Friday, November 18, 2011

Making it personal..

Making it personal
I come to the world of ed/tech from a decidedly bricks and mortar background.  For close to 25years, my presence in my students’ lives has been built within classroom spaces that I helped create.  Is it possible to bring the intimacy and community that can be created within the walls of a classroom into the world of online/blended teaching?

One of the encouraging answers I got from attending the recent INACOL sessions was a decidedly strong “yes,” with the caveat that presence is only achievable if it becomes an explicit curricular goal. 

Kristin Kipp, a noted teacher from Jeffo Virtual Academy in Colorado, shared many of the ways in which she accomplished presence in her online teaching.  Her blog offers a practical  ‘nuts and bolts’ look at the life of an online teacher and the constant challenges and opportunities presented by online teaching.

She offered three guiding principals that must be addressed in planning effective online/blended learning:

- connection to content
- connection to other students
- connection to teacher

Some examples of application:
-  connection to content
§  If one wants to promote critical thinking, assignments must be ‘non-googleable’
-  connection to other students
§  Having students facilitate discussion board
§  peer review
§  collaborative learning projects
§  cyber café spaces on your LMS
-  connection to teacher
§  providing thoughtful, in depth feedback
§  maintaining contact outside of ‘school hours’
·      as an example, what follows is an excerpt from her December 2010 blog:
My biggest “aha” moment lately has been from a really simple strategy I started using about a month ago, the “Touch base email.”  Basically, I send five types of regular emails during the week:
Attendance emails:  Sent to students with 3+ days of absences and no recent contact
Reminder email:  Send to all students to remind them of the weekly due date
Touch base email:  Sent to students in the B, C, and D range.  Just touch base and make sure they’re doing ok.  I pick about 6 students per week to get this email.
Way to go email:  Sent to students whose grade has gone up by 8% or more in the past week
Weekly email: Sent to all students at the beginning of a new week to remind them to get started on the next week’s work
§  Useful tools for enhancing connection to teacher
·       Voice Thread ( ) was  suggested as a very powerful tool.
·      Google Moderator (Kristin used this during our session as well)
¨     This is a useful tool that invites students to ask questions, vote on a topic of debate, or make comments during a synchronous lesson.

In a traditional school environment, these three realms of connecting often emerge organically from the physical presence of teacher and students ‘living’ together in the same space. In online teaching, whether synchronous or asynchronous, it is also possible to keep the educational process “personal.” However, it will not happen without the teacher’s continuous conscious effort to do so. 

Susan Yammer
Educational Coordinator, Lookstein LIVE
Lookstein Center, Bar Ilan University

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