What’s so great about online teaching?

Had I been asked what I thought about online teaching two years ago, I would probably have given you quite an earful of the many known shortcomings of virtual teaching modalities, including the challenges to student engagement and community building. Ask me now and my answer could not be more different. Amid the latest push for a return to in-person teaching, many instructors have been adamant about the advantages of digital classrooms and look forward to continuing teaching online in a post-pandemic world. I am one of them.

I teach sociology at CUNY, the largest urban university in the U.S., which serves a very diverse student body of mostly first-generation college students. By the time the COVID-19 outbreak officially struck in mid-March 2020, I, along with millions of instructors around the globe, had to figure out how to move my in-person classes to virtual platforms. Many of us were caught off guard during the initial phase of “emergency remote teaching” and had no choice but to invest, learn, and experiment with technology by trial and error.

With incentives from the administration, we hurried to get online certifications and took summer workshops widely offered by our teaching centers and IT departments. When we succeeded, it was often not by replacing the in-person teaching with virtual scenarios, but by combining the best of both worlds: the interpersonal dynamics of face-to-face interactions with key high-tech tools that enhanced our online classrooms. If it is true that practice makes perfect, the more we conducted our business remotely the more we tightened up our craft. In this piece, I will tell you how this happened.…Read More

3 strategies for virtual student-centered learning

When secondary educators plunged into emergency online teaching in March 2020, we faced a slew of challenges. Among those challenges was the lack of student engagement after the novelty of logging in from home in pajamas wore off.

What started as a two week attempt at keeping things as normal as possible “just until after Spring Break,” became more than a year of uncertainty combined with lack of knowledge and resources to maintain high levels of engagement and content delivery. This is not for lack of trying, most definitely on the part of educators everywhere, and we’ve now reached a point where teaching blog posts like “Is Anyone In Teaching Actually Happy?” fill my teacher-gram.

The exhaustion, unhappiness, and stress-related languish and depression are widely reported and seen, but teachers are not giving up. Those who remain in the uncertain state of “What will this year hold?” as the pandemic continues might benefit from some of the ideas offered here, even if it is just to know that they are not alone in still attempting to engage with students despite the challenges of the educational landscape.…Read More

Gale In Context: For Educators Launches New Teacher Learning Center 

Gale, a Cengage company, is helping educators enhance skills for virtual lesson planning and online teaching. The company has launched Gale In Context: For Educators’ new Learning Center, an on-demand professional learning hub for finding, organizing and learning how to teach – virtually or in-person – using the content created within For Educators. Now teachers can take control of their own professional learning and find support as they work to use For Educators to drive student learning outcomes.

Studies show that lack of training and ongoing support around using technology for classroom instruction is a major pain point for educators, who increasingly rely on tools for teaching in remote, in-person or hybrid learning environments.[i] With the Learning Center, educators get on-demand training that provides immediate access to support and guidance, anytime, anywhere.

“In the last nine months, we have repeatedly seen educators given access to teaching tools without the support they need or the time for formal training,” said Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager at Gale. “The For Educators Learning Center enables teachers to take the lead, with on-demand training built right into their workflow to get up and running fast.”…Read More

New guide provides on-ramp and interstate for novice and veteran teachers

As educators around the globe swiftly moved to online teaching in the spring, Aaron Johnson, associate dean of Education Technology at Denver Seminary, was coordinating the course transitions from in-person to online at the Seminary, while putting the final editorial touches on his book Online Teaching with Zoom: A Guide for Teaching and Learning with Videoconferencing Platforms.

This newly published guide, available on Amazon, provides tips for teachers, presenters, and trainers who instruct in a variety of settings from elementary school through postsecondary institutions, as they navigate the new normal of remote instruction with videoconferencing technologies.

