Another major a-ha for me as an online teacher is the dynamic and potential for group involvement. When I describe what I do to people who are, shall we say, “not connected to the world of web culture,” they are amazed. “You mean the kids can see you and hear you? Don’t they get bored?” Well, if all they did was listen to me teach, then yes, they would get bored. Wouldn’t you? Which is why I make sure that my classes do not involve lecturing.
During my time as an online educator, I’ve used a variety of video conferencing platforms. I have taught students in public schools, Catholic schools and Jewish Day Schools and complementary schools. The technology is powerful, but there is something that catches my eye each time I run a session: it’s the human reaction to these technology-supported events. I think there is a need, in today’s wired world, to connect to another person far away, living a different, yet somehow similar life.
Students sit in the test-taking room, with full access to computers and wireless connections. As they work on national exams, they can be seen accessing the internet from time to time. Are the results from this testing going to be corrupted because these test-takers are not isolated from global information resources? Cheating — or high-tech cheating, as it is called today — what is that exactly? And is it really a problem? Do our old-school definitions of cheating need rethinking?
Students use Google Docs to write their poems. They use the GDocs sharing function to share their poem documents with me and some of their classmates (if they choose). I read their poems (from anywhere at anytime), give them one specific comment, and offer one constructive suggestion to improve their poem that I hope also adds to their poetry writing repertoire. Then we share in VoiceThread to a public audience.
With every turn of the page or scroll through a Reader feed, someone, somewhere, is giving advice on what education leaders ought to be. The articles, blog posts, and books on leadership will keep on coming, because the role of leadership is ever-evolving and increasingly complex with each passing day. (And with each passing mandate.) I enjoy reading the work of leaders in fields outside of education, too. While not every lesson can be translated to the work we do with students, many can, and we should consider them.
It was magical learning about a place my students had never before heard of and will probably never see for themselves. Learning that was totally led by the students and their interest in that classroom in Greece. And that learning will continue. The children in Greece, too, have questions for us to answer. More magic. More serendipity. I love my connected classroom.