Week 4 Assignment – My Philosophy and Online Learning

As I deal primarily with high-school aged students in a foreign land, much of my philosophy is derived from this environment.
Many of the practices I currently use are based on my ability to reach my students in a face-to-face environment. I am engaging as a speaker to the class as a group, creating a bond through knowledge of their culture but also by introducing them to mine, and I also make time for one-to-one chats about their progress, problems and general interests. By creating this open and caring environment, the impact on my students’ desire to be successful has been significant. While curriculum and goals are always at the back of my mind, my students’ confidence, security and different learning styles are my priority. With these factors as a background, I can be successful in applying other, more traditional ideas of teaching methods. My classroom environment is one of mutual respect, individuality and comfort in learning. How would I recreate this environment in an online situation?

Academia.edu has a paper that I found most helpful – “Online Vs. Face-to-Face Learning” (Barrera, Ho, Garcia, Traphagan and Chang). In it, they put forward the idea that it need not be one or the other but a combination of the two.
“Everyone will lose if traditional face-to-face and technology-enhanced learning environments are pitted against each other.” (p. 2).
While it may not be specific to an entire online course, I do believe it raises the issues I have been struggling with. In today’s world, with the multitude of multimedia tools, creating an online face-to-face – as a group or individually – need not be a problem. As most teenagers already use one form or another of video chat, this method should not interfere with their comfort zone. It could also, make them more at ease as they could decide “where” to meet with me rather than in my office or another school location.

Great Moments in Teaching

The challenges of teaching and the long hours of preparation and assessment can sometimes be overwhelming. However, these are easily outweighed by witnessing a student’s “A-ha!” moment. It is the moment that keeps teachers teaching, especially me. I get great satisfaction when I have brought student to this point and know they are going to be fine in the next level. It is my greatest achievement and most rewarding time that I have ever had. Whether it is a simple as understanding a word or a concept, this is what teaching is about. This is one aspect of online teaching that I still have no idea how to recreate – and perhaps can’t. However, as technology advances perhaps there will, or already is, a tool that would allow for the student to share such a moment as quickly as possible. I currently use a tool called QQ which is China’s IM. I have spent many hours with one or two students going over concepts until they do finally understand. Using a variety of methods including graphics that I upload, we do somewhat recreate a feeling of intimacy and the A-ha! moment is there, I’m just not physically present for it.

The Future

I believe my future with online learning and teaching requires much more knowledge of the tools available. I do use a variety of software in my classes as well as teach my students how to prepare basic audio/visual presentations, but I need to do more. The other challenge is getting the students onboard to this type of approach. This is extremely difficult in China because education and the teacher is very traditional still and the idea of allowing students more freedom towards their own educational goals is still a long way off. I am going to attempt an online segment this semester where students will need to receive and upload their assignment through Moodle. As I believe that their future is directly linked with using such technologies, I would be remiss if I didn’t introduce them to such a notion. It should be quite a challenge and I’m sure I will learn a lot about what was successful and what was not.

“Online and face-to-face learning can no longer be regarded as two separate and distinct approaches to learning. Rather, what is called for is a fundamental rethinking of our approaches to learning and education. We need to change our mindset and reorganize our thinking about the process of teaching and learning. Instead of following traditional paradigms that have the instructor firmly in control, we should adopt entrepreneurial and innovative approaches to learning. Such approaches would permit students to become independent learners, and, at the same time, give the teacher the important role of guide throughout the learning process.” (Online Vs Face-to-Face Learning, p 7).


  • #   Tashmyra on 03.03.15 at 6:54 pm     Reply

    Hi Jennifer,

    I find your project in China really admirable.
    When I was teaching there over 10 yrs ago, the police were still coming into the internet cafes to make sure that nobody was using the internet- just using the computers to play games and some university students that I knew were afraid to have an email address.

    I don’t know is the mood is the same now but it feels to me as if it would be a real benefit and a real skill for students to learn to use technology for social networking within a controlled environment such as a learning program. It seems like a great way to learn that skill set without fear and it also seems like it would be an empowering venture to do so.

    • #   Jennifer on 03.23.15 at 1:03 am     Reply

      The mood has changed quite a bit, although there are still many obstacles to overcome. It’s very difficult to explain how important learning social networking as well as basic technology to students who really have no exposure to these concepts. I’m hoping to change that a little with my online unit – a challenge for sure!

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