What do you know now that you did not know before?
In terms of content, one thing I know now, which I perhaps should have known before, is what it really means to have “teaching presence.” The term has been part of previous readings and discussions, and I thought I understood; however, this past week’s discussions and readings have helped me to really understand. The fact that the Breeze presentation, Chapter 4 from the course manual, and the article for this module overlapped frustrated me at first. I felt like I was reading the same information over and over and over again. Yet, as I continued reading I realized that my grasp of the content was continuing to evolve. I feel that I have a deeper awareness of what teaching presence looks like, not only in an online course but also in a traditional classroom, as well.
How are you applying what you have learned so far to your own course?
Although I haven’t gotten very far in working on my course so far this week, I have been thinking about it a great deal. In the next day or so, as I sit down to rethink the learning activities, set up, etc., I will be looking through the lens of an ever-present instructor, being sure to incorporate the seven principles of good practice and considering how my own interaction and design will contribute to the cognitive, social and teaching presence in the course.
Working at a school in which our students are enrolled in 20 or more college credits before graduation, and at which we focus on ensuring the students are truly college ready, I believe that by incorporating the principles at the K-12 level, students will be more college ready before or upon graduation from high school.
What decisions have you made about how you present yourself, your content, and how you will engage and interact with your students and assess them in your own online course?
This question continues to be tricky for me because I already know the students I will be teaching. I taught them last year and I will have them for another semester before beginning the online course. Since the students already know me, the major focus will be in presenting the content. Students who loop with their teachers become very comfortable in the methods used, and even though my students will have had me as a teacher for 3 semesters prior to taking the online course, I think it will be necessary to balance the routine of what they know and of what works with introducing some new ways to present content. For example, every day when the students come into the classroom, a “Do Now” is posted on the Smartboard. It’s part of their routine, so when they come in, students check the board to see what they need to do before the class begins. Part 4 of the course manual reiterates the importance of navigational documents and instructions to tell students what to do and where to go. I see the “Do Now” as an adaptable element I can use in my online course to help them determine what to do and how to do it. It will be important for them to experience some variety in getting to know me in a different role as an online educator. I will have to work hard at truly giving them some distance from me, even though we will be housed in the same building, so that they can experience the independence that is so important in the online (and on-campus) college environment.
Who are you and why are you that way as an educator and a learner? What have you observed about yourself during this process?
Who I am as an educator has much to do with those instructors I would call “bad.” I remember sitting in a literature class as a junior in college, contributing to a discussion on my favorite poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and having the instructor literally put his hand up as if to “shush” me and proceed to tell me why I was “wrong” and how I “should” view the poem. Had I been younger and more impressionable, this may have had a detrimental effect. But, I was a little older than most of my classmates and much more confident than he led me to believe I should be. When I left class that night, I wrote a paper defending my interpretations of the poem, turned it in later that week, and reflected on the fact that I could salvage something from this course, and that would be what NEVER to do once I was teaching my own students.
In some ways, that same anecdote applies to who I am as a learner. I’m somewhat stubborn! When I believe something, I tend to stick with it until I can find out for myself why I should believe differently. Case in point: I was convinced that I could recycle my F2F materials for the online course. Despite the warnings and readings, I refused to believe that the online environment would be all that different. Now halfway through the course, after working extensively on my own materials, reading, research, discussing, etc., I believe differently. Someone telling me wasn’t going to get me there. I had to experience it for myself. I try to remember that my students will also have to experience things in order to learn; simply telling them is not teaching them.
*Incidentally, I never came to the conclusion that I was “wrong” about my interpretation of Prufrock. I did, despite an internal desire to tell that man off and damn him for ruining my experience with a beloved piece of writing, take his ideas into consideration. That, to me, is what education is about—the consideration of multiple perspectives in the shaping of our own.
What has challenged you the most in this course? What has been most difficult or uncomfortable and why?
Honestly, time management. Considering my own struggles with this, I decided to give due dates for the discussion posts in my own course. Alex warned against this, suggesting that it was too much to manage and took away some of the students’ ownership. I agree to some extent; if I’m struggling to manage time, I predict my students will, too. I think a happy medium will be to change the wording so that the proposed dates are “suggested” but not required.
Like Prufrock, I often measure out my life in coffee spoons. I try to plan every day so that I can achieve what I need to. As I’ve said in previous blogs, I’m a list-maker, so it’s not unlike me to leave a list on the kitchen counter that includes everything from walking the dogs to doing a load of laundry to finishing a discussion post, reading articles, going to the market, etc. When it comes to assignments, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete a task. When I do something, I put a great deal of work into it. Because of that, when I “finish” it, I like to think of it as just that…”finished.” The realistic side of me knows this is usually not the case, yet I continue to get frustrated when I have to make changes. It’s not that I’m resistant to change, it’s just that I’m craving free time and every revision cuts into that. I beat myself up, saying if I had done a more thorough job the first time through I wouldn’t have to revise. But the practical side of me knows I’m not lazy and I don’t purposely leave room for improvement. It’s part of the learning process to revise. Usually after just a little kicking and screaming, I settle into my work mode and proceed to take a second (and third and fourth) look at my work, compare it to the work others are doing, and ensue the process of (trying to) perfect my craft. Perhaps it’s time I move from measuring in coffee spoons to taking in the big picture.
UAlbany. (2008, May). Online Course Design Manual for Beginners. Albany, NY, US.