Online learning may be part of the “new normal” for many schools, and Oklahoma State University professors are helping teachers prepare.
The “Teach from Anywhere: Using Digital Tools to Support Seamless Learning” three-course series covers topics ranging from setting up, organizing, and using Google Classroom to cultivating digital community, said Dr. Kalianne Neumann, an OSU assistant professor of educational technology and facilitator of one of the courses. Amidst coronavirus, the workshops arose from teachers’ requests.
“Teachers wanted to learn more about technology integration that could benefit them and their students whether they are teaching in a distance or face-to-face setting in the fall,” Neumann said.
Of the program’s more than 300 enrollees, some are current P-12 teachers who transitioned online during the spring semester while others are school administrators, substitute teachers and even retired teachers desiring to better support teachers and students online.
“There are many things out of our control when students are learning online and at a distance,” Neumann said. “Learning how to leverage the advantages of online classrooms for those students is important.”
Advantages include the opportunity for students to replay recorded lectures for difficult topics, practice or apply knowledge in self-paced modes and even incorporate new technologies to improve their writing.
“Through modelling a variety of activity types using accessible tools, we hope to help teachers work through the barriers of transitioning their content to a blended or distance format and see the affordances of teaching with technology in either setting,” Neumann said.
Each of the three courses in the series – “Getting Started with Google Classroom,” “Creating and Delivering Engaging Content” and “Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking in Digital Environments” – lasts two weeks and is online for self-paced studying.
Teacher feedback has been positive.
“Dr. Neumann did a great job of walking us through all of the features of the Google Classroom in detail,” said Joli Jorgenson, a language arts and math teacher at Durant High School. “I hadn’t worked with it before, but now I feel very confident about using it because the instruction I received was so thorough.”
Vicki Vaughan, a math teacher at Putnam City North High School, agreed.
“I have been so impressed with this course,” Vaughan said. “The amount of content felt just right. I was amazed with the timeliness of communication, and the responses were always just right. I can't say enough good about this course and what I was able to learn!”
Registration for a second round of the workshops in August and September is currently open, with the first course, “Getting Started with Google Classroom,” set to begin Monday, Aug. 3. Participants may register for one, two or all three of the workshops, and with the school year beginning, each workshop will be spread across three weeks, rather than two weeks, to provide more flexibility in completing coursework.
Dr. Juliana Utley, the Morsani Chair in Mathematics and Science Education and director of the Center for Research on STEM Teaching and Learning (CRSTL), oversees the workshops and other CRSTL programs.
“One of the goals for CRSTL is community engagement,” Utley said. “There was a need out in the community, and we are trying to meet that need. Dr. Neumann, Dr. Sheri Vasinda and Ms. Heather Anderson have spent hours creating these courses and facilitating them.”
The workshops are part of CRSTL’s larger mission of supporting Oklahoman teachers, a demonstration of the land-grant mission of teaching, outreach and research.
“CRSTL has a history of being engaged with the teacher education community,” Utley said. “For example, in 2017 Drs. Toni Ivey and Hathcock provided a workshop for teachers to support their students’ engagement with learning about the first total solar eclipse in the US in 99 years.”
Other CRSTL programs have included Engineering in Elementary professional development workshops to support preservice and current elementary teachers incorporating integrated lessons into their curriculum. The Center has also offered Engineering Camp for fourth through sixth grade students for three years and the annual STEM Teacher Institute at OSU for nearly 200 teachers during the summer on OSU’s campus. It also promotes OSU programs, including summer geology workshops.
At each CRSTL event, Utley said she is encouraged by teachers’ dedication to support their students and continue learning.
“Teachers want to continue to hone their skills and collaborate with other teachers across the state so they can do the very best for students in their classroom,” Utley said. “And we are here to support them.”
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