Methodologies of the Online Instructor Reflection

Online, Blended, and Face-to-Face Learning

I’m currently a 4th grade teacher who primarily teaches using face-to-face learning, however with technology resources becoming available at my school, blended learning is becoming more of a possibility in my classroom. The following Venn Diagram shows the similarities and differences between online, blended, and face-to-face learning as it has been used in my educational experience as a teacher and a student learning in an online setting.

Venn Diagram on Prezi

Transitioning to Blended & Online Learning

Becoming a blended or online teacher requires a whole new teaching mindset. I’m so used to teaching in a large group setting with 32+ students in my classroom at all times. I’m used to teaching through text books at a certain pace, making sure that I get through all of the necessary information before testing time comes around in early May. I use individual and group projects and allow for students to work at their own level within a certain subject, but my whole group instruction always comes at one pace, which is mostly too easy for my high students and too complicated for my really low students.

Having students work on curriculum online allows for self-paced learning. The advanced students can move quickly through the necessary curriculum and beyond, and the lower students can work at a slower pace with more individual help and support in mastering the curriculum before moving on too quickly. This means that the classroom teacher no longer becomes the main source of curriculum delivery, but rather the facilitator of learning and a main support system for individual student success. The success of many online and blended learning programs tells me that this is the future of education. I’m totally on board and excited for this change! This is the reason that I made that tough decision to go back for my master’s in Educational Media Design and Technology and enroll in a Online and Blended Learning Teacher Certification program. I’m trying to learn everything that I can to make myself a successful teacher ready to transition into the future of education.

Through Full Sail University’s Online Program, I’ve participated in online collaborative teaching platforms like Wimba and GoToMeeting. As a high school and undergraduate college student, I was always the quiet student with so many ideas in my head, but little confidence to participate in a large group setting. Online collaborative platforms with small group meetings gave me the confidence and comfort to become an active participant in every classroom meeting. Having to work with 12 different instructors, it’s been interesting to see how different personalities work in the online setting. I’ve experienced everything from comedic teachers cracking jokes to engage the group, to teachers using videos and Web 2.0 tools to engage the group in thought provoking discussions. I imagine that working with students online requires a lot of patience and trial and error in finding the style that works best for each individual teacher. I’m the kind of person that is up for the challenge of new discoveries, so if I should ever need to make the transition to virtual teaching, I will take all of my online experiences and experiment with what works best for me.

Education is going through some major changes with the quick advancement in technology and I’m doing the best that I can to be prepared for that change. It’s going to be a wild ride, and not always an easy one, but if it means more student engagement and personalized learning, I’m completely on board!

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Week 4 Comment #2: Kevin Fancher

Wk 4: Reading

This week’s reading was just as amazing as every other thus far. I am so blown away by the stories. Unlike almost everything I’ve ever been required to read, I actually enjoy this. People who know me well know that I don’t usually read for fun. While this is technically assigned reading, it is so interesting that I might reread it for leisure sometime.

I’m really glad to be reading this book right now. I needed this alternate viewpoint of my current situation. On the one hand, I’m really glad to have a job. On the other hand, I had to relocate and I’m still getting used to that. I enjoy my job, but it is more frustrating than any job I’ve had before. The Zanders have a really great outlook on life. I wish the entire book could be presented on TED talks or something similar, because seeing and hearing Ben talk is what really makes the whole thing come to life, and seem possible.

The constant use of music in the stories also helps. Music is my life, so explaining how to view my life differently through musical allegories just makes sense. I wish that Ben could come to my former school and present the way he did for Eastlea. The students at the school in innercity Cleveland, OH are very similar to the students and school described in the book. I tried to give the students that kind of experience, but the school’s financial means were preventing anything from happening. Now, through this book, I can see that perhaps I should’ve gone to someone and asked for the money, though it would be more than the 50 cents from the station story.

My Comment to Kevin:

In this busy month, it was so nice to read a book that was fun, interesting, and applicable to this transition period that we’re going through as graduate school is coming to an end. After listening to you describe your new job and the number of students that you have to teach, I have a huge respect for you doing your job while finishing up this EMDT program. While I couldn’t always relate to every musical story in the book, each chapter drew me in and I kept wanting to read more. You being a music teacher reading this book probably took your understanding up to a whole new level. I totally agree that it would be so interesting to watch Ben Zander present the different chapters on TED talks. Watching that first video was so powerful and I had to show my husband because he never listened to classical music. As he listened to Moonlight Sonata, he was in tears as he listened to the music as he thought of his dad who passed away last year. It was so amazing watching the power of Zander’s words in action before my eyes. Zander’s passion for what he does is so inspiring. Even if we cannot have him come in and speak to our students, we can take pieces of what he’s taught us to inspire others through our passion and love for teaching. Best of luck with your new job! I hope this new outlook brings success and joy to your workplace.

Week 4 Comment #1: Tom Draa

In this week’s reading the chapter that touched me the most was Chapter 9: Lighting a Spark.  I have always thought of that in terms of my responsibility as a science teacher to turn my students into future scientists.  I know not every student I teach biology to is not going to become a doctor or not every student I teach astronomy to is not going to become an astronaut, but that is the way I teach them.  That is how every teacher should present their subject matter.  If students don’t believe you love what you are teaching, it is hard to truly excite them.  I stay in contact with a lot of my former students, but since I teach primarily all freshman, by the time students graduate I know I am kind of lost in their high school memories.  Because of this, I do not stay in touch with more and get to find out what career paths they have chosen.  Also I have taught at three different schools over my thirteen years in the Clark County Scool District.

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Three years ago I went to a series of lectures at UNLV given by several geologists on the topic of climate change and global warming and half way through one of the lectures I looked to my left and there sat Paloma Ortiz, a student I taught my first year of teaching at Desert Pines High School when she was a freshman taking earth science.  After the lecture I approached her and said hello and we ended up going to lunch when the lectures had ended and I got to find out a lot about what she does now and the reason why she chose her profession.  She is now a hydrogeologist at a environmental consulting firm in California.  She was actually in town to finish up her enrollment in the doctoral program in the UNLV College of Geosciences.  She credited me with interesting her in geology and even went as far as saying I was one of the reasons she is going back to school to get her phD.  It was such a validating experience to know that I was partly responsible for lighting that spark inside of her to study geology.

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The last two years I have been teaching geology honors, a senior level science elective and during that time I have had four students that I know of declare geology as their major.  I asked one of them that I am close with what I did to spark their interest in geology and she just said it was because I seemed to love it so much that she began to pay attention to it because she wanted to know why I loved it so much.  I am so honored to be a teacher and have the opportunity to affect my student’s lives in a positive way.

My Comment to Tom:

Tom, I love hearing the stories of students recognizing teachers as their inspiration! I’m sure there are many others that you have inspired, but it was so touching that Paloma Ortiz was able to tell you that you inspired her to get her PhD. Those are the moments when you know for sure that you are making a huge difference in this world.

I have to tell you that I have a new respect for science teachers. I may have mentioned that science was always my worst subject in high school and college, but now I know that it’s all just a matter of perception. I didn’t do well in science because I never put that much effort into it, so I didn’t get the best grades, and I never felt encouraged or inspired to work hard and do well. I see how much you inspire your students and last year was the first year that I found a love for teaching science to my 4th graders. Now that I can teach science with passion and excitement, it’s made such a difference in the passion and excitement that I see from my students. I only teach science once a week, but you get to do that every day!