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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What Does Teaching in a Virtual High School Look Like?

I was checking out the website for the new Georgia Virtual High School (see http://www.GAVirtualSchool.org/) a few weeks ago and in their virtual library they had a link to this article: "Telling the Online Learning Story: What People Don't Understand, They Don't Support" (see http://www.sreb.org/programs/EdTech/onlinestory/onlinestoryindex.asp).

One of the many things that caught my attention in this article were the quotes by individuals responding to the question "What is it like to be an online teacher?"

“Holding online [chat] office hours this fall has allowed my students to develop more of a sense of community — even across sections. While they don't actually know each other personally, they look forward to 'hanging out' one evening a week when their schedules permit. I really find that very little of my office hour time is taken up with mathematics questions; we spend a lot of time just chatting in the way I talk with my daytime students in the hallways and at lunch during the day." - JoAnne Glenn, ApexLearning, AP calculus instructor, National Board Certified Teacher

"I have really enjoyed teaching the AP Government online course this semester. It is an extremely well-put-together course, and I have been very impressed with the thoroughness of the material. The developers have certainly made my job as teacher/facilitator much easier than I expected." - Stephanie Dunbar, teacher, Georgia

"Today a student told me that he wished we had this math all year. He went from a 78 percent average to a 92 percent average! I'm calling his parents shortly to tell them we finally found the key to their son's math future." - Henry Chandler, teacher, Virginia

"I spend a good part of my time communicating with students via e-mail. I have, on occasion, also connected with them by telephone, but the bulk of the correspondence is written. The fact that it is written communication does not make it impersonal, however. I have had students share happy and sad news from their lives. I have also had students send me graduation photos and request that they keep in touch after the course is over." - Stacey Labbé, ApexLearning, AP microeconomics instructor

As I looked at these quotes, I recalled an entry that I posted here two months ago entitled "Teaching in a Virtual High School" (see http://mkbnl.blogspot.com/2005/05/teaching-in-virtual-high-school.html). In that entry I talked about the measures or standards or even categories that could be used in the evaluation of online teaching. As I look at these quotes, I am struck with a different (but similar question), what does it mean to teach online?

What does it mean to teach online? What does it look like? If I asked you to describe to me what teaching looks like in a classroom setting, while I may get different response, most people would be able to describe it. If I asked what good teaching looks like, I'd get a little less agreement I'd imagine, but you could still answer. So, what does teaching online look like?

More directly, what does teaching in a virtual high school look like? What does the teacher do in a synchronous teaching environment in a virtual high school? What does the teacher do in an asynchronous teaching environment in a virtual high school? Looking forward to your thoughts...

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Note: I started my comprehensive examinations this past Monday (04 July 2005) and will be engaged in that for most of the next six weeks. While I already have entries pre-written for this period of time to keep a regular flow of content coming, the frequency may decrease slightly (depending on how tired I am at the end of the day and how much I can actually think about something other than my comps questions. I will be posting information about my comprehensive exams at my other blogs, Breaking into the Academy, so you can visit there to see the nature of my questions and any public discussion I attempt as I try to talk out my ideas.

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