Saturday, June 15, 2013

2.2 Reflection: Methodologies of the Online/Blended Instructor

This is another reflection assignment for the online course I am taking.

Reflection Prompt:

In your reflective post this week, think about the following questions: 1. Reflecting on the information covered in this module so far, how might your instructional methodologies need to change ...

It is my belief that highly effective educators use strategies that are universal, meaning that no matter what teaching "situation" they are in, they should not need to drastically alter how they educate their students.  As we (educators) move from traditional learning situations to blending in online learning we need to make sure that there are some important strategies in place to promote student success and quality learning.

Below I will share MY opinion on what makes an effective online/blended learning instructor.

Creating a Community of Learners
No matter what type of learning situation a teacher is in, I feel it is essential to build a community of learners.  At the beginning of the school year I have my students write passion papers.  I want to know what they are passionate about and I want the other students to learn each others passions.  This coming school year before we do our passion papers we will do "Heart Maps" Courtesy of Georgia Heard's book, "Awakening the Heart".

By doing "heart maps" the students will have an opportunity to discover what is important to their hearts and then that should help with their passion papers.  The passion papers help build community because we turn them into paper blogs courtesy of Karen McMillan @McTeach:

The paper blogs teach the students how to appropriately comment on each other's passion papers and the students relate and connect with each other by finding commonalities in their lives.  We use their passion paper as their first blog entry of the school year.  A quick reminder, I am a math teacher so you may be wondering how I can take the time out of my math instruction to do these activities?!  I make creating a classroom community a priority because it makes so many things in the classroom work so much better and I want the students to learn from day one that I am not the only teacher in the class.  In an online environment, I would do something very similar just tweaked to work in that specific environment.  I do believe that it is vital in a virtual learning environment that the community of learner is established because the students will need to collaborate and work together without actually seeing or meeting each other in person.

Organization of Resources and Class Content
This is important in all learning environments.  This summer in my class we are using the Learning Management System (LMS) Schoology.  It is a free LMS for individuals and my district is exploring an institutional account.  There are other LMS tools: EdmodoBlackboard Collaborate, Collaborize Classroom and others I have not used.  These tools allow educators to have a secure gathering place for their class(es) and a storage place for their materials.

I also utilize other organization tools that allow my students to access class materials.  My Google Plus Classroom Website, my Symbaloo Class Page, and my Evernote Pre-Algebra Class Notebook, are all tools my students use on a daily basis to access course materials, notes, resources and important information.  It is extremely important for educators to provide online access to class materials whether or not they are teaching in a virtual environment or a brick and mortar one.

Facilitate Online Learning and Discussions
Especially when blending or teaching an online class, creating a collaborative environment is very important.  Using computers can be considered isolating.  Those of you on twitter and other social networks for your professional learning community know that is not the case at all!  Our students also see technology as a social tool.  As educators we need to facilitate that process within the online environment for our students by creating meaningful discussions either asynchronous or synchronous.  We need to model the process of collaboration and sharing in an online environment for them.  It is vital to plan carefully and consider the content we are teaching and the learning objectives we seek and to have that drive our instruction and how technology is integrated into our classes.  We also need to teach our students how to use technology and how to become responsible consumers, collaborators, and creators of digital information.  

Equal Access to Technology
It is important to remember to make sure your students have equal access to technology.  When I assign work that is to be completed using technology, I make sure that student who do not have access to technology at home have first dibs on the classroom computers.  They have priority over students who have access at home.  Lack of technology should not be an obstacle for students and measures need to be taken to make use of technology is equitable.

There are many things educators need to consider when implementing any type of learning situation.  I touched on a few key things I think are important when shifting your instruction from a traditional classroom setting to a blended or online teaching environment.

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