“Teaching with technology requires a thoughtful approach, because the tools we use shape our communication,” said Johnson. “The challenge right now is that few of us have time to ponder such things. My goal with Online Teaching with Zoom is to save teachers hours by providing practical guidance that’s been tested in the classroom and is informed by how media affects learning.”…Read More

Free distance learning online toolkit

To guide educators through this new journey of remote teaching, mindSpark Learning, a national nonprofit that provides one-of-a-kind learning experiences to educators across the globe, launched a free Distance Learning Online Toolkit. Educators can access:

  1. Free online professional development courses covering AI and social emotional learning (with more to be released in the coming weeks)
  2. Live and on demand spotlight courses focused on online teaching and remote leadership
  3. Coffee chats to connect educators to a community they can lean on, in addition to  mindSpark Learning for resources and support
  4. Distance learning FAQs for commonly-asked questions on how to implement remote teaching methods quickly

mindSpark Learning’s free Distance Learning Online Toolkit can be found at www.mymindsparklearning.org/online-toolkit.

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School Specialty unveils intervention program for low-level readers

Interactive intervention tool aims to engage learners in a digital classroom

According to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress — the Nation’s Report Card — only about 35 percent of U.S. fourth and eighth graders perform at the “proficient” level in reading.

To help schools close the achievement gap with students performing significantly below grade level, EPS Literacy and Intervention, a division of School Specialty, announced the debut of iSPIRE, an interactive reading intervention program incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency to accelerate literacy skill development for the lowest performing students in grades PreK-8.

iSPIRE is powered by Exploros, a streamlined online teaching platform designed to connect teachers to students in a digitally transformed classroom with the teacher at the center of mastery based instruction.…Read More

Good online teaching is often just plain good teaching

One teacher learns that the secret to good online teaching is all in the approach

I have heard a lot of people say that they don’t think that online schooling works well because there isn’t in-person interaction between a student and their teacher. This belief is a myth. When both teachers and students participate the same way they would in a face-to-face setting, amazing things happen in the online world—just as often as they do in the traditional classroom.

A couple of years ago, I taught a student in an online creative writing class. At 19, John was behind in school and still trying to graduate. Classes were arduous for him, and he often didn’t pass them. These failures discouraged him, so he stopped trying completely—which caused his already low skill set to deteriorate even further.

Since traditional brick-and-mortar classes clearly weren’t working for him, John attempted online courses through his local high school. Online classes offered John a new method of learning that was previously unavailable to him and a more flexible way to get back on the path to graduation.…Read More

Online learning’s tough? Try online teaching!

I read with interest our newspapers’ story last week saying many of America’s university professors don’t consider online courses real college material, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Here’s the lead to Staff Writer Beau Yarbrough’s story: “Professors teaching hundreds or thousands of students online has been all the buzz in academic circles, but the professors who teach those courses say they shouldn’t be worth college credit. That’s the big finding in a study published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. “The magazine surveyed 103 professors who teach what are known as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, in February. The courses are sometimes taken by thousands of students at one time, on subjects ranging from basic English literature courses to engineering.”

Read the full story

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iNACOL updates its online teaching standards

The standards give teachers a set of criteria to be effective online educators.

As online learning becomes more ubiquitous in schools and districts across the nation, a leading online-learning organization has updated its national standards intended to help shape high-quality online teaching practices.

In its National Standards for Quality Online Teaching, Version 2, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has revised its existing standards that define high-quality teaching in online and blended-learning programs to address the need for more personalize learning.…Read More

Online courses, still lacking that third dimension

When colleges and universities finally decide to make full use of the internet, most professors will lose their jobs, says Randall Stross for Digital Domain. That includes me. I’m not worried, though, at least for the moment. Amid acute budget crises, state universities like mine can’t afford to take that very big step–adopting the technology that renders human instructors obsolete. I began teaching classes online 10 years ago, but the term “online” is misleading. What I really mean is that I teach a hybrid course: part software, part hovering human. A genuine online course would be nothing but the software and would handle all the grading, too. No living, breathing instructor would be needed for oversight.

“We should focus on having at least one great course online for each subject rather than lots of mediocre courses,” Bill Gates suggested in his 2010 annual letter for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…

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