Where Am I As An Online Teacher?

As a final reflection for my LEC course, I’m asked to read the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching and reflect on where I am in relation to each standard, including strengths and needs, and think about what areas I’ve grown in over the course. For those of you interested, here is my first post, when I reflected on being ready to take on online course. I knew I would have to work on accountability and sure enough, I did. Yes, there were a million other things to do too, and I had no clue that this LEC thing was going to take more than a few hours of one day originally, but that’s definitely what I need to keep as a focus as an online learner. I know that and will continue to focus on that. But now onto where I am as an online teacher.

Standard A “The online teacher knows the primary concepts and structures of effective online instruction and is able to create learning experiences to enable student success.”

When I reflect on Standard A, I believe that I have many strengths in this standard. I am always seeking out new tools, new strategies, and new knowledge as far as teaching goes. I try to give back as well, sharing on my blog, responding to fellow educators on Twitter, and going into classrooms to support teachers when I have time. Additionally, I have the appropriate credentials for my type of blended teaching, including a multiple subjects credential and a Masters in Elementary Education.

Standard B “The online teacher understands and is able to use a range of technologies, both existing and emerging, that effectively support student learning and engagement in the online environment.”

I feel I also have many strengths in this standard, too. I am very critical in my selection of online tools, including trying them on my own, reaching out to others, and testing in a small way before I move to fully implement that tool in my practice. In my practice I use songs with visuals, screencasts, as well as my voice, text, and in-person discussions. I actually enjoy troubleshooting, from in-person support to making videos to support those who I am not near at the moment or who might need it later. And from the 800 favorited tweets I have to read this summer, I will certainly be identifying and exploring some new tools. Perhaps too many new tools…

Standard C “The online teacher plans, designs, and incorporates strategies to encourage active learning, application, interaction, participation, and collaboration in the online environment.”

Here is a place where I feel so-so. I definitely use student-centered instructional strategies, but not with as many real-world applications as I would like, or probably is even necessary. I know in part this comes from teaching at a school where EDI (Explicit Direct Instruction) is the norm, so I will just have to work at getting more of those ideas gathering cobwebs in my mind out and into the classroom. Also, while I feel I can reach out appropriately to students of diverse backgrounds, I know I need to work on making my instruction more accessible for those who may have a learning or physical disability. I will reflect more on that with Standard F.

Standard D “The online teacher promotes student success through clear expectations, prompt responses, and regular feedback.”

Overall, I feel pretty good about this, especially because my level of accountability shifts when I’m the teacher rather than the learner. Still, I will need to make sure I am clear about my response times and ensure that I follow them. I don’t imagine having this issue as a teacher, but I do need to continually reflect on my struggles as a learner, ensuring I’m supporting those who needed the extra push like I did. I know taking this course allowed me to experience how a student might experience my course and I just need to keep that in mind as I create assignments and interaction with my students.

Standard E “The online teacher models, guides, and encourages legal, ethical, and safe behavior related to technology use.”

This is one standard where I really feel I learned a lot from this course. Most of what I learned is summed up pretty nicely in this video on YouTube: A Fair(y) Use Tale (which is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University). Yes, I knew about copyright and fair use before, but not necessarily how it applied to teaching and learning. Knowing the fair use standards will be important for my use in the course, as well as what my students produce and share.

Standard F “The online teacher is cognizant of the diversity of student academic needs and incorporates accommodations into the online environment.”

This is my weakest area, although also the area I learned the most in during this course. It’s the area I’m also most cognizant of, trying to make sure I’m using appropriate headings when I can find them and providing alternate text and captions for any visuals I use in my work. I’ve had plenty of work in my physical classroom in regards to English learners and students with IEPs, but not very much experience with students with physical disabilities.  Especially not with supporting students with physical disabilities in an online setting.

I will definitely continue to add captions and transcripts for my videos now that I’ve had experience with doing that with one video for class, as this is clearly an important action step to allow all learners to access my materials, but beyond that, I think I have more learning to do. I need to really explore the tools I have and tools that are out there for making more accessible texts, videos, and sites, and share the things I learn, since most of us are at the same point in learning how to adapt our teaching materials for a broader and more diverse audience. I would hope and challenge myself to blog about the adaptive and assistive technologies I learn about and try to get feedback from those who would benefit most from these technologies, since I can only make assumptions about how certain tools and strategies would work.

