Monday, April 25, 2011

DISPELLING THE MYTHS ABOUT ONLINE TEACHING/LEARNING

"You simply cannot beat the commute I have, especially with the current gas prices!  My home office is my classroom, and I have the entire world of the internet at my disposal, as do my students. We learn, explore, and broaden our horizons together along this educational highway."



I've been teaching English online since September 2008, grades seven through twelve, and thoroughly enjoy it.  There are still those who believe that online teaching/learning is somehow a poor substitute for the brick-and-mortar classroom, but I vehemently disagree.  Just search online for such terms as virtual school, online school, or distance learning.  You will see that this concept, once considered the wave of the future, is now in full swing! 

I teach with Sycamore Academy Online, an accredited Christian school based in California; I live on the East Coast and have never met my administrators face to face, but I feel as though I know them well, having spoken by phone, email, and "snail mail" since I began there. They are very supportive and helpful, and provided one of the first schools of this kind.  The statement below is from the school's website:

"The Sycamore Tree, Inc. was incorporated in California in 1982, and provides homeschool educational services to students in grades K-12 all over the world. All Sycamore Academy teachers have credentials and/or a master's degree in the subject they teach.

"Sycamore Academy offers school online for grades three through twelve. Students do their work on the computer each day, and all grading and tracking will be done by our teachers. Just think--no lesson plans, no grading, no hassle!  Enrollments are accepted at any time during the school year--even for high school students. Your students will be using the award-winning Switched-On-Schoolhouse curriculum. Teachers grade your student's work and respond with personalized academic assistance. We offer official transcripts and a high school diploma through our online school. You may also use a combination of traditional curriculum and the online school."

If you are considering such schooling for yourself or your child, consider Sycamore at http://www.sycamoretree.com/.



Having taught in traditional classrooms for a number of years and in a number of schools prior to going the online route, I believe that the online wave has caught on because it is a wonderful method for teaching and learning material.  Granted, it is not for all students; but the benefits of such schooling have been proven to countless millions of families who have enrolled their children in such programs.  Below are a few testimonials, again from the Sycamore website:


Thanks for your excellent service. It has been a real pleasure for us to deal with your wonderful Christian business and homeschool center.--Mrs. W.S., FL


Thank you for the many years of support! We've enjoyed being part of the Sycamore Academy family.--Mrs. L.C., CA, A former Sycamore Academy mom


I thank God for this school.--Mrs. H.H., CA, A Sycamore Academy mom


I'm very thankful for the good Christian educational materials that you provide!--Mrs. M.H., AR


Most colleges have offered online classes for quite some time, but virtual schools in grades three through twelve have not been around quite as long.  Here are my reasons in support of online teaching/learning:

1) In a traditional classroom, verbally giving instructions to students was always a "hit-or-miss" strategy.  At any given moment, a teacher could easily have one third of his or her students daydreaming or tuning out, thus not hearing those instructions.  With online learning, when I type something to my students, they can read it as many times as necessary in order to follow through, thus avoiding the constant repetition necessary for the traditional classroom teacher.

2) Students who wish to work ahead can do so at their own pace, often completing a course in a few months.  They are not held back because the material is taught to the "middle," meaning that classroom teachers have to go at a pace where most of the students are able to work.

3) Students who are having difficulty mastering certain concepts can also move at their own pace, taking extra time to understand concepts that, in the traditional classroom, would be moving too quickly for them to keep up or master the material.

4) Parents can keep an eye on their students' online work by going into the curriculum program and viewing the progress immediately.  Parents can also contact online teachers via message 24/7.  In my own case, I respond to any messages quickly, and certainly by the next day. 

5) Students get needed assistance, since help requests--both for an entire assignment or an individual item-- are built right into the program I use.  Once I explain a concept, that student has a written record to consult as often as necessary.  In the traditional classroom, the teacher often does not have much time for individualized instruction, and after-school help is often the only option for both teacher and student.  When I taught in traditional schools, I provided a weekly Help Class for students as well as one-on-one tutoring, but with many extra-curricular activities taking place after school, such help was often in conflict with those.

6) In teaching English, I often require my online students to correct and rewrite assignments to improve their writing.  I highlight their errors and write explanatory notes right on the document that is uploaded to the program.  They correct/rewrite, then I grade the corrected writing, always offering comments, suggestions, and praise.

I grade all sentences, paragraphs, essays, critiques, and reports, whereas the computer program (my school uses Alpha Omega's award-winning Switched-On Schoolhouse) grades the short answers, such as multiple choice, true/false, matching, etc., and calculates grade averages.  I assess each student's progress in the program, encouraging and helping where needed along the way.

7) I teach students from several foreign countries and across the USA.  For some of these students, English is their second language, and it  is fun and interesting to interact with other cultures.  My background of growing up in a military family and living abroad has been invaluable.

8) Some students live in remote places, thus using their computers as a school classroom; others are actually in a traditional school, but take courses online to supplement the school's curriculum.  And, there are those students who simply wish to finish high school early or learn English as a second language

9) As for me, you simply cannot beat the commute I have, especially with the current gas prices!  My home office is my classroom, and I have the entire world of the internet at my disposal, as do my students.  We learn, explore, and broaden our horizons together along this educational highway. 

At this point in my life, I wouldn't have it any other way.

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