29 March 2014

Thoughts on Learning and Teaching Online

Learning online is not easy for me. I am easily distracted and find it difficult to focus for any length of time on a lesson. My reading comprehension is generally poor in an online environment so I have to do reading assignments multiple times (much more than usual), but even then the information doesn't always stick. With that said, I keep seeking out online courses because I know that with practice I will get better at it.

After taking this course in online and blended learning, I have a much better understanding of the ins and outs of online teaching and learning (iNACOL Standard A). It has helped me become a better online learner AND a better blended learning instructor. The grounding in theory and practice seems to have given me a more settled routine to approaching online learning. 

When I look at that iNACOL standards, I can see there are a few areas where I am successful. For example, Standard B requires the teacher to know and understand the use of current and emerging technologies to support student engagement in the online learning environment. Though I am relatively new to the online learning environment, I have confidence in my ability in the following areas:
  • The online teacher is able to select and use a variety of online tools for communication, productivity, collaboration, analysis, presentation, research, and online content delivery as appropriate to the content area and student needs.
  • The online teacher is able to apply troubleshooting skills (e.g., change passwords, download plug-ins, etc.).
  • The online teacher is able to identify and explore new tools and test their applicability to their content areas and students.
The last point is a bit of a double-edge sword for my students since I have had them use numerous online tools this year. They are very good with feedback, so some we haven't used more than once. Standard J is easy for me since I seek out opportunities to learn new things and I am generally good with parent communication via email or messaging in Edmodo. I am also confident with Standard E which requires teachers to model, guide, and use appropriate tools and strategies to encourage ethical online behavior. Even in the offline environment, I integrate lessons on copyright and plagiarism into my classroom. My particular areas of strength in this standard are:
  • The online teacher is able to establish standards for student behavior that are designed to ensure academic integrity and appropriate use of the Internet and online written communication; teach students that copyright laws are created for a reason.
  • The online teacher is able to model and comply with intellectual property policies and fair use standards and reinforce their use with students.
  • The online teacher is able to provide resources for students related to intellectual property and plagiarism.
Additionally, I do a pretty good job with assessments in Standard G and Standard H, but I am much more confident with formative assessments than summative assessments in this area. I worry about both validity and security in summative assessments. I am further confident in my abilities in the requirements for Standard F which require online teachers to be able to recognize and respond to diverse learner needs and provide accommodations as necessary. This area was my favorite module of the course because it opened my eyes to tools at my disposal that can help make my students' lives easier. In order to work well in this area I will need to continue to practice.

Speaking of practice, though I don't believe I am failing in any of the iNACOL standards, there are some areas where I really need more practice before I can say that I am confident in my ability. For example, in Standard C, while I am confident in my ability to create and implement a student-centered course, I am not as confident in my ability to create a relationship of trust or facilitate the development of community. As I in previous course responses, Standard D's requirement to provide prompt feedback is difficult for me. My communication skills are appropriate, but I am not good with timely. 

I am good with observational data in a face-to-face environment, but wonder if I will adequately catch student difficulties in the online environment as discussed in Standard I. To develop my skills in this area, I have started using electronic exit tickets in my classroom. Reading responses online will help me in this area.

Overall, I feel confident in my ability to teach in a blended or online environment, but I am aware there are several areas where I will need to continue to develop my skills.