- What benefits do you see in educators knowing how to design and implement online learning?
As I continue to work with Schoology, I now see great benefits in educators knowing how to design and implement online learning. I just completed the Advanced Technical Credit Part I Online Training Session which is required to teach statewide articulated courses. One thing I learned in the training is "Advances in technology have changed the workplace in a dramatic way. Students graduating from high school need highly technical skills to be competitive in the job market, and up to 85% of all jobs in the future will require at least two years of education beyond high school." With that in mind, teachers need to know how to design and implement online learning so that our students can be prepared for the highly skilled job market. The majority of jobs over the next few generations will require that students have the technological training needed to be competitive and capable. The State expects students to grow technologically from Kindergarten through High School with each level laying foundational knowledge that can be built upon. My grandchildren, currently enrolled in Headstart classes, will need teachers who can design and implement online learning. There are so many learning games online for young children that teachers can use to help prepare K-2 for the next level. My grandchildren love the games on Disney and other sites for the very young. By the time my grandkids leave second grade, they are required to know how to use computers and should have gained basic technology skills such as inputting information, beginning touch keyboarding and should be familiar with the computer. This will prepare them for more challenging online learning tasks they will face as they continue their education.
Additionally, on the Texas Education Agency website, I found the following information: "According to the NACOL report, A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning, the number one reason school districts cite for offering Internet-based courses is that the courses are otherwise unavailable. Many schools in rural or poorer urban districts find it difficult to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers especially in the areas of advanced mathematics, science and language courses. Online courses can meet specific needs, such as gifted students seeking opportunities for Advance Placement or accelerated learning at their own pace, or homebound students need access to more curriculum choices. Many Texas districts and schools in other states are realizing the potential it brings to providing students with unparalleled equity and access to high quality education. Some of the benefits offered by online learning (emphasis added by me) include:
- expanded curriculum options available to students, including courses required for the Recommended High School and the Distinguished Achievement Graduation Plans
- advanced Placement
- accelerated study
- expanded access to qualified teachers
- alternative educational opportunities for diverse students, including gifted or accelerated students, at-risk students, migrant students, dropouts, pregnant students, incarcerated youth, elite athletes and performers, and students who may not be able to attend regular school because of injury, illness, or involvement with other activities
- alternative learning methods and opportunities for students whose needs are not being met through traditional instruction in a traditional classroom setting
- schedule flexibility for students with schedule conflicts or who may be working during the regular school day
- flexible pace for students who need to work at a faster or slower pace
- electives for which qualified teachers are not available locally
- opportunities for students to prepare for today’s technology-rich real world experiences in the workplace and post-secondary education
- educational experiences to address the needs of today’s technology-savvy students
- provide professional development for teachers and other educators
In summary, online courses can meet multiple and various needs of diverse student populations and serve as an important strategy to address education needs in the state." This states the importance succinctly! Online learning is here to stay, it is up to us to make it work for our students.
- How will you professionally use your course that you designed?
I designed my first course using Schoology using my actual ending project for my students. Schoology is very practical for the needs of my students and for me as a teacher. Trying to find ways to communicate with students discretely, and ways to allow them to communicate with me and each other has been difficult due to district blocks on any site that has "blog" in its url. Schoology allows me to do this, as does Think.com and Edmodo.com. But, Schoology will continue to be the primary site I use for my students. I will continue to use Think.com and Edmodo.com. Schoology allows me to take attendance, which is an added value compared to the other sites we use in class. It has a limit on the size of files that can be submitted as do most free (and some paid) sites. I am still learning how to use the many applications available with Schoology; in turn, I think it is getting better because we are using it. I can see Schoology being used by other departments on campus; it works well in CATE classes because of the projects our students must submit for grading.
- Will you integrate online learning in your role as a teacher/staff developer?
I will continue to integrate online learning in my role as a teacher. Online learning can be introduced to teachers during a staff development. According to the TEA, "Teaching online courses is not for all teachers. Online teachers need specialized training in order to teach effectively in an online environment." Our campus has mobile labs. We also have 6 computer labs. It would be simple to show teachers how to integrate online learning as part of our staff development. For online learning to be introduced and integrated effectively, the training should not be after school; most teachers are on shutdown mode and ready to go home. I think training for online learning would have to happen during the summer or on staff development days. As a matter of fact, I received a communication today about "Project Share" from the Texas Education Agency. "Project Share provides an elearning platform to support a community of practitioners dedicated to improving teaching and learning through an interactive and engaging environment. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is proud to announce a new initiative that will explore the development and delivery of high quality professional development in an interactive and engaging learning environment. Project Share will utilize a single online platform to leverage existing and new professional development resources for teachers across the state and build professional learning communities where educators can collaborate, share, and tailor professional development to meet individual needs." I am anxious to learn more about the new initiative.
- What questions do you still have about online learning?
- How much storage is available for my use?
- Will I have total control of what students are allowed to post?
- How easy is the program to learn?
- How easy is the program to use?
- Can I send private messages to my students without them having an e-mail address (I do not how to do this with Schoology.com, can be done with think.com and edmodo.com)?
- Can student send private messages to each other or will I have access to any student communication. Private student conversations are not allowed on Edmodo.com and I can monitor all conversations on Think.com. This includes conversations from students from all around the world to students in my classes.
- What is the down time for your site? We had many issues because Edmodo was continuously down for updates when we needed it!
- Do you oversee the site content or is this left to the discretion of the teacher?
- Will I be able to delete content I find distasteful?
- Will you create a list of words that you automatically block? It is hard to think of all the words students can and will use that are offensive. (Think.com has a list of offensive words, including spelling variations, that it will automatically block.)
- What will you do with this new learning?
I am using the Schoology daily in my Web Mastering classes!!! My students are continuously learning new applications for Schoology. I like the idea that students can embrace new things with a minimum amount of grumbling. Some miss using Edmodo and Think, but seem to enjoy Schoology more than both. I have heard students say, "Hit me up on Schoology." That statement reinforces that they enjoy using it! I have shared the site with the CATE teachers with computer labs at MHS. I can share the site with the librarian (that thought just came to me) because she has computers for students and teachers to use. I will share with other teachers on campus. The problem for other departments is that there is only one computer in the classroom beside the teacher's computer. Limited access to computers may deter many teachers from trying online learning with their students. When I have mentioned or suggested that assignments can be posted online, many teachers balk and say that students complain about having no access to computers.
 Advanced Technical Credit Program Website. College Tech Prep of Texas: TechPrep Explanation. Retrieved May 13, 2010, from https://www.atctexas.org/t2_tech_prep_explanation.asp?ID=32
 Technology Application TEKS. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from http://www.irvingisd.net/technology/documents/Tech%20App%20TEKS.pdf
 Same as above. Educational Technology, Online Learning, Lesson Learned.
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