So you’re going to teach online?

You’re an experienced teacher with years in the classroom under your belt.  You know kids.  You know schools.   You know your subject and how to teach it.  But now, for whatever reason, you’re going to teach online.  That raises at least two big questions.

How might your instructional methodologies need to change?

I can’t speak for you, obviously, but I can reflect on how my own methods might transfer online, or not.  My first inclination is to say that almost everything I’ve learned over the years will serve me well online.  In an earlier post, New Lease on Life for Old Innovations?, I talked about many of the concepts and approaches to teaching I learned many years ago or picked up along the way, all of which were considered to be “innovations” or “reforms”  at the time—and many of which still seem to be considered so today.  Ideas like individualizing instruction, project-based learning, mastery learning, Socratic dialogues, outcomes-based education, multi-age classrooms and non-graded schools all have their parallels in the current online learning literature.  These are all approaches I’ve built into my teaching over the years and which I think would stand me in good stead in an online classroom.

When I think about what I would need to change, what comes to mind are some of my habits, rather than my approaches.  I love to build learning experiences along with the students.  I like to get them involved in planning what we are going to do.  I  enjoy spontaneity and seizing the serendipitous.  From my recent reading about online teaching, it appears these habits I’ll need to dampen, if not abandon as online teaching seems to require that a course is fully and completely “packaged” before it starts.

What skills and strategies might you improve or expand upon in order to best support student learning in a blended or online environment?

Here I definitely can come up with a To Learn list.  Thanks to an elective typing class I took in 8th grade, I am a typing whiz.  I may not be able to make a free throw or bat .500 but I sure can burn up a keyboard.  I’m online all the time and totally comfortable communicating in writing.  The area where I’d like to learn more is in creating multimedia.  In particular, I want to become more skillful at editing audio and video files.  Also, I’d like to become a better photographer.  For that, I need to learn more about both the technical aspects as well as how to frame and compose a photo.  If I take 100 pictures, I’m lucky to get one good photograph; the rest are snapshots at best.  Acquiring such skills would enable me to create more effective learning resources to support any courses I might teach.  And heck, they’d be useful in my personal life as well.

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