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Week 3: Let the brainstorming begin

It is already week 3 of the POT course and it feels like I am learning a new language and culture. Based on my reading of Ko and Rossen’s Online Teaching textbook, I conclude that online teaching requires more organization, research, and rigor. One must plan everything ahead of time with charts and set goals and objectives. The Instructor must make sure that the online material is up-to-date, accessible, entertaining, and interesting to students. The submitted discussions, assignments, and tests, should be constantly viewed and feedback should be given right away in order to keep up with each student’s progress. It is very important to constantly monitor time, content, and organization. In a classroom, one can easily test students and provide immediate feedback. When students work in small groups and the Instructor visits each small group, she is able to correct students’ pronunciation, writing, and comprehension. In a virtual setting, this process of giving feedback will be more tedious but maybe it will be more effective.

Online teaching, it turns out, might benefit the Instructor in the sense that he/she must constantly update and edit course content. In a real classroom, teachers do not receive immediate feedback on their teaching, but online the teacher will be looking at his/her own teaching along with the students. Viewing oneself from the point of view of students seems inevitable and crucial online. Perhaps this is the reason for which an online teacher should be extroverted and sociable. Text and communication via audio, video, and text is omnipresent online, so an Instructor must find a way to stand out among all the audio-visual and textual content in order to reach to students and grasp their interest.

There are a few things I need to consider before designing my course:

1) How to balance the writing with audio and video files so as to make the class fun and interactive.

2) How to make sure students actually read or listen to the lecture part of your class.

3) How to keep the student-oriented aspect of teaching alive in a virtual environment through the IM, forum, discussion, and email environments.

There are some ideas I have thrown out there and would need to experiment before actually writing up my class:

1) I think students would be more likely to watch a funny video or listen to an audio than to read a text, so I think the more audio and video components, the better.

2) It should work better if one has a multiple choice quiz after each short lecture to make sure that the students review the key elements of what they should retain.

3) The forum, IM, and discussion ideas are great for putting theory into practice right away. I do agree with the book that discussions should be closely monitored and limited in time and content. It would be difficult to monitor a discussion or chat session that lasts 12 hours and goes in many different directions. I think for a beginner instructor, this will be the toughest element to control and generate in a successful manner. Trial and error will hopefully guide me towards a good and practical solution.

4) The issue of plagiarism will definitely become more tricky online than in a classroom where I can make sure that it is the same students enrolled in the class that are taking the mid-term tests. Maybe it would be best to have students take a test in front of a webcam in order to make sure they are indeed taking the test and not their family member or friend.

Since I am a French 101 Instructor at MiraCosta College, I will begin by designing a beginning level French language class.

The goal will be for students to learn to read, write, speak, and hear everyday French conversations at the basic level.

The objective will be for students to communicate via speech or writing about everyday topics such as family, school, leisure, work, and to conjugate the basic French verbs in the present, imperative, and near future tenses.

I love using audio-visual materials in my classroom and teaching online will give me the opportunity to exploit all the great resources out there for learning French. One great site that contains many videos and exercises is University of Texas’ French Interactive page.  Here’s a great video from YouTube about learning family vocabulary in French.

Why we blog

MiraCosta Online Teaching Programme

A month or two ago I was approached by Pilar Hernandez of the POT Cert team, asking me if I would be willing to make a contribution to the course in Week 22, which after some hesitation I agreed to do.

This invitation has spurred me on to get involved with the POTCert class which starts next Monday 1st September and finishes at the end of April 2013.  Last night I attended a pre-course meeting in Collaborate in which the course convenors and a few course participants discussed why we blog.

Recording of the Collaborate meetup

The reason for this discussion was that a requirement for the certificate is

  • Weekly blogging on assigned topics, including viewing workshop videos and reading online articles about online teaching as a discipline — posts should include reflections, links, embedded elements.
  • Commenting on other participants’ posts as part of the online teaching community.

Participants are also asked to tag blog posts with ‘potcert’

It could be that some of the 22+ participants already signed up for the course have never blogged before, so how will they feel. This prompted me to look back at my first few posts on this blog (‘Jenny Connected’) to try and remember what I felt like and how I approached this new experience. I am surprised at how short some of those posts are and I can sense from the tone of them that I was writing for me, i.e. I was initially unaware that there is an audience out there. At that time I couldn’t imagine that anyone would be interested in anything I wrote. ‘Openness’ didn’t have any meaning for me, since it was outside my online experience. In fact it was a shock when I received a challenging comment on an early post -  quite a wake up call. After that, I persisted with blogging but became more careful about what I posted. I think that early experience, as well as my own personality and educational philosophy, determined the way I blog and my reasons for blogging, which are principally to keep a record of my reflections on my own learning, and more  latterly to try and share the interesting connections I make through making use of hyperlinks in my posts.

This is a video that I made for the FSLT12 open online course that I worked on in June of this year, which explains a little about why I blog – but there are many different reasons for blogging and different ways of blogging and it was interesting at the ‘meetup’ last night to hear other people’s reasons for blogging and how they go about it.

Here is a summary of some the ideas:

  • to serve as a substitute for a poor memory, by aggregating interesting ideas and links into one location thus creating a personal searchable digital library, e.g. Lisa Lane’s blog
  • to comment on and discuss other people’s ideas
  • to play with tools and ideas
  • for thinking out loud and working with others on half-baked ideas – see Alan Levine’s blog (this is how he described his blog – I am not being critical :-) )
  • to share academic writing – I have used my blog in this way
  • for role-playing
  • for personal and/or professional purposes, e.g. a cookery blog, a research blog
  • for developing a personal brand
  • for messaging and publication
  • for networking
  • as a place to openly make and share mistakes and collaboratively learn through this

Blog posts can be as short or as long as we like. They can include images, videos, sound or not, as we prefer. They can minimize the use of text or be an ‘orgy’ of writing, or somewhere in between, as suits our personal learning styles. They can include details about our personal lives or focus only on professional topics, as we wish.

There is no one right way to blog.

For me, I look for sincerity, honesty, fairness and critical thinking around a topic that interests me in other people’s blog posts and that is also how I try to blog myself. I don’t let myself be intimidated by other people’s blogs – but I do explore them and try and learn from how others have done it. Everyone finds their voice and expresses it in a way that is unique to them – thank goodness. It’s the diversity in the blogosphere that makes it such a rich and rewarding learning environment.

Tagged: #fslt12, blogging, blogs, learning, online, potcert