As I read through the materials this week, I was constantly reminded of various elements of my own instruction that were either good or bad. An example of what I thought was good was the discussion in chapter three of Lisa Dawley’s book on email. I like how she breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of this tool and as one who is quite often communicating with my students through email, I felt reassured of its effectiveness. Even though my courses are almost entirely face-to-face, I encourage my students to contact me through email if ever they need assistance. Yes, it can get a bit overwhelming as the end of the semester nears and students are preparing for presentations and micro-lessons, but as Dawley suggests, it does enhance individual connections and increases student involvement and, I find, helps students produce better work.
On the negative side of my reading experience, I was confronted with the realization that the course websites I use are really nothing more than document depositories. Students have very little need to use the website after the first couple of weeks once they are clued in on the low priority it is given. There is no online discussion component for any of my classes and nearly all the class activities are preformed in class. However, as I have slowly been given more rein to shape classes (I share class titles with colleagues and we all work within the same basic syllabus), I am slowly putting the wheels in motion to move to a blended approach. This next semester will be the first time student will need to create a ‘learning log,’ produce and upload presentation videos, comment on and evaluate each other and perform other tasks based online. It’s a constant work in progress, but it is slowly taking shape (mostly in my mind).
Another thing that struck me was where Ko and Rossen suggest that online discussions can have the potential to be more effective than traditional environments because student have more time to formulate their response before responding. As I teach ESL, allowing students the ability to carefully create a response is an excellent way to reduce a learner’s affective filter and allow them to focus more on the content of their response and take the time to discover and rectify mistakes. Additionally, using discussion boards forces students to write which, quite frankly, they are rarely required to do.
Much of the reading from this week so practically applies to the next evolution in my course delivery (the primary reason I took this course). It seems to me that language learning is perfect for blended learning or even a flipped approach. The students for which I teach have all studied at length grammar and vocabulary. As I look to the creation of next semester’s learning environment, I hope to incorporate audio, video, podcasts, readings and discussions through a proper CMS. These resources will provide the input and instruction, leaving our limited class time to focus on communicative activities that activate the online materials. I’m sure to be dipping into Ko and Rossen, and Dawley’s books quite often.
Dawley, L. (2007). The Tools for Successful Online Teaching. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.
Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching online : A practical guide (3rd edition). Florence, KY, USA: Routledge.