walk away and I’m done.”   I would also worry that with a purely online course, it would be next to impossible to develop the same type of teacher – student relationship that the face to face teacher enjoys.  The topic I am currently covering in my AP Chemistry class has a fairly large online component.  They have podcasts and tutorials to watch as well as some online questions and homework.  Then we have the time together in class to explore topics to a greater extent and to do labs that support their learning.  I think that having the flipped classroom gives me the best of both worlds.  I am looking to improve my presentation of online material to make it more effective and interactive.

I would also disagree with the idea that there are no discipline issues with online learning. When I had the duty last year of watching a group of online students, many of the students did not use their time very effectively, they slept or were on their phones…etc. I assume they were not very successful in their online classes, but just because they were not bothering other students with their behavior,  does not mean that there were not discipline issues.  How do online teachers deal with students that do not do their work?  Confronting my students face to face is every effective. Can you be that effective with students online?  I guess classroom management is difficult for all teachers, both face to face and online.

I found the information provided in the NEA article very informative. Many of the skills of the online teachers match those of face to face teachers.  But one skill that online teachers must have really stood out… “Because online communications may lack the full array of visual and oral cues that help listeners interpret speakers’ messages, it is important that online teachers be sensitive to problems of misinterpretation, and that they are careful to use an appropriate online tone in course design and course delivery. Moreover, they should be able both to model an appropriate tone, and to guide students toward an appropriate tone when they stray” I would think that this would indeed need to be an important skill for the online teacher.  As face to face teachers we have the ability to use our voices and facial expressions and gestures to communicate with students.  It must be challenging to do the same in an online class where you never see your students.  I tend to joke quite a bit with my students and I am not sure how this would come across online… or even if I would feel the desire to joke with students I had never actually met.  I imagine the suitable face-to-face practices might not always translate to good online teaching practices.

I am committed to being a better teacher as a means to stimulate both my thinking and that of my students.  I am also committed to making my students become active learners, responsible for their own instruction and learning.  I believe that the only real way to come to understand a subject is to actively participate in learning it (as we are doing in this class).  I truly believe the following: we learn by example, we learn by doing, we learn by creating our own meaning, we learn through discovery, we learn from our mistakes.   I love the idea of adding online learning to my teaching; I just want to make sure that it helps to increase the depth of learning for my students.



3 thoughts on “Best Practices”

  1. As we have talked about before I do think that the blended learning environment is the best of both worlds. The student has some responsibility for their learning and teachers have an obligation to engage and ignite their students. I’m not sure that a purely online environment can create the same connections. As you mentioned how might some of your comments come across to a student whom you had never met.

    My biggest concern with blended learning is the time commitment. Not only do you have to check and respond to online assignments but you have to plan and teach on a daily basis in the classroom. I find that keeping up with grading is challenging at best. Suggestions?

    1. The use of self-graded assignments would help to cut down the work load, but multiple choice is not the best way to evaluate chemistry knowledge. I am not sure how I would keep up with the grading and the lesson planning.

  2. I liked your comments about feedback. I think I agree with you that the ease of typing makes it easier to give more feedback on online assignments. However, the 24-hour response time for LARGE numbers of students overwhelms me too!!

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