Melissa Gilbert

WRIT 655

Dr. Spring

07 August 2014

Teaching with Technology

Education has changed and is still changing. No longer are teachers limited to a dusty chalkboard and dozens of desks neatly lined up in rows. Teachers now have the world at their fingertips, and that is thanks to the technological advances of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As a teacher, I often use technology in my classes, whether the class is a traditional face-to-face course or a more modern online only course. I approach the two types of classes differently in my use of technology, but some things remain the same: clarity, consistency, and collaboration.

In my face-to-face classes, I use technology in a number of ways to increase clarity. In Teaching Writing Online: How & Why, Scott Warnock writes, “Even if you are reluctant to teach hybrid or online courses, the electronic communication tools in every CMS allow your students to write to you and each other in ways that will open up teaching and learning opportunities for everyone involved” (xix). Likewise, I believe that technology can help students understand the material more clearly, so I always post my lecture notes in the course management system (CMS) before class so that the students can print them out if they would like. I generally use PowerPoint or Prezi to aid my discussions because many of my students are visual learners and like to be able to see the concepts that I am explaining, even if it is to make sure that they heard or spelled the terms correctly. I also address other learning styles by using interactive exercises online or in class, fostering good discussion, and including a little lecture.

When I post information into the CMS, I make sure to be consistent with the location of the information so that students can find what they need more easily. Warnock writes, “Don’t underestimate the importance of being organized in the online teaching environment. Before you teach online for the first time, make sure your files and folder systems reflect the kind of structure you want for the class” (49). For my face-to-face classes, I generally create folders for notes, assignments, handouts, and study materials. Then, I place the files in the folders appropriately. I have heard from many students that they wished all of their teachers organized their classes in this way. I have also set up shell courses for a number of my colleagues to “gift” them the structure into which they can place their own content. Then, once they are more comfortable with teaching online, they can begin to modify the shell to fit their needs and style.

Moreover, I use collaborative technology in my face-to-face classes as well. I encourage the students on the first day of class to exchange email addresses with a few of their classmates and conduct peer reviews outside of class. I have shown students how to use Dropbox, OneDrive, and GoogleDocs for that purpose. Since I do not currently require the students to work collaboratively in that way, I am not sure if it is successful or helpful for the students; however, the students often tell me that it is helpful. I would like to try requiring students to complete a peer review electronically so that I can get more feedback on the success of the activity. My past concerns with this type of requirement are ones that Warnock also addresses. He writes, “[Students] have the challenge of carefully reading another student’s project and then writing about it in a way that helps that colleague—and all directed to a student they may not have met” (118). Warnock also offers a suggestion to help alleviate the problem: detailed directions. I give detailed instructions to my face-to-face students when they complete peer reviews in class, and I watch them to make sure that they are following the directions; however, I would not be able to carefully watch to ensure respect and quality of the review online. For that reason, I am slightly hesitant to go that direction.

On the other hand, my online classes function a little differently. In my online classes, I function more as a tutor and facilitator than as a lecturer. I post PowerPoint slideshows and notes for the students, but in order to ensure clarity, I also require weekly discussion activities in which the students have to explain a certain concept (or several) from the week’s material. Usually, I try to pick a concept that students have had difficulty understanding in the past. Including the lower-stakes assignments before the students have to complete the high-stakes assignments help the students to see where they need to improve or need clarification, and it helps them build their self-efficacy. Warnock also mentions a strategy that I would like to try. He writes, “I often ask students to use class posts as sources in their papers and projects” (88). His strategy is one that I had not considered, but I am going to try it. It will help ensure that the students are reading each others’ posts and that they are writing to higher standards, even in the lower-stakes assignments.

