using online learning tools
going to school online
One of the things I appreciated most about the Tech department at my school (especially our director, Janene Kosman), was the great opportunity we were given to learn how to use technology through a variety of workshops.
It was because of this experience that I was well prepared in 2010 when I began an online Masters in Education Design Technology degree program through Full Sail University in Florida. In fact, not only were the skills I learned useful in helping me to navigate a post graduate degree program, but I also made friends with whom I still communicate today.
Today it is not unusual for schools to require students to take at least a couple of classes online to prepare them for the future where they are likely to take an online class for a job or their own self improvement. Of course, no-one could have imagined that we would be a nation of students forced to do our learning at home.
As adults, many people find attending classes while holding down a job really hard to do. Taking classes online can provide opportunities for adults seeking to gain skills so they can pursue a new career or get promoted in the job they already have. Stats from 2018 make the case that millions of college students did at least some of their learning online. I'm sure that those numbers are exponentially greater since 2020 with so many campuses having to shift to online learning.
As an adult, you may have also experienced online/computer based exercises often used to review workplace rules and safety guidelines. There are also plenty of Instructional Designers creating computer-based training for thousands of workers. Have you encountered this in your job? The realization that most adults will do some kind of online learning has prompted schools to incorporate more of this approach with the intent of giving students experience that will help them in the adult world.
Despite the common use of computers for personal entertainment, news, and social media, it is not uncommon for people to be really unprepared for learning online. We assume that students are tech savvy enough for online learning - but this is a mistake.
There are a lot of students who don't do well in online courses. A one-size-fits-all approach always runs the chance of leaving some learners behind. Just because a student can use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (and maybe Wikipedia), doesn't mean they know how to use technology for learning. Creating their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is something students must be taught.
Since this is the case, helping a student learn online is not just a matter of covering the content - although content is very important. It also involves teaching students the skills they need to navigate online learning. It means understanding the reasons why online teaching might not work for some students and coming up with ways of mitigating that. For example, English as a Second Language learners could be at special disadvantage when they have to give up face-to-face classes for 100% online fare. There are also students with different disabilities or with personal traits that make learning via a computer screen difficult.
One of the goals of Edubabel Online Learning is to help those who are working with students to provide the scaffolding students need to help them be successful in learning content online.
We tend to think students, even little kids, are way smart at technology - and in some ways they are. But they often lack an understanding, and maybe even the motivation, to use the Internet for their own education. To be honest, the adults teaching them may often be in the same boat.
In future days, I will be adding articles, videos, and resources to address this issue. Please feel free to use the contact page to share your concerns and questions. There is so much to discuss - if I see a particular concern or topic is of greater interest to our subscribers, I will focus on those subjects.
Here are some key things you should consider when creating online classes:
Face-to-face is better than having to learn via the Internet. Being in a classroom gives you the ability to ask questions of a person who is an expert in the subject. Personal connections are really important to learning. Don't be fooled - the personal connections people make online don't hold a candle to the ones you can make in person.
Provide both text and audio during lessons. Give students the ability to have both, or to choose to only listen or only ready captions. Some students really can't handle both, so giving them the ability to choose is important. Providing captions may be extra work for you, but it could mean the difference between success and failure for some students.
Provide structure. Having a routine and providing a structure students can expect can support success. For example, an English teacher might start each lesson with an punctuated sentence which students need to fix. A math teacher might start with a word problem that focuses on a concept the class has been - or is about to - explore. You get the idea.
Focus on knowledge. Students can't move into higher level thinking skills without some fodder to chew on! Before anyone can discuss or evaluate, they must have some knowledge of the topic. You could use a KWL approach, for example. Present the topic, then ask what students already know (K), what they want to know (W) and after you've covered the content, have them list what they have learned (L). If you have students send you their answers and display them anonymously on your screen, you can be sure to get input from everyone without embarrassing someone who might not know much about the topic.
Avoid criticizing, shaming, or rebuking students. Why would you even do that? That doesn't mean not correcting mistaken ideas, but crushing a child's spirit because they said something you think is wrong is not what a teacher should be doing.
Set boundaries for class discussions. Make sure students (and the teacher) know to address each other with respect. Endeavor to get every student to contribute something to the discussion. For middle and high school students, doing a discussion in forum format where each student is required to write their own response to a prompt and then to respond to two or three other classmates is a good way to get everyone involved.
If possible, use stories to introduce or explore the topic. I remember well the stories my teacher used in an astronomy class to tell us about the personal foibles of famous astronomers. Of course, we learned about what each of them contributed, too, but the stories were great for capturing our interest and helping us to remember how we came to know the things we know now.
Invite students to solve a problem. Life is about solving problems. Inventions come about when we are trying to figure out a better way to do things. Pretty much everything mankind has accomplished has been rooted in solving a problem of some sort.
Set and explain goals. Knowing what is expected helps students focus and gives them direction. It enables them to be able measure their progress and know when they have achieved something. Achieve the goal gives a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Chunk the learning. Expecting a student, even a teenager, to sit at a computer for six hours a day is nuts. Break the learning up. Find ways to let the student get up and away from the computer. Try to keep the actual lesson to 20 minutes if you can, then send them off to do something off line. Everyone's content is different, but you don't have to worry about other people's content. Focus on your own and find ways to break it up into manageable chunks.
Have fun. Look for ways to make what you are doing fun. For example, a social studies teacher might send students to a site where they can practice geography skills via a game. Especially, try to include practice that will have the students moving around.