eLearning Technology Blog

Online teaching expert learns new lessons in classroom

by WSU Online 26. June 2013 14:18
DSC_3168High-tech I’m good at. It was the low-tech that tripped me up.

I had taught English for decades at universities from Florida to New Hampshire, from Idaho to Puerto Rico. Then I’d moved from the classroom to the online world. I trained faculty in educational technologies, developed web-conferencing systems, and now create online courses for Washington State University’s Global Campus.

When I was asked to lead a workshop on online educational technologies for visiting teenagers, I was ebullient. I’d again be able to see those bright attentive faces, eager to soak up knowledge. I’d be talking about my area of expertise. Easy. Fun. What could possibly go wrong?

It was locked. Not the computer system--I could have fixed that problem. Not the log-in screen. The door to the training room. I arrived half an hour early, brimming with plans to get everything set up, only to watch my lead time dwindle to nothing as I searched for the key.

Were my problems solved when I got into the room? Oh, no.

The computers were balky. Some kept going to sleep, logging off the teenagers from websites I had set up for them. And other laptops kept interrupting asking them to update some program or another...

And then there were the smart phones. Those bright cheerful faces remained attentive for about a minute. When something when wrong and I had to assist an individual student, the others started checking their phones.

And so it went.

By the end of the day, my last nerve was frazzled. It would have been so much simpler if I had planned a presentation instead of a hands-on workshop.

But students learn best by doing. I can’t abandon that principle just because it’s hard to manage the technology.

Here is what I will do differently next time:

Get the technicians involved.

· Ask technical support staff to update all the laptops with patches and downloads.

· Be specific. Tell them what browser, media player, and home page you want to see.

· Have them change the sleep setting so the laptops can be inactive without shutting down.

· Specify what programs should and should not come up at the Start.

· Identify the programs you will be using and ask them to make sure that all downloads have been added.

· And, most importantly, ask them well in advance to put this maintenance on their work schedule for just a day or two before the workshop.

Have helpers to troubleshoot. A one-to-four ratio would be ideal.

Don’t give instructions step-by-step. Instead, open the session with a brief overview of the process, the steps, and the timeframe, then ask for questions and set them to work. Give them complete, detailed, written instructions for each step. This allows students to work at different speeds but still keep busy.

Provide a medium for them to take notes, even if it is paper and pencil.

Expect some students to get done more quickly than others, and plan an activity to keep them busy.

And, finally, I’ll always remember this: One key element of a successful classroom experience is making sure you have a key to the classroom.

Charmaine Wellington

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