Like my face-to-face classes, consistency is important in an online class, but it is even more important when the class is online. Students thrive on routine, so instead of organizing by type of material, I organize my online classes by date. Warnock also uses this approach. He writes, “I use a Weekly Plan approach to organize my courses. One myth about teaching online is that you must have everything scheduled and ready to go far in advance of the start of the term” (45). I agree entirely. I do not like to post content for the whole course at the beginning; rather, I post one or two weeks at a time. For each week of the class, I create a folder labeled for the dates of that week. In that folder, I put all assignments that the students should complete for the week, all notes that the students should review, and a Weekly Agenda. My Weekly Agenda is a single page document that has clearly explained guidelines for the week. I list the concepts that they should learn, the actions they should take (i.e. read chapter x, answer discussion questions, turn in assignment) and a list of the day and time that each assignment that week is due. Finally, I include a small “looking ahead” section to remind students of bigger assignments that may be coming up the following week.

Collaboration is a little more difficult to arrange in an online class, but I do use several strategies that Warnock listed to make collaboration effective and successful. I ask the students to respond meaningfully to their classmates in the discussion forum, I offer the students to meet virtually or face-to-face to work on group projects. They may also choose to work alone, but they generally form teams. I also allow the students to work collaboratively on their open-book, open-web quizzes. For the topic, I am more concerned that they know where to find the information than memorizing it, so collaboration works well, and I have found that when the students collaborate, they are more willing to discuss and think critically about the questions than just guess at the answer. Warnock also mentions a strategy that I would like to try. He writes, “I often ask students to use class posts as sources in their papers and projects” (88).

In closing, my teaching philosophy and my teaching with technology philosophy are really no different. I am an advocate of using all of the resources that are available, so I always incorporate technology into my lessons; however, I also always have a back-up plan because technology sometimes does not work like it is supposed to work. I am looking forward to teaching entirely online courses in the future, and I am thankful for the opportunity to vocalize (digitally) my thoughts about teaching with technology.

Work Cited

Warnock, Scott. Teaching Writing Online: How & Why. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2009. Print.

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Look what I found!

Posted: July 28, 2014 in Research
Tags:

As I was researching, I came across a familiar name: Scott Warnock.  Did you know he has a blog, much like ours?  You can find it here.  I decided to do my last research post from an article I read on his blog: Why OWI?

He writes:

What is driving your teaching of writing online? Are you doing it because you want to? Because you have to? Is this a step in your professional development? Curiosity? Finances?

While self-reflection itself is a good thing, this is not just an effort to know thyself. The answers to these questions can inform what we do in the classroom – and they may help us to uncover in ourselves what I think of as an under appreciated aspect of teaching: teacher satisfaction and, well, happiness.

I think this is the essence of the course that we’ve been taking for the last two months.  We are interested in online writing instruction because we are teachers (or would like to be teachers), we may have to do this at some point, or we want to, or we just want to make some extra money.  You have to admit that it is pretty tempting to be able to teach a class in your pajamas.

Finally, he writes:

 Why am I doing this? The answer, carefully considered, perhaps on a slow summer day, will I believe help us do what we do more effectively for ourselves and our students.

That slow summer day is now.  That answer will come next week when we finish the course.

When I first started teaching, my mentor teacher said to me, “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  Just use the stuff we already have.”  However, Warnock writes, “Education, and writing instruction in particular, is dynamic: people are inventing new ways daily to help students learn” (163).  Now, I don’t think she meant that I should stick with the same old methods of teaching, but rather that I should just use existing handouts and exams (reusable learning objects, RLO)  The sentiment is the same though.  Teaching is hard, time-consuming, and sometimes you feel like just pulling a lesson off the internet.

Funny teacher photo

Teaching writing online is really no different.  We still need to use actual materials, share ideas, and have training that will help us to be better teachers.  Good training will help teachers know when to use or modify existing resources and when to try something new.

He offers a few suggestions for helping teachers collaborate such as shared spaces, virtual conversation spaces, and web-seminars.  The school where I teach uses all of those to some extent.  I have still found, however, that the face to face meetings solve the most problems and enable the faculty to put together additional resources in the virtual community.

