Monday, October 11, 2010

Why every class must include online collaboration

Have you explored the opportunity to incorporate technology into your classroom that will allow students to collaborate online? Have you thought about how this can be used as a tool to extend your classroom beyond the four walls that currently confine student learning? Would you like to provide an opportunity for students to communicate with classmates using a medium that they are familiar with? Do you see value in the ability to provide students with anytime access to not only the resources you share in class, but additional resources that aide in differentiation? Can an online extension of your classroom support the requirements of Universal Design for Learning? Can it contain a library of materials that students can access when they need it?

By providing an opportunity for students to take part in online discussions and collaborate with their peers we are allowing student learning to develop beyond a 45 minute block of time. We provide students with a medium in which they can take time to formulate a response, participate, and learn from their peers. For what it's worth, we can save a lot of time making copies and catching up students who are absent too!

I ask, do we have choice? Is it our professional responsibility to instruct students on how to participate in an online community? Do our students need to know how to communicate in an online environment? Do they need to know how to collaborate with individuals using digital tools? The answer is Yes.

We can no longer create classroom environments that are not only teacher centered, but confine student interactions to a 45 minute block of time.  This system of education may have worked in the past. The global economy has forced a paradigm shift in education. Global competition has forced us to reconsider how we teach students.  We are no longer competing for jobs within our state and country.  Technology and training have introduced a global workforce.  In order to remain competitive our students must learn to think critically and make connections among content.  We must develop student creativity, communication skills, and high order thinking. It is a reality that our students will be forced to communicate and collaborate with individuals in online environments when they enter the workforce.  The days of the traveling business person have transitioned to web conferencing. Outsourcing agreements have forced individuals to communicate and collaborate using technology on a daily basis.   All of our students who enter college will have courses that maintain an online presence.

What are we doing to prepare our students?

Have you considered using Moodle as an online extension of your classroom? Our district Moodle site has a professional development page. There you will find a short course on how to use Moodle. You can also request a personalized training session with me. I encourage everyone to explore the opportunities available with this tool. The results of this shift in instruction holds many benefits for students and faculty.

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