Monthly Archives: February 2012

Exponential Growth and Emerging Technology

Whether you agree with it or not, enrollment in online high school education is growing exponentially, with no signs of slowing down. And on top of that, starting during the 2011-2012 school year, incoming Freshman, are required to take at least one online course in order to graduate, in the state of Florida. Having taught online Physics for the past seven years, I am often asked how does learning Physics online compare to the traditional classroom?  Although, this answer can be hinged upon the individual student’s learning styles and preferences, I am happy to say that my students are not alone in their learning experience and my role as their instructor is truly to facilitate their learning.

'Free online tutoring at www.tutor.com/army' photo (c) 2011, U.S. Army - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Just as the traditional school teacher uses a variety of tools to teach in their own classroom, I, as well, have a series of tools I use and continue to develop. Some of these tools include required discussion based assessments, daily on call hours, virtual classroom sessions and online simulations.  In thinking about my work as an online teacher,  I came across an EdTech Digest article,  10 Internet Technologies Educators Should Be Informed About – 2011 Update.  Even though taking a class online in itself is considered emerging technology, I wanted to share some of my favorites tools and evaluate how my current practices rate against this list.

  1. Video and Podcasting Resources – I often refer my students to The Khan Academy and  iTunes U.
  2. Digital Presentation Tools – My favorite simple and free tool is Jing. This program allows the user to capture their computer screen with audio.  I often make short recordings for my students to share specific audio/video feedback on various assignments.
  3. Collaboration, Brainstorming Tools and Survey tools – I use Google Documents for form surveys, student collaboration, and schedule posting.  In addition, I use Blackboard Collaborate for my virtual classroom. This site allows me to host virtual classroom sessions with my students. We can work on labs together on the site’s interactive whiteboard.
  4. Educational Gaming – I think the various applets and animations I use in my course might remotely fall into this category. Although, I would like to explore this area further. Perhaps the Physics of Angry Birds?!

 Overall, I feel good about my level of comfort and use of current technologies included in the EdTech Digest list.  However, there is always room to explore in every category! In addition, the areas I would like to add to my online educator’s toolbox include: Blogs, Social Networking and Lecture Capture. I’m especially intrigued on how I might try to “flip” my online classroom.  Perhaps, an idea to explore for next time.

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Wow! Twitter? Really?

A few weeks ago, if you would have asked me my opinion of Twitter, I would have shrugged my shoulders. I wasn’t really pro Twitter or con Twitter. I didn’t really consider Twitter to be more than a social extra. My only reason to sign up for Twitter would be to follow a few comedians, to catch a good joke now and then.

But now, and for the past week, I have been gathering information and working to begin building my own Personal Learning Network (PLN). Having taught online Physics for the last 7 years, I have relied mainly on my coworkers as my mini network. Over the years, I have successfully traded ideas, hosted professional development sessions and collaborated on projects with my coworkers from across the state and country. However, this semester, in starting my Master’s degree in Educational Technology, I finally realized my network goes little beyond my circle of coworkers.

Wake up call! I need to catch up with the times. There’s a whole world out there with so many potential members of my very own personal learning network!   In collecting more information about methods for building a PLN, I have now embraced Twitter and find myself learning and immersing myself in this process. So far, I have three short reflections paired with questions.

Stages of PLN adoption

1.       Comfort/ Time?  First off, I find comfort in the fact that those in this process before me have mapped out a series of stages for adoption of a PLN. I am clearly in stage 1: Immersion and I am enjoying it!  My question, how much time should I spend in stage 1? What’s realistic?

2.       Power of Twitter/ What else?  I am impressed with the power of Twitter. It quickly connects so many with common interests, so simply. What is the next tool I should add to help me in this process?

3.       Overload/ Best practice?  I went from following 2 people to 30 in just a matter of days. So, I’m also in overload mode right now. I’m sure this will pass as I get used to including Twitter in my life. I’m planning to limit my Twitter time daily. What else can I do to make this step less overwhelming?

I’m realizing that it is important to take ownership of your own growth as a teacher. I find this process empowering. I’m also excited to revisit my place in this process weeks and months from now. I have a feeling; I may slide up and down hill from time to time, in the stages of this process.  I also have a feeling; I’ll be able to turn to my growing personal learning network, weeks and months from now, as well.

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