Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Online learning – Until last night I considered EC&I 833 my first experience with online learning, meaning that this is the first academic class I’ve taken where I didn’t physically sit in a classroom. That part is still true. However, after I watched Tyson’s vlog (which you should watch!), I realized my view of “distance learning” was very narrow as I’ve been learning via the internet for many years – how to build a fence, recipes, painting tips, medical tips and tricks, etc. This learning – while not prescribed by a syllabus (or paid for!) is valid, so apparently I’m an old pro at distance education!!
Ironically this past week I had a student go in for double knee surgery. We were beginning a new math unit and math is not this student’s greatest love. In the past I would try to prepare materials ahead or inevitably try to pack a week’s worth of learning into a brief conversation which lacked instruction and would overwhelm my students upon returning to class. So – I decided to create a screencast of my initial unit lesson on using models to multiply integers to try and teach the concept to the student as he recovered at home. I uploaded the video to YouTube and gave him a few instructions.
Shockingly, it worked! He understood the lesson, completed his work, scanned it and sent it back to me. He even left a comment indicating how helpful the video was for him. I was so proud of him, but pretty proud of myself (blush).
Thanks to this class, I’m learning about tools that extend my thinking and ability to teach beyond the confines of the classroom. We are about to venture into Mystery Skyping with classes around the world and I feel as though the use of the tools I’ve encountered this term (Zoom, Google Hangouts, wordpress, screencast-o-matic – to name a few) are not only giving me confidence but helping me to widen the scope of my ideologies and perceptions about teaching. While I don’t teach an online course, there are aspects that can/should filter into my classroom as I try to best meet the needs of my individual students.
As far as teaching my students regularly via distance education, I think I would really struggle with that. The reason I love my job is the relationships that I develop with my students. I love the unplanned banter and humour that happens amidst the ongoings in the classroom. I think it would be much more difficult for me to establish authentic relationships – or at least require a different perspective.
In the article The work of education in the age of the digital classroom: Resurrecting Frankfurt school philosophies to examine online education Dayley and Hoffmann (2015) indicate that students don’t receive the individualized attention that they would get in a classroom and that often social isolation is one of the most obvious differences between traditional and distance education. I would struggle with this piece of the distance learning puzzle.
In addition, I think I would need to have highly engaging lessons (even more song and dance from me!) and have very organized lessons with a lot of broken up, planned components to keep the attention of middle years students. The online tools that are available would definitely provide opportunity for engagement. I would just need to rethink my focus in delivery of lessons. However, as I’ve learned with my student this week, sometimes rethinking my focus is necessary. I need to push myself outside of this box called teaching to see the possibilities available and refocus my thinking about ways to meet the needs of my students. All too often, I think I do what I do because it seems to be working. There is some validity to that, but it can also perpetuate stagnancy.
So … thank you to all of you for providing innovative tools, ideas, and support in order to make me a better teacher and to see beyond myself. Here’s to breaking apart this box called teaching!
Have any of you had any changes in thinking or in your perceptions of teaching since starting this class?