Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Response to Comments from Last Post

Once my response to the comment below got longer than most posts I decided a new post was in order.

I guess the difference is between communicating one-to-one or one-to-many (typical class) so the form of communication takes on various slants.

Keeping the focus in an online class - this is a learned skill (learned by me that is) similar to in a classroom. How do you keep the students engaged? Using Elluminate I incorporate the following:
-frequent opportunities for the students to respond (e.g. type your answer in the chat box to this question OR click the green check if you agree with the previous student's response - these are built into the online classroom environment). Don't go longer than a minute or so without having the students respond in some way.
-opportunities for the students to interact - I'll put them in breakout rooms to answer a question as a group)
-good visuals - no one wants to stare at a blank screen or a 'talking head' video.
-using the whiteboard effectively - last week each of my students wrote a math question on the whiteboard and another student answered it
-keep my own talking to a minimum
-some form of wrap up accountability (e.g. at the end of this class, before you log off, you'll be expected to . . .)

Focus isn't such an issue when I'm meeting on Elluminate to explain a topic or concept to a student. The other communication techniques (email, IM'ing) I was mostly thinking about one-to-one communication.

Video Chat vs F2F
Due to bandwidth issues I don't use straight video very often but it's interesting that you note the difference. In a F2F environment everyone is much more spontaneous. Even without lag time, on a video chat you tend to let the person finish before you speak, there is little overlap because the audio doesn't respond as well, people are less inclined to have 'offhand' or 'aside' remarks. I also think there is less body language and less intonation used. In a formal setting this probably leads to greater efficiency but less 'humanity' (not sure if that's the right descriptor).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How many ways can I communicate?

As a classroom teacher I rarely gave any thought to the forms of communication I'd use with my students. Lots of thought to WHAT I was communicating but little about HOW.

As an online teacher, communicating with students is really job one. Not much actually counts or makes much sense if you can't communicate effectively. Fortunately there are many more ways to communicate as an online teacher than there are in the classroom where I used only one (F2F). Here are the different ways I communicate starting with the MOST effective.

F2F - You just can't improve on face to face communication. Body language, facial expression, and intonation are what we're wired for.

Elluminate - the online classroom: text, audio, visuals, video, etc. Elluminate is how I conduct my online classes as well as meet students for a variety of reasons.

Phone - Highly effective; rarely used as a 'regular' teacher.

Email - Great for one way communication; well it could be 2-way but it really acts like one way.

Moodle Messaging - Sending a student a message on Moodle while they're online is quick, easy and to the point. Not intended for in depth communication.

Gmail Chat/MSN - Also quick and easy as long as they have an account. Useful for the "I'm stuck on question 2" types of queries I've had.

I know some online teachers also use Skype but so far I haven't with students. And this list isn't exhaustive - I also communicate through assignment comments, report cards, etc. but that's not dialogue.

There's NOTHING in the online world that can come close to F2F communication but by using a variety of tools we can do things differently and in some cases be even more effective. The student who seldom raises their hand in class may be less reluctant to text a question or comment. And because communication is so important the quality of the communication we do have may increase. But it take effort and persistence.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More photos for Liz

Here's more photos you can browse through. (Preferable at report card time as a task-avoidance technique)

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