Can Teachers Do This Alone?

This morning I gave a 5 minute overview of our distance learning programming to the curriculum directors from the 16 school districts in Berrien County. Then I stayed and listened to the rest of the meeting. It was a vivid reminder on the curriculum and assessment pressures on schools. Teachers have so many things to worry about these days! New 8th grade assessment, 300+ benchmarks for math teachers to cover, updates on professional development opportunities we offer to our districts, etc. etc.

There’s so much to think about… so much pressing in… so many things to do.

Yesterday I started reading Doug Johnson’s blog, a presenter I enjoy hearing at the annual MACUL conference. This question has simmered in my brain since. What drives your technology initiatives? He asks:

How much is it the technology department’s job to promote technology use? How much is the technology department’s job to support the technology initiatives of the pedagogical experts?

You can apply this question to videoconferencing as well. I talked to another colleague yesterday who expressed concern that someone always has to coordinate and drive the use of videoconferencing. “When will the teachers be able to do it on their own,” he wondered.

However, after hearing what our curriculum directors are dealing with, and in turn passing on to their teachers, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect teachers to do this on their own. I’m doing verification tests for Read Across America today too. Think of the work it takes to make a connection work.

  • You have to be trained on the equipment and able to troubleshoot.
  • You have to be able to navigate all the different ways to schedule and test with content providers. I did a test call yesterday that would have been quite confusing even for my building level distance learning coordinators, let alone a teacher on their own.
  • You have to understand the technology well enough to imagine the curriculum possibilities.
  • You also need a firm grounding in curriculum and pedagogy so you can imagine the curriculum possibilities!
  • If you want to use it a lot and creatively, you have to be able to keep up on all the creative ways other people are using VC. Reading and finding articles, paying attention to the listservs, etc. This activity informs your ability to imagine the curriculum possibilities.

I think that takes a coordinator at some level! Even if media specialists are responsible for all this, they seriously need support as well!

When you know the possibilities, you can dream up some really great VCs that tightly match the curriculum. Like the Invasive Species project I’m running next week for a biology class at Lakeshore High School [Feel free to copy this idea!]. Or the wild ideas I’m dreamed up with our fine arts consultant this morning for drama, theater, and dance classes.

It’s not just that the technology is still not as simple as a phone call. It’s also that teachers need assistance imagining how videoconferencing could enhance their curriculum and knowing who they could connect to!

So for now at least, distance learning coordinators at all levels are essential people!


About Janine Lim

Janine Lim, PhD, currently serves as associate dean for online higher education in the School of Distance Education at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, MI. She and her team support over 200 online courses, provide training for faculty teaching online, and work with the campus infrastructure support of online learning. Her department also provides educational technology and Moodle support for faculty and students. In addition, Janine is responsible for the faculty and courses of the Consortium of Adventist Colleges and Universities. Janine has taught over 15 unique graduate educational technology classes online numerous times over the past 15 years, with some classes attracting participants from all over the world. Her undergraduate teaching includes social media courses for communication and digital media majors. Janine has served on the board of the United States Distance Learning Association since April 2015. Prior to her work at Andrews University, Janine coordinated distance education for 22 K12 school districts in southwest Michigan for 14 years. In that position, as one of the co-founders of TWICE, Michigan’s K12 Videoconferencing Organization, Janine has spearheaded popular international K12 videoconference projects such as Read Around the Planet and MysteryQuest. While still serving on the board of TWICE, she was instrumental in designing and implementing the CAPspace website for collaborative videoconference projects. Janine also served on a team of Michigan educational technology trainers providing a workshop called ATA Technology Academy. Her current online learning research interests include successful teacher behaviors, quality online discussions, and student activity patterns in self-paced courses.
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1 Response to Can Teachers Do This Alone?

  1. Roxanne says:

    Janine, I love this post…this is EXACTLY what I have been discussing with my site managers. The districts that I work with that are most active and successful have a dedicated staff person who is well-trained and supports the teachers.

    Just yesterday we talked about how much work the teacher puts into the presentation and that it is our job to support to make sure it is a clean connection. Using this philosophy has helped us grow our program tremendously in the past year.

    Thanks for your comments that are reinforcing our philosophy here in Central Texas!

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