Sunday, November 6, 2011

Communicating With Students (pt. 1)

A screenshot of a lesson recording

A common theme in curiosity around distance learning is how teachers communicate with students. Because of the various technologies and formats of online schooling, there are more than a few solutions and not all online schools are the same. In my experience there are five main ways I directly communicate with my students, and they all have their strengths.
Live Instruction: This is probably the way that is most directly connected to what you might see in a traditional brick and mortar school. Twice a week I run a live teaching session in a web conferencing program. Students log in to the program and I open up my virtual classroom. I use various tools to create visual content to show students. My main tool is generally a Powerpoint presentation but I also use SMART Notebook (a virtual SMART board) and I also frequently show videos. I present my visual content while speaking to students over my microphone. Students are able to ask questions via their microphones or by using the chat box and they are able to interact with the lesson content in SMART notebook and Powerpoint by clicking the “raise hand” icon. I make my lessons as interactive as possible and though the lessons are not required for students to attend, many students participate. This method is my favorite way of communicating content to students because I am able to work with a group and I receive a lot of feedback about what is working well with the lesson and what I need to clarify or improve. Another advantage to this method is that every lesson is recorded so students can watch it later. Online schooling offers flexibility for students to do their assignments when they choose, and also to be able to watch lessons when they choose. Imagine this type of technology in a brick and mortar classroom. You have a student who is ill and does not come to school for several days while you are teaching a large amount of new content. All teachers have experienced this, you find yourself working with that student to help him or her catch up on missed lessons. Through the technology I use in my live instruction, recordings of lessons are available for students whenever they need them. The recordings also give me the opportunity to reflect upon past lessons and improve my teaching strategies.
To be continued…

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