Standard G “The online teacher demonstrates competencies in creating and implementing assessments in online learning environments in ways that ensure validity and reliability of the instruments and procedures.”

Overall, I’d say I’m pretty firm in this area. Perhaps the one place I need to grow is in relation to ensuring the security of online student assessments. Of course, I use sites for assessment that need me and the students to provide passwords, but I hear from some educators about how unsecured certain sites are, including Google Apps for Ed, and I know this is something I need to investigate further. Before I start teaching a fully-online course, I need to know what sites and information are truly secure and what is not. And honestly, this is probably the area I have the least idea where to start, so any comments or suggestions are welcome!

Standard H “The online teacher develops and delivers assessments, projects, and assignments that meet standards-based learning goals and assesses learning progress by measuring student achievement of the learning goals.”

Again, feel pretty strong in this standard and I’m not just saying that because I’ve written over a thousand words in this post. (Although this is pretty lengthy!) I actually am pretty excited about this standard, because I feel it’s somewhere I could truly use things I haven’t used in a while. Using authentic assessments rather than the traditional assessments is something that, well, is more real. Of course, I know that the traditional assessments are necessary at some level, but to truly know if someone understands something is to ask them to apply their knowledge in an authentic way, like my Find A Fish project from a couple years ago.

Standard I “The online teacher demonstrates competency in using data from assessments and other data sources to modify content and to guide student learning.”

(Right now I feel like my students at the end of the CSTs. I know each question is important, but I’m so close and just want to rush to the end so I can go bike riding!)

Feeling pretty good about this standard. I feel that using online and in-person data to plan instruction is something I do pretty well, as I’ve been practicing this in my second grade classroom for the past few years. Also, I always try to send home questionnaires on my teaching effectiveness, which would be much easier to do online. Since my days in my credentialing program, I have grown to be a much more effective time-manager in the classroom. I know this is where I had to really focus for that credentialing year and following that, but I feel much stronger in it now.

I learned how to assess student readiness through this course, including having students create some initial work that is more about getting familiar with the tools than it is about content as well as the assessment I took and reflected on in my first post.

Standard J “The online teacher interacts in a professional, effective manner with colleagues, parents, and other members of the community to support students’ success.”

Again, feel good about this standard overall. I am continually looking to engage in professional development activities, including joining the Silicon Valley CUE Board and participating in more CUE events, participating in online webinars, attending conferences such as ISTE, and just keep up with other online/blended educators on Twitter.

I reach out to parents when I need to or can and with an online setting I can see this happening more often, because of access to the Internet and some of the tools I use which are accessible online, including ClassDojo and engrade. (I haven’t used engrade, but wish to try, since it feels more accessible than Infinite Campus.)

Standard K “The online teacher arranges media and content to help students and teachers transfer knowledge most effectively in the online environment.”

After taking this course, I would say I feel much stronger in this standard than I did before. Especially when considering the ability to create online assignments that are aligned with different ways of learning. I tried out and discussed using non-text/slide based assignments including VoiceThread, Vocaroo (using this prompt I would put out via Twitter: “Read this poem: http://www.poetryteachers.com/schoolpoems/myteacheripod.html then go to http://vocaroo.com/ & record using expressive voice. Post the link here w/ #PoetryWithMrP”), and video (here’s my video prompt for a poetry assignment on YouTube).

Now, I know where I really need to focus, most especially Standard F. I have many instructional materials I’ve used in the past that I need to make accessible if I am going to use them in an online course, including adding captions and transcripts to any videos (such as my class’s Speedy Addition instructional video). I also need to practice more with using the accessibility tools on my current software (Apple Pages, iMovie, etc) and look for tools that make it even easier for those with physical disabilities to access my instructional materials.

I’m sure when I look back at this after teaching my first online course there will be more things that stand out as strengths I didn’t know I had or needs I didn’t know I had to address, but it’s just like student teaching… there are some things you can’t really know you don’t know until you’re in your own classroom, experiencing these situations firsthand.

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