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Thoughts on Translating Teaching Styles and Preparing for Online Instruction…

Once again, this week we are presented with many good ideas, thoughts, and caveats for consideration as we work on translating our teaching styles into the online environment. Beyond the tools at our disposal in this digital environment, S. Warnock goes on to help us understand some of the intricacies to be carefully measured in preparing our class syllabus to make the online teaching experience a good experience for both student and teacher.

 Thoughts on Chapter 5: “Make sure that your electronic self’s availability is in accord with the schedule your atom self wants to keep” (Warnock, p.41) For me this not only speaks to how we respond to students electronically, but to how we set the parameters Warnock outlines in Chapter 5. Although I do love technology, I am not a fan of social media or the chat function for communicating with students. So, email remains my primary form of student communication (still better than carrier pigeons – although that might be more fun.) For me, I’ve always used a special account for all student communications as to not get messages lost in the barrage of general emails. Whenever possible, I tend to like the internal email accounts associated with the schools where I teach. Yes, I check multiple accounts, but I look at it like different filing cabinets keeping everything organized. I like Warnock’s note on message rules, and have started to spend some time at the start of class to discuss email etiquette as it already has become a lost art; no subjects in the subject line, no class names, even at times no student names associated with their communications. Then there is the expectation of immediate responses. “Yah, but I sent it to you at 2:30am!” So, I have a 24h response window and I make it clear that I will not respond after 7:00pm on weekdays.

Thoughts on Chapter 4:  I have read Paulo Freire’s work and certainly believe that individuals, through learning, can empower and remake themselves. Many of you have cited the use of Socratic Seminar discussion as one way for us to challenge our learners to engage with material in a critical manner and to reflect and judge the assumptions underlying ideas and actions. But, as also mentioned “participants carry the burden of responsibility for the quality of the discussion” and at times it just does not play out the way we had envisioned. Megan mentioned literature circles, which I’ve also enjoyed implementing. I will continue reading your posts as I’d like to learn more about all the ways to expand on these interactions.

As I read Chapter 4 in Warnock’s book, one topic peaked my interest above all else. I noticed the same curiosity in Heather’s and Megan’s posts, even though Warnock barely touches the surface of this subject. So, what better way to open my discussion than with a quote from Ready Player One (opening this week):

“I’d renamed my avatar Parzival, after the knight of Arthurian legend who had found the Holy Grail.”                                                  ― Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

Yes, I would like to explore Games and Simulations with all of you in this week and get your input and feedback on what your experiences have been with this.

I’ve been fascinated with this for some time as I too, like Jade, continue to hone my ability to create a better “student-centered approach by designing lessons that try to create a sense of discovery.” I have found that game-like environments for learning are well suited to help support the student-centered model. Gamification can not only enhance the online experience but allows us the ability to design lessons that are focused on student choice and discovery through game elements like quests. In one of our previous posts, we were discussing learning styles and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences as we design our lessons. I feel that applying game elements to non-game environments can encourage higher participation and motivation due to their ability to allow for self-discovery. So, I’ve tried to incorporate aspects of gamification into my curriculum (note: as part of the curriculum and not necessarily exclusively). Granted, my experience using this has been at the advanced IEP levels that are mostly filled with what Prensky (2001) defines as ”digital natives” so I experienced little resistance to the format as learners were already quite familiar with the interface.

Just to clarify, I am not talking about expansive MMORPG’s (World of Warcraft or Minecraft) but rather online gaming environments that are limited to the class and a “room” environment created by the teacher. A good example here is Classcraft (https://www.classcraft.com).

Now I certainly understand that the online gaming platform might not be attractive to all teachers, but soon we will be talking about augmented reality that will afford us the opportunity to superimpose computer-generated content and have our students interact with it in the real world, either in the classroom or in an online environment. So I believe that gamifying a lesson or curriculum (whether using a digital game or old-fashioned game) can provide powerful differentiation opportunities to support student learning.

Now, in all fairness, it is very time intensive for the teacher to start this type of project at first. So, the same message holds true that Warnock and Curry have asked us to consider for online teaching, start small and don’t let the technology overwhelm you. I started with one or two small elements, and now am moving into slightly more complicated games like Classcraft to expand my online class activities. But gamification does not necessitate a gaming environment. You can create your own “gamified” lesson or curriculum without all the fancy stuff. If you are interested in what gamification is, Gabe Zichermann is a great resource. He’s got some TED Talks, many books, and online information that can provide a good overview of what it is and how it can be implemented.

I have rambled on way too long, so with that I conclude. Look forward to your thoughts on the subject.

Thanks,
Bentley

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