Once the class is over, how does the teacher know if it was successful?  There is an inherent feeling that teachers have when they know that a class didn’t go as they had planned.  They know.  But they may not know the exact reasons why.  For this reason, course assessment tools are necessary.  We can examine student data, as Warnock suggests, use course evaluations, or even just ask the students for feedback.   When I am teaching a new course, I often ask the students if they think the course is going well, if it is what the expected, and what they would like to see changed.  If it is possible, I try to change it immediately.  If it isn’t something that I can change right away or something I have no control over (like the choice of textbook), then I put it in my notes for the next time I teach the course.  Even though we’re the teachers, we will learn a lot from our students.

Paulo Freire Quote

 

The final chapter of Warnock’s book discusses resources.  The internet is a great resource, but I believe that the best resources are the people you have around you.  Ask people questions, find out what they’re thinking, and truly listen.  Talk to your colleagues, your past professors, your students, your friends, your family, the world!  But instead of talking for the sake of talking, stop and listen to what they have to say.  You never know what you might learn.

 

listen

 

The last thought that I would like to leave with you is this: teaching writing online is no different from any other type of teaching.  The teacher must still care about the students, care about the material, seek to communicate regularly and clearly, prepare interesting lessons, and give the students meaningful feedback.  Without that, why have a teacher at all?

Last week’s research post inspired me to look more into how private tutoring is affecting the educational systems around the globe.  According to Forbes Magazine, it is a booming business.  One article from 2012 suggests that the “private tutoring market will surpass $102.8 billion by 2018.”  That’s a lot of money.  However, that money is going into the pockets of for-profit centers rather than the educational system.  And I wonder why.

The article says:

Private in-home tutoring offers an innovative, highly personalized, and secure learning environment for today’s stressed and distracted students, who are under increasing pressure to perform well in competitive entrance examinations for leading universities and colleges.

Two important words in that passage are “stressed” and “distracted.”

Students who are stressed will not likely do well on any kind of exam or test.  The “I work best under pressure” line is a lie.  Remember what Dr. House says, “Everybody lies.”

house-everybody-lies-magnet

 

But, perhaps a greater problem is that students are distracted.  I read another article a while back about Asian cultures and education that explained that education is the main focus from about age 10 to about age 25.  Families make sure of it.

I’m sure that there has always been distraction, but I wonder how much of the current generation’s distraction has to do with the advances in technology (smartphones, the internet, etc.) and the continual pressure to multitask.  I know that I work more poorly when I am trying to multitask.  (That could be why I keep writing about the wrong chapters!)

 

 

 

Numbers aren’t my thing.  That’s been pretty obvious in that I cannot keep the chapters straight as I post about them.  Last week, I posted about plagiarism, which was supposed to be the topic for this week.  Oops.  I did it again.

I looked back through my posts and realized that I actually addressed three chapters last week instead of two, so I will go back and edit the tags for that post.

In the meantime, enjoy the following cat gif.  It helps make people feel at home on the internet.

fivedeadlines

I like to think that I am a pretty good teacher.  I really haven’t ever had a student complaint in over eight years of teaching (one student my first semester made the comment that they could tell I was new…that’s as bad as I’ve ever gotten) and I’ve been nominated for a couple of Excellence in Teaching Awards.  Haven’t won, but that’s okay.

So, when I look at my pay stub and calculate how many hours I have left in the week, I start looking for a second…or third…or fourth job.  Right now I am working three jobs.  Teaching in the United States doesn’t pay much.  I read articles online a lot of the time about people who are on Food Stamps or homeless, but they have advanced degrees or are teachers.   It’s frightening.

Then I come across an article like this one.

According to Amanda Ripley’s “The $4 Million Dollar Teacher,”

Kim Ki-hoon earns $4 million a year in South Korea, where he is known as a rock-star teacher—a combination of words not typically heard in the rest of the world. Mr. Kim has been teaching for over 20 years, all of them in the country’s private, after-school tutoring academies, known as hagwons. Unlike most teachers across the globe, he is paid according to the demand for his skills—and he is in high demand.

