Just before I presented at my staff meeting this week, a colleague turned to me and said “Don’t you ever get nervous?” Well, of course I do but I have just coached myself to move past those nerves as fast as possible and to take those creative risks. The nerves are still there but I’ve developed….coping mechanisms.
One of my all-time favourite movies is Baz Luhrman’s first movie “Strictly Ballroom”. Here’s a clip from it:
The moral of the story becomes “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.”
This month I’ve been learning with/from Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen‘s online course inside TVO’s TeachOntario called Mindful Facilitation: Leading in Online Spaces and once again I am in awe of how deep an impact my online learning has on me. I really liked the module about Appreciative Inquiry & Coaching. Peter coached us to help participants in online spaces to dig deeper through questions that clarified or asked for detail or showed that we were listening. I’m trying very hard to let the participants in my eLearning English course and in the #BIT16Reads book club to take the direction where they want it to go. Sometimes there may be uncomfortable silences but this is my perception of discomfort. I’m also trying to be much more present and human in my interactions. My Dad, who embarrassed me and enjoyed it at every turn, used to tell me to just imagine my audience naked. It never worked but I did learn to have a good laugh at myself when needed. Whenever I feel nervous now about taking a creative risk, I try to imagine what the other people are feeling … suspicious, timid, awkward, and then I just try to take the next step in lessening those feelings…often with a laugh. Here’s a little video of what being vulnerable and authentic mean to my teaching:
Author Rosemary Lehman joins me today to talk about her book Motivating and Retaining Online Students
As you can see in my video, there are a lot of stickies on my copy of her book! It was a genuine thrill to speak with her today and being able to ask her questions deepened my understanding of her strategies and gave me lots of new ideas to go forward. Here are some of them:
- make your technology experiences sensory….what senses can we heighten with the technology experiences we provide our students in online and blended classrooms?
- allow for as much interaction and varied types of interaction as possible
- provide a reliable structure to experiment/play within
- fill your course with discovery…this is key for school-aged children but for all students as well
- use electronic office hours to build relationships; evaluate the participation in electronic office hours as an extrinsic motivator to connect with all students in a virtual face-to-face way
- MORE visuals! All sorts!
Here is a link to the livestream video.
She also shared some slides with us which you can find here:
This little book packs a whallop in terms of professional development for online teachers. As a grade 12 online English teacher, and a teacher-librarian, I found Lehman and Conceicao’s research to be precisely focused on my needs as a teacher to help my students stay motivated and to retain students in the course.
Immediately, the authors set up a common lexicon for the reader to discuss different types of learning and this format of precise language continues throughout the book when talking about phases of engagement, learning strategies, and design strategies. I learned that if we only measure attrition in online learning, then we aren’t truly measuring or acting with the problem of why a student does or does not persist in online learning. I was also interested to learn through the authors’ research that contact with faculty is more important than contact with other students. After just completing my M.Ed. thesis on transliteracy, the transfer of literacy across modes and mediums, Lehman’s research also confirmed that the struggles between user and reader are separate and yet deeply impactful on the success of all students, but especially those working in online classes. In this environment of receiving and giving messages, the limits of self-reliance, problem-solving and collaboration are truly tested.
The authors review the four design strategies that best help students in the LMS which include: consistency, variety, relevance and content (p. 20-23) and offer many specific strategies. One strategy that I will revisit as I enter my 4th online teaching experience is to facilitate ice breakers and ease into multiple social groupings. I also now know that my feedback needs to be more timely and focused on the learning process, not the product. The most meaningful message from this book is actually to help students achieve self-care strategies through metacognition, and explicit teaching about goal setting and rewards. I will be adapting the online resources mentioned in the book into practical checklists to engage my students with their own learning process. Even things like giving a clear syllabus of readings, skills, technology and evaluation is something that I need to more precisely express to my students.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone teaching online in the K-12 environment and beyond.