Role of Facilitator


By reading the models posted for this course as well as searching online, I realized how many models have already been researched and implemented. However, they all come down to standard teaching basics which I feel Zane L. Berg, PhD., outlined in the clearest manner.

Well-Designed Lesson Plans

Berge’s emphasis that, no matter if online or in a classroom, the primary cause of instructional success relies on “well-designed learning goals and objectives” is one to keep in mind when planning an online course or unit. The standard, for me anyway, is to work backwards when planning a unit and class. What do I want them to be able to do? What would I like them to learn? What type of activity would be most useful for this particular topic or Academic curriculum? Because I work with fairly low-level ESL students, the first part of the lesson must be vocabulary. This cannot be accomplished without the entire unit in place. While I don’t like to focus only on vocabulary, it’s a standard of mine to give the most important words on the first day. Additional vocabulary and review of the core vocabulary is then added to subsequent lessons.
Rather than simply deliver the vocabulary, I will enhance each word with a short anecdote and short discussion/questions to the students in an attempt to get them involved and perhaps create a link which will help them remember. In an online environment, this interaction would be greatly reduced. However, I could endeavor to provide a graphic/cartoon that might accomplish the same results. During the online chats/meetings, we could then delve into the more entertaining and instructional aspects of the vocabulary. As I allow my students to use their notebooks for review and quizzes, online meetings – whether via a F2F program or merely an IM, should result in the same benefits.

Classifications

Berge’s classification of facilitating activities gave a clear, structured outline whether for F2F or online: pedagogical, social, managerial and technical.

Pedagogical

In order to prepare myself for my course, I first spoke with the teachers at the next level (Grade 10 BC Curriculum) to see where the students should be at the end of my course. Given this information, I then devised a syllabus that would lead them to those goals while also teaching them classroom management styles that are quite different from their Chinese classrooms. For the most part, my students are at a Grade 1 reading level. In order to get them to at least a Grade 5 or 6 level before entering the BC program, I realized I had to teach them context as well as vocabulary. This proved highly successful as I was teaching them something they could do on their own while reading without relying on a dictionary (which they can’t use anyway on tests). This aspect, for me, will be easily transferable to online learning as most of my material is in PPT format and website practice sites.

Social

For me, this will be the most difficult aspect to transform to an online teaching environment. In my classroom, the idea of respect (Teacher/Student and Student/Student) is strongly emphasized. I also encourage free speech (sharing ideas, questions and even jokes) during the class. While it is understood that when I am instructing them on an important aspect of the curriculum it is important to take notes, the activity part of the class can become quite lively and sometimes leads into discussions I had not anticipated but welcome none-the-less. It was through one such activity that I learned something new after seven years of teaching ESL. I had often used the phrase, “Your homework is due tomorrow.” One boy, looked at me and asked, “Is this a joke? Do we have homework or do we do it tomorrow?” I now teach the difference.
Creating this type of environment online will definitely be a challenge. My model for this semester will still include classroom teaching and I hope to prepare my students well enough so they are as comfortable online asking questions as they are when I am with them.

Managerial

Setting timetables is always tricky in my classes and the key word I have learned is flexibility. Whether it be one class that does not grasp a them or merely a few students, I have realized that it’s important for me to set the deadlines, but to be accommodating to those who require more time or instruction. I have also become one of the leaders of the idea of the “Re-Test”. Being the manager of a course is not a problem, whether in a classroom or online as long as I am not too rigid in my procedures. Allowing for student differences helps with the Social classification as well.

Technical

Whether it is in how to use a fork, create an oral presentation, or helping with program-user issues, the facilitator must feel comfortable with the technology in order to teach it well. In a classroom, this is never an issue for me as I rarely bring to the classroom something I don’t understand. In an online environment, this will definitely change. The wide range of software available for creating projects as well as for communicating leads to limited knowledge in some areas. Perhaps by choosing an appropriate and easily accessible software (MS Office), I can eliminate most areas of unease. That being said, I always have a few staff members who are far above me in technological matters that I can rely on for questions and solutions. As I always stress to my students, when you don’t know, ask.



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