Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Have a look at what online looks like to me

Online Education - How do you react when you hear those words? Be honest, at least with yourself - do you automatically lower your expectations? Or worse, do you stop listening? I hope you will listen for just a few seconds longer this time.

Some things I heard said at the iNACOL VSS 2012 conference have prompted me to write this post. The word online itself needs to be clarified first, and I have blogged about that here, but today I'd like to address what seems to be a perception that online education is somehow not as good as "the real thing". That it ISN'T, in fact, "the real thing". Now I'm not saying it's all wine and roses, and as I said before, there's good and bad on both sides of the fence, but I worry that a huge group of teachers who are immensely gifted and dedicated are being written off without a moments' thought.

First here's a video I made from my actual classes, from today. This is what online is for me and my students at LearnQuebec. I want to make sure everyone reading this (all 1 of you) gets what it is I do for a living, in fact what it is a lot of folks out there do for a living, and a video is worth a thousand words. And by the way, I taped this today, not knowing I'd be using it here, so I have had to block my students' names to protect their privacy. The purple callouts are my comments for you:

As you can see, it's a live class, and we do the same kinds of things you do in your brick and mortar, we just don't happen to be in the same physical space. I've had 20 years' experience in the brick and mortar, and the last 5 years online, and I love teaching online. Here are some pro's and cons:

Online pro's
  • Being able to have a private conversation with a student during the class, and I do mean private, not only does no one else know what's being said but no one knows that it's even happening
  • being able to have a class even when the roads are full of snow (this also appears in the con list)
  • can have way more kids writing on board at same time, most I ever had on chalk board was 4, and on a smartboard it's 1 (although I hear on the promethean one more than 1 can write)
  • all the kids are already on a computer, so all online tools available to me and them, no need to book the computer lab
  • not having to be constantly pulled away from teaching to do things like supervision, open house, detentions
  • I have my own comp, printer, phone, scanner, don't need to share with anybody
  • typing skills have grown exponentially
  • completely comfortable with online presence, twitter etc because it's so necessary for us, we go above and beyond to connect since we're deprived of f2f most of the time
  • so much more connected with my students than I ever was in the classroom and I'm not even sure I know why this is! Probably the flipping.
Online cons:
  • no f2f, which means a lot of communication is left out
  • hard to get kids who don't know each other and have never seen each other to work together and be comfortable with each other
  • there is no such thing as a ped day or a snow day
  • don't get to see other teachers everyday, miss those convos that happen on your way past someone's desk with ppl in other departments. I used to LOVE the french department, those ladies really knew how to live
  • miss out on school spirit since teach so many different schools
But here's the thing, what it boils down to is this: good teaching is good teaching, wherever it happens.

And some students do well in the online class, but not all, just like in brick and mortar.

But you don't have to take my word for it. At VSS 2012, we heard from some kids about why THEY love their online classes, and their reasons were show-stopping, ranging from escaping from bullying and drug addiction to an opportunity to be the first in a family to go to college. In our case, we are helping kids who would otherwise not get the credits they need to go to college. Our kids write the same end of year exams as everyone else in Quebec, no special deals for them.

Phew. That feels good to get that out. Now I'll wait for the barrage of comments. From my mom.


  1. As you mentioned yesterday, this will be a handy reference when you (or any of us) need to respond to comments about online learning not really being "as good as."

    Not your mom ;)

    P.S. when you mention the VSS 2012 conference, is that the conference where you and your colleague Peggy Drolet took home the highly coveted Innovative Online Learning Practice Award?? :)I just don't get tired of bringing it up!

  2. You forgot to mention, we can teach in our pjs if we want to. Well, at least from the waist down.

    Don't tell your mom I said that!

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