Sunday, April 26, 2015

TESOL Teaching Reading and Writing Online Course - Week 1

This first week included a lot of general readings and discussions about technology integration and teaching online.  Here are my posts from the discussion forums:

Moderating Online: Best Practices and Strategies – My Post

I read all the articles because each had some slightly different content that I found interesting and useful. For brevity purposes, I will discuss the significant tips and best practices for begin an effective online moderator / facilitator that are relevant to my teaching situation and experiences from three articles.

My biggest take-away from the article 6 Ways to Be a Better Online Teacher is to be an active and engaged participant (repeated in different ways in the other articles, as well). In ESL, the personal connections students make with each other and the instructor is something that is so important and that helps (in my case, adult ESL) encourage and promote persistence and retention. My big challenge in teaching online is to make sure all students feel as engaged and connected online as they do in the classroom. I think text alone will not suffice to have online presence as an instructor, so I plan to send personal emails, include a discussion board almost every week, and post videos and photos to be “real” online. I will try a synchronous online meeting this summer to see how it goes! I have heard from a lot of instructors at my college who hold online office hours that hardly anyone ever shows up, so I know I’ll need a really exciting hook to get students to attend.

From the article Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online, I find the following tips valuable:

·        Early in the term ask for informal feedback. I like to do this during week 2 or 3 of my 8-week term, but for online, I will probably send out short polls and surveys (classroom assessment techniques) to check in with students regularly. From feedback I have had from students, they really appreciate the opportunity to have a say and to help shape the class as it goes.

·        Plan a good closing and wrap activity for the course. I have an end-of-term online anonymous class evaluation that really helps for gathering information about what students liked and thought were the best assignments (and which could be improved on) and how I can better my instruction. I typically plan the class schedule so that the last days of class are reserved for this evaluation, and end culminating project, and presentations. After the course is over, I send an email with links to Web sites for students to use to keep studying and practicing.

Finally, the article Ten Tips for Effective Online Facilitation provides these two tips that are appropriate to my teaching situation:

·        Provide behind-the-scenes support via email. Again, that extra personal touch can remind students to log in, keep up with course work, or even come back to class.

·        Bring closure to each topic before moving on. This, I know, is a week point of mine, so this is something I need to work on. The article mentions topic summaries, but that would create a lot of extra work, so simple self-evaluation or “I can” checklists are the types of activities I need to include more often at the end of a “unit.”

I believe that my skills with technology will provide a decent foundation for my role as an online moderator / facilitator. Of course, however, in the realm of technology, there is always something to learn. My experiences as an online learner are probably what will help me most in becoming a more effective online moderator.

I look forward to reading what best practices and strategies everyone else found valuable.


Technology’s Importance in Education – My Post

In the articles that I read, these are the big takeaways for me:

In the article Taking Technology to the Classroom: Pedagogy-Based Training for Educators, since I do some technology training, mentoring, and presentations, I agree wholeheartedly with the authors that technology training should be "pedagogy-based.” I can give an example with this anecdote:

Several years ago (maybe 14?), a representative from my college’s Academic Information Services (the group that does all things technology-related from updates to training) gave a hands-on workshop on PowerPoint. It was easy to learn, but I thought to myself, “When will I ever use this?” At that time we did not have computers in the classroom; there was a laptop on a cart with a projector that we could schedule to use in the classroom. A few weeks later, students were working on a project and were preparing poster presentations when a concurrently-enrolled high school student asked if she could make her presentation with PowerPoint.

It was that moment that I knew I needed to learn more and do more to integrate technology and keep up with or stay at least a tiny step ahead of students. Had the PowerPoint workshop been more geared at how it can be used to deliver interactive lectures rather than how to create slides, I may have had a better vision of how to use the software in class. Instead, I learned from a student.

Years later, I learned about TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge), and its principles are what is described in this article: basically that good technology integration happens when the teacher knows his/her discipline (content knowledge) and how to teach it (pedagogy) and knows how to select the appropriate technology best suited to teaching in the discipline (see What is TPACK? for a more articulate explanation).

My response to the article Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum?: The Reasons Are Many is why not integrate technology? I completely agree (and it’s the reason why I use projects) with this part of the article:

Learning through projects while equipped with technology tools allows students to be intellectually challenged while providing them with a realistic snapshot of what the modern office looks like. Through projects, students acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they've found online.

I still hear (though not as often) some excuses from teachers about why they don’t put technology in students’ hands: They can’t even type. They don’t know how to use computers. They don’t have a computer at home. They can’t understand basic English, so how could they use a computer. My class wasn’t assigned a computer lab time. I’m an ESL teacher, not a computer teacher. In the end, these are all some of the excuses teachers use when they themselves lack confidence with their own technology abilities. One technology trainer calls this “thinking with your buts” (pun intended).

My feeling is that if teachers in programs like mine (adult schools) do not teach students some basics and about online safety/ digital literacy, we are maintaining the digital divide – who else is going to teach them?

As for myself, I can’t imagine not teaching with technology.


Instructor’s Feedback on My Week 1 Participation and Activities:

TESOL PP103: Teaching Reading and Writing Online

Week 1 Checklist


Getting Started: Scavenger Hunt

Discussions: Introduction

Discussions: Moderating Online

Discussions: Searching/Surfing the Internet

Discussions: Technology’s Importance in Education

Discussions: Reflection

Wiki: Created a group wiki and posted URL to MyTESOLCourse Wiki


Thank you for your contributions to the topics in Week 1.  I appreciate your thoughtful input and contributions to the discussion threads in addition to motivating the group with more in depth considerations, explanations, and sharing of resources! You have completed all assignments for Week 1.  Thank you, also, Kristi, for being both a leader and a collaborator in the course.  You have a such a talent for making others feel valued.

Your Wiki site, PP103 Group wiki on Google Sites is off to a great start.  I especially like the professional look of your layout and the ease of navigation. I look forward to seeing further developments.  





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