From Brick and Mortar to Laptop and Wifi: techEteacher Talks about the Transition to Online Teaching
"I've been preparing for this job for 15 years, when do I start?"
At least that's the way I pitched myself at a long awaited interview for my district's very first online instructor position. On one hand it was a way to help pave new ground for them as well as myself, but on the other, it meant leaving my beloved classroom and my students behind. It would be tough, but I knew in the back of my mind it was for the best. So, when the call came offering me the job, I felt I was more than ready for this next phase in my career. I eagerly packed up nearly fifteen years of teaching stuff as I finished up my last few weeks in room 208. My students watched slightly confused. One has to love eighth graders. Boy, do they like to give you their opinion and then some. My kids were no different. They had to know details, and then tell me what they thought of me leaving them. It was not even November, after all! It was very hard.
Wow, it's Quiet in Here
My first week in my new position was well quiet. There were no bells. No announcements (I don't miss announcements), and NO STUDENTS. I found myself missing the my kids. I wondered how they were doing with the long term sub. Pretty quickly I realized that I couldn't worry about them anymore. While it seemed sad for a bit, I adjusted. I went from a huge classroom with tons of space, to an office with a desk, filing cabinet and a bookshelf. It was weird but like I said, I adjusted.
Slowly I started working with students. At first it was one. Then another and two more and so on. My day started out with checking the online program PLATO to see if students were online and how they were progressing in the work I assigned them. In addition to PLATO, other great resources were woven into students' daily routine. For reading, Raz-Kids, and ReadingEggspress, and for math STMath to name a few.
Learning Management System? Yes, please!
As Shakespeare once said, "all that glitters isn't gold", it is easy to become side tracked by all of the really great web tools out there. They do some pretty amazing things. With that said, it is essential to have a true LMS or learning management system to house it all. Consider how you will grade all of that work and how you will move that data so that it makes since to not only you, but to parents and students. In a word, GRADEBOOK.
- Will students get credit for time on task or assignment completion?
- Do the assignments automatically populate to a gradebook with scores?
GMail, PLATO and Texts Oh My!
It stands to reason that students need to be able to communicate with their teacher, so our program provided district gmail accounts for them. We created Google spreadsheets for students to log their time and activities. I could compare these logs to reports I pulled up from PLATO. When I saw conflicts, I quickly text the student and let them know they needed to review their work. Group text made it easy to include parents in this type of notification.
A Work in Progress
So while I know full well that my journey is not complete, and my system isn't perfect, I feel that by reaching out of my comfort zone, I will gain an opportunity to help this new program reach its full potential.