Friday, January 22, 2010

The Story So Far

I work in a small distributed learning program in B.C. I work part time and teach grades 8-12 English and Socials online using Moodle. I have been in the program for several years and have seen the world of DL in B.C. and elsewhere change drastically. What keeps me in this program despite the many challenges presented daily are the possibilities that a program such as ours could offer.

Our Curriculum
I am in the process of improving the online courses I have access to. Our district is part of a consortium of DL schools (BCLN) whose purpose is to collaborate to improve the existing courses. I want to make them less like working out of the textbook and incorporate tools to create curriculum that will provide choice, interest and success for our students.
The challenge?
Part time teacher + 14online courses+various paper based courses=...well, you do the math. And I know there are many teachers in DL programs in the same situation.
The solution? My goal is to help promote collaboration within our district and the BCLN to pool our resources and time to create courses that take advantage of some of the wonderful technology that is available to create rich learning environments.

Our Students:
We are increasingly getting students who haven't succeeded in the "regular" schools and we are a last resort as it were. These are not independant students with stable homes to support their learning, exactly the opposite in fact. We are also seeing students starting to come to us that want to upgrade, that want to take a course outside of the timetable, or for whatever reason are realizing that there is a choice out there. So we have built it, and they are coming, but we need to makes sure that when they arrive, the courses they are given meet their needs. Oh, did I mention that these students arrive at our doorstep every week so our courses need to be asychronous and self-directed.
The challenge?
At best, I would love to create a course that:
a. is differentiated for all learners
b. self-paced yet interactive with other learners
c. offers choice without overwhelming the students
d. is suitable to be done mostly independantly of a "live" teacher

Our teachers
I am aware of a number of small programs (alternate ed., hospital homebound, etc.) in our district that are run by hard-working teachers that must deal with many behaviour and social issues and still provide, mark and track curriculum in a number of subjects and grades. We are experimenting with a model where a student might have an online curriculum teacher who is a specialist in that subject (what a novel idea!) that can be accessed from any computer, while at the same time the student would still have a classroom teacher who would then be able to concentrate on a behaviour plan, case management, work skills etc.

Like I said the possibilities are there, but so are the challenges. For a teacher who works full-time in a classroom, those possibilites may seem too out of the box and the logistics alone are huge. It is only recently that personnel in our district have become aware that we even exist and only recently that some have started to see how we might all work together to provide better services to our students. ...and that's the story so far.

There's Always Tomorrow.

I am both excited and somewhat nervous to have joined a group called Blogger's Alliance. Thanks to Kelly Tenkely for starting this group. I joined to jumpstart my writing on this blog and to meet and talk with other educators. I keep reading about PLNs (personal learning networks) and want to explore this more.

But what have I gotten myself into? I have spent the last two hours reading some recent posts from members while simultaneously making a roast dinner, preventing my 3 yr old from breaking down his older sister's door, and finishing the laundry. I feel like I have walked into a class where I must have missed the first two weeks because EVERYBODY's blog seems so polished, so pretty, so perceptive. What I am doing wasting everyone's time here? Where are the other beginners?

Part of me wants to quietly slip out the back door, head to admissions and see if I can still enroll in "Tetris Revisited", but I'm going to stick around and see what happens. I know that since I have started reading blogs on education I have learned more and been more inspired than most of the traditional pro-d sessions I have attended. And from the posts I've read so far, I've stumbled upon not a group of beginning bloggers and tentative technologists like myself, but some very dedicated and talented teachers. I feel a bit like a kid in a candy store with a stomachache from trying to many new things, but can't wait to come back next week and do it all over again.

I see the purpose of this blog to clarify my thinking and progress on projects I am working on (online writing workshop, using voicethead, creating class blogs) and the role of our DL program with our district. If I'm going to ask my students to blog and be part of an active online community, I want to have experienced that personally. Not to mention having an immediate audience will get me off my procrastinator's duff. A theory I'm hoping will work with my students also.