Weaving Conversations

TLT Knowledge Log

Archive for the ‘My Teaching’ Category

Musings after a day of course development

Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on August 27, 2006

Young cat, if you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you would learn! The most wonderful stuff!
Dr. Seuss, Seuss-isms

I teach visual programming online. I have one environment to teach in… WebCT Vista. I’ve worked with Blackboard (since they let you create a course for free on their hosted site… the good ole days), WebCT in many versions, eCollege, IntraLearn, the SUNY Learning Network’s Lotus Notes based applications… and I finally figured out what’s wrong… I walk into those course “shells” and I feel like I’m closing the door on my classroom and making it mine. Even though I can link (often awkwardly) to many external resources, it’s “my” class. As a learner (in my doctoral program) I find this stiff and unworkable… I need to explore, link, network, collect, organize, analyze… think… write… systemize…

My students like that things are organized for them… that’s okay… they need to move in an organized fashion through the material. But then… they have questions that are outside of the planned material… what do they do? Ask me! What do I do? I try to answer them. Why? Because… it’s as if the door to the classroom is closed, there is not network connection (let’s imagine, say, 1980) and the only resource in the room (other than the textbook) is me.

Without noticing all that much this environment has changed. When I’m (rarely) in a physical classroom I don’t hesitate to google search on an error message or a task or a topic that I don’t know the answer to right off the top of my head. I model this behavior well in the classroom.

How can I extend this in my virtual classroom? What’s stopping me? Let’s see…

  1. administration has rules about what tools I can require students to use… as they have limited support for tools outside the WebCT tool set… that’s reasonable so… I can’t require my students to make a blog, engage in Skype conversations or otherwise socially network… I get that
  2. BUT… it’s my classroom… what can I model and encourage? How should I model and encourage? Here’s the dilemma… let’s say I decide to do office hours via Skypecast… but some students can’t attend because of the synchronous nature… they feel left out of the learning… what do I do?
  3. Okay, so I dispense with synchronous… and I ask them each to create a blog that supports their learning… HEY… maybe that would work… I have them always submit a statement of their personal learning goals and keep a journal… why don’t I have them do that in a blog??? That would work… and I could add their blogs to my aggregator and I would know when something new was posted and VOILA!!! We have a little bit of a one to one learning community going on… how do I get them all to link together?
  4. Big problem… most programming students don’t want to talk… they just want to do. They’ll talk to me, but not necessarily to each other… I can force it in a discussion board based assignment. Can I get them to share their learning journals? Let me think about this…

This approach has applicability even when the administration (supportive and wonderful as they are, by the way) can’t necessarily see a way into it… let’s see what I can do. I’ll post my path and observations here….

Posted in My Teaching | Leave a Comment »