I wonder if he feels like this:

Psy_money

I know I certainly would.  Mr. Kim works about 60 hours a week, but he doesn’t work all of those hours teaching.  Instead he records lectures and sells them online at an hourly rate.  Tutoring services like that offered by Mr. Kim have helped students in South Korea make leaps and bounds in education.

Thanks in part to such tutoring services, South Korea has dramatically improved its education system over the past several decades and now routinely outperforms the U.S. Sixty years ago, most South Koreans were illiterate; today, South Korean 15-year-olds rank No. 2 in the world in reading, behind Shanghai. The country now has a 93% high-school graduation rate, compared with 77% in the U.S.

I can only wonder what that kind of education system would do in America.  Do I think that teachers would become millionaires? No, not really.  But I do think that the professionals in the field might at least be able to pay the bills and be able to buy name brand peanut butter instead of that store brand stuff.

According to the article,

The idea is seductive: Teaching well is hard, so why not make it lucrative? Even if American schools will never make teachers millionaires, there are lessons to be learned from this booming educational bazaar, lessons about how to motivate teachers, how to captivate parents and students and how to adapt to a changing world.

The idea is quite seductive.  So much so that I wonder if I could do it too.

 

P.S. I got tired of reading about MOOCs.

Online courses can be difficult for some students. Communicating online can also cause a significant amount of stress. Many students who enroll in online courses do so because it fits their schedule in a way that traditional courses do not. According to “Predictors for Student Success in an Online Course,” “Age is seen as another student characteristic in research studies, since distance education is viewed as very suitable to adults. The convenience, flexibility, and self-pacing of distance-education courses or programs are especially beneficial to them” (72). This is entirely true. I am enrolled in this course because my schedule is extremely full. I have to do most of my work and “class attendance” on the weekends. I am juggling teaching, cleaning houses, and running my own freelance editing business. Not to mention that I am also raising a daughter, a Girl Scout leader, running an online writing critique group, managing a book review blog, enrolled in two graduate classes, and preparing for oral comps.  It’s a tad busy in Melissa-ville. Thus, I enrolled in online classes this summer so that I could earn my education on my time.

Many older students, however, get some anxiety when they are faced with new technology. I remember when my mother was taking classes online for her bachelor’s degree, she often posted things in the wrong place and even sometimes completed the wrong assignments because the instructors did not give clear directions or did not communicate clearly. It was a very frustrating and anxiety inducing experience for her. Luckily, I love technology, so I am able to function well in an online class.

As a teacher, I am very quick to reply to my students when they contact me. I do not, however, like to talk on the phone. I don’t hear well unless I can see the person talking, so phone conversations or Skype conversations are quite difficult for me. I often misunderstand. Thus, I tell my students up front that my preferred method of communication is email. I tell them I will also gladly accept text messages if the question is short. I promise the students that they will get a very prompt response to an email, but a phone call might be delayed because I will have to wait until I am in a very quiet environment before retuning the call. I often respond to emails within minutes because they come to my iPhone.

In an online class, I tell my students to use the discussion board for general questions because other students might have the same question, but if they have a personal question, they should email me privately. So far, I have never had a complaint about my level of communication, and I have actually had quite a few students mention how much they appreciated the prompt replies.

In the CMS itself, I am very clear with directions, usually build the entire course before the semester starts, and always give feedback within a week. If for some reason I do not post an assignment before the semester begins, I always give the students 1-2 weeks (depending on the complexity of the assignment) to complete it. For example, I generally do not “release” the weekly discussion questions until the week the students are in, but they always have the whole week to submit their responses.

My goal as a teacher is not to just teach the material. I also want the students to be comfortable, feel free to ask me questions that they have, and to enjoy the course.

 

Work Cited

Yukselturk, Erman, and Safure Bulut. “Predictors for Student Success in an Online Course.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society 10.2 (2007): 71-83. Academic Search Complete. Web. 17 July 2014.