I can't believe it has been so long since I last signed on and blogged. I've been busy! I moved to Laramie, WY in August last year and began teaching a doctoral course and conducting a research study back in Atlanta. It's been a big change for me in many ways but I truly love it here. I even enjoy the snow!
Right now, I'm teaching an Endorsement course, a graduate course here in Wyoming that focuses on the research in literacy in grades 6-12. It is taught online through compressed video and I've had some technical problems. Maybe it's me . . . the last time I taught an online course there were problems, too. First, I discovered that I had 52 teachers watching me on a 32 inch TV screen in a huge auditorium. Once I had that remedied, the satellite fell out of the sky. No kidding. It actually fell back to earth! After that, I spent weeks teaching over the phone - you read that right: over the phone. I'd e-mail the power point slides down to the site, then talk on the phone which was on speaker. What a nightmare!! This situation is not that bad, but I always use groups when I teach - I just am not one of those "talking heads" - but the Outreach folks here have had difficulty putting my singleton sites [places where there is only one student tuned into class online] into groups, so I've had to scramble and figure out different ways to get students actively involved during class.
One thing I've tried that has seemed to work is having students do think writes frequently, then share their thoughts with the class. This has worked pretty well, but I still feel that students are missing something by not having the chance to talk to each other. We are almost finished with the semester now, and are online totally for most of this month, so I have some time to figure this out. When we do a totally online week, I always have students log in and participate on an asynchronous Discussion Board. The comments and responses are so thoughtful and thought provoking - I have come to the conclusion that I like the class totally online better than over compressed video. Of course, it's harder and more work for me, but the thing I am most interested in is whether the students feel the online weeks are better for them.
I read about a new Web 2.0 tool the other day, though, that might be the answer to this problem. It's called piazza and is a virtual space where students can ask the professor questions and talk to each other - even anonymously, which is a feature I like. So - another Web 2.0 tool to try out!