Monday, May 23, 2016

Reflections on Teaching Online Courses for Teachers

For the past eleven years I have been an assistant professor at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, teaching classes on technology integration for teachers working on their masters' degrees. For three years I also have taught classes at the University of Minnesota for undergrads working on their teaching degrees. Working with hundreds of educators over these years has provided me with a great perspective on the wide range of technology integration in schools across Minnesota. It's been a great opportunity for me to learn from other educators and school districts about what is working, where the struggles are, what tools are being used, and what plans are being made. I also appreciate hearing the perspectives of classroom teachers about technology initiatives and implementations in which they are involved. I believe my interactions with so many educators have made me a better teacher as well as allowed me to share what I've learned with the teachers in Minnetonka.

My first real experience as an adjunct professor teaching adults was back in 2001 at Hennepin Technical College. I started teaching Intro to HTML Web Design night classes. My students at this time weren't teachers, they were high school grads and older adults planning careers in computer science and business. (I actually first taught HTML to my fourth grade students- more about that here.)

When I started teaching courses for educators, they were at face to face at locations I would drive to around the Twin Cities, usually on Wednesday nights and Saturdays for eight weeks. At the time, we focused on programs like PowerPoint and hardware such as digital cameras (with floppy disks and cables) and talked about beginning to use the Internet in the classroom. Over the years I started teaching in a blended model with some weeks online and others face to face. Now for the past few years, my courses have been all online. Topics include social media, personal learning networks, Google Apps for Education, iPads, screen casting, digital storytelling, digital citizenship, and more. I've learned a lot about teaching online and am constantly trying to keep courses interesting, engaging, interactive, and the content and topics current. Part of my course is modeling how to teach and work in an online environment, too, which I've found is still new for many educators. 

Teaching an online course is not easy. In the past during a face to face course, a lot of the work was finished right during the class and I was present to see it. Discussions also start and end during face to face classes, and not every student speaks or answers every question. Online, however, it is different: often all students answer and I find myself spending hours and hours reading discussions and reflections. I also spend a lot of time looking at students' work and projects. Trying to find the correct balance of graded and ungraded assignments is something I am still figuring out, as well as a variety of meaningful and relevant tasks. I alway appreciate hearing how others teach online, so please send me your tips, ideas, and best practices!

Summer Instructional Technology Class Offered

Once again this summer I'll be facilitating an entirely online, four week, three credit graduate course on Personalizing Learning with Digital Technology. The course runs July 20 - August 10 and is housed in Schoology. To learn more, visit the Graduate Professional Development for Educators page at Saint Mary's. If you are looking for a master's program, I teach in two different programs at Saint Mary's, one that offers classes in a blended model and another that is entirely online. Finally, if you are considering a career in education, check out the program where I teach in the LT Media Lab at the Univeristy of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development

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