1. How does a teacher bring about transformation from f2f to online teaching?
If you had asked that question a year ago, I would have told you that it was something probably difficult to achieve. However, a year after, I can tell you that, for me, it was not difficult at all, and my joining Webheads was crucial to be saying this now. As you may know by now, I had no experience
whatsoever with online teaching and learning. But Vance is the best example to follow if you want to be an online teacher.
While I was rapidly absorbing what was going on in this community, and I was actively participating and exploring and trying all the new tools Vance offered us in the EVOnline 2002 syllabus, I was thinking how I could use those tools for my teaching. I learned to reflect in the action, while being scaffolded by Webheads, since my previous knowledge of these tools was only the information I had gathered from readings. This reflection in the action, led me to reflect on the action. I was able to evaluate what was that, in Webheads that promoted my and others active participation. I even wrote a message to the list verbalizing these reflections on how communities form online . As I said somewhere, Vance showed us the road and we follow his lead.
So, I started to visualize what could be my online teaching like. At the same time that I was playing around with new web tools, I was designing what would be my first teaching online experience. I did not do it step by step. I jumped right in the middle of the ocean (participants in Caracas, Venezuela, and moderator in Spain, but I did not feel insecure. We officially finished our WIA session in March, and in June I started my online unit. But in April I trained two teachers in Venezuela, because they were the f2f teachers of the students who would be participating in my unit. So, this, gave me the opportunity to apply what I had learned. I invited Sus to be an external observer of this module. I also remembered that once I asked Vance for help with a problem I encountered with one of the students, and he was there to help, as my guard angel.
Of course, it takes a lot of planning, taking care of all possible details, and it is time consuming, but so is designing a f2f unit from scratch, which is part of my every day work.
2. What are some of the obstacles and issues that have been encountered in the process?
To implement my course I encountered some problems. My first problem was unexpected. Our university went on strike for 2 weeks and the trimester was shortened, so I had to make changes to the original plan. Then, since we could not have the students complete a survey before the course, we did not know if all of them had computers at their disposal, so, the first step was to look for a multimedia lab at the university that could be used by these students (60 divided in 3 sections) in a schedule that would be compatible with their personal schedules.
Once this was solved, while I was training the f2f teachers, we realized that the lab did not have Yahoo Messesenger, and this was a problem, because the people in charge of the lab did not want to download it (bad reputation of chats). To overcome this, I wrote a letter explaining why and how I would be using chats in my unit. Yahoo M. was installed. While delivering the module, I found out in the middle of a class, that the computers there did not have Word but an unknown to me text processor, and I could not open the students assignments. I told them to use only text, while I had the tech. install Word.
But, I will never forget my first class. I had told the students to get online and wait until I opened a conference window, I would invite them (20 students) and help if they had problems with the instructions they had on the web page on at Yahoo Groups. Well, the f2f teacher told them to send me an instant message as soon as they got online. You will not believe what it is having 20 windows opening at the same time! I had to send an e-mail to the group, so it would reach them all at once, reminding them of the original instruction. Finally, one student used improper language in an assignment, and thats when I asked Vance for help. It was solved with some personal messages, and giving some extra attention to this student, who seemed to need it.
I can happily say that the students were excited before, during and after the unit, as expressed in their journals, self-evaluations, and course evaluations. One of the f2f teachers enjoyed so much that she is reading and exploring this area. The other is not so convinced, but she says she would like to participate as she did, that is, not alone.
After this experience, I have co-moderated in the Evonline Pre-training session. I have designed, and will soon (March) be delivering a 6-week online course for the UNED (Creación de Cursos Online) (National University of Distance Education) here in Spain. I have many plans in mind, it is just a matter of time, because I am finishing my doctoral dissertation this year.
3. What have been the high lights and the low lights for you as youve made the move?
I was not expecting that the students were going to be so motivated, so engaged in their work. I was scared of the results I would get with the group works in chats, and now after their success, I have started to reflect why chats are useful in language teaching, and how they need to be used to be successful.
I have learned that flexibility, open-mindedness, and commitment are fundamental traits in online teaching and learning.
Low lights? For me, the time zone difference. When my students were getting home, ready to chat with me, (8 pm), it was 2 am for me. I had to change my sleeping habits, and they are still changed.
I will be talking about the architecture course in one my scheduled chats for this week. I will keep you posted!
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