December 05

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Guest Post: Four Ways Online Learning Has Changed My Classroom

DavidRynersonBy David Rynerson, The American School in Japan.

My paperless English and writing classroom is not just green; it allows me to aggregate data and help students to set individual goals and monitor their own progress over time. I have been developing my technology skills slowly and gradually over the years, and my understanding has been stretched as a result of the three-part Online Learning Environments certification course offered by Global Online Academy.

I am beginning to extend some of the following ideas from the course:

        1. Thinking Intentionally: Backwards Design has been part of my teaching for some time now, but the GOA course demonstrated that an online course would be impossible to design and execute without thinking through the whole process. Even though I think of outcomes from the start, this course was a refreshing reminder of how and why we do this. Also, seeing the entire unit of study laid out in Haiku (GOA’s LMS) is really helpful to get the big picture and to see all the components: the forest and the trees.

        2. The Importance of Connection: The interaction between and among students is so vital in a writing course, and certain tools make that interaction even more dynamic. I feel that it’s important that students read drafts aloud, for a few reasons, mainly so that feedback is more about big-picture revision (re-seeing) and less about editing surface errors, which comes later. The OLE course featured some really simple apps for video recording, such as Flipgrid. Some students find it advantageous to video themselves reading aloud rather than doing it live in class. This works for a few reasons: readers can perfect the reading and save their best “take” and “audiences” can pause and reflect on sections of the recording. This interaction can take place anytime, any place.

        3. Flexibility and Accessibility: ASIJ students are often away doing wonderful things like participating in international performing arts events, sporting events, service projects, Model United Nations, robotics competitions, etc. Because my course has online components, they can and do stay in touch wherever there’s a wi-fi signal. Because all of their writing is shared in Google Drive folders, we can refer to any piece of writing and communicate in any step of the process. Absent students use Google Hangouts to share ideas and get feedback.

        4. Meaningful Group Work: My students often work in groups, and using Google+ Communities to keep their interactions in one place, accessible to all, is really useful. It’s nice to distinguish the community from a blog, as blogs become more of a “publication” tool. We are in the midst of a “book club” unit, and students are posting all kinds of ancillary information – websites, maps, videos, images, historical connections, author information, etc. to our Community to help them understand the contexts of the books they’re reading. We recently set up a Community for the annual high school overnight trip. We were able to post lots of information pertaining to our destination, so everybody had some background and we could hit the ground running.

David Rynerson is an English and writing Teacher at The American School in Japan.