July 25, 2004

LBJ's online

After attending several colleges in Milwaukee during my undergraduate studies, I felt it was time to leave the comfort of my dad's home and finish my bachelor's degree at his alma mater, Grambling State University in Louisiana. My dad was a man of few words, but I was particularly confused when I asked him for some fatherly advice and he responded, "Don't become a member of the LBJ club." Prior to this, I really hadn't shown a penchant for being a member of any clubs, but you know when a parent tells you not to join one, you instantly become intrigued and make plans for getting a cool tattoo or other insignia just to be a little rebellious. But before going in search of the needle, I simply asked, "What's the LBJ club?" My dad replied, "The Leave by January club."
Because I was leaving home for the first time to attend school in the south after having been born and raised in Wisconsin, my dad was encouraging me not to lose my mind upon gaining my freedom. I realized that, in his own way, he was telling me to stay focused on my studies so I wouldn't have to be asked to leave the University after my first semester there.
When I arrived at Grambling, I saw many people who seemed to be trying out for the LBJs. They tried out in their dorms where they opted to watch "Young and the Restless" instead of going to the Social Development class. They tried out at parties where they drank excessive amounts of alcohol instead of attending their Understanding Fermenting courses. They tried out in the Student union where they played cards instead of attending their Statistics course. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be future LBJs.
I had a slight advantage over these students because by the time I arrived at Grambling, I was already in my junior year of college. I was only sixteen when I graduated from high school, and I didn't really think I was ready to leave home. I stayed in Wisconsin two years and by the time I left home, I was a pretty disciplined student. Also, Grambling was my 4th school, and I was a little afraid of asking for a transfer. I took 21 credits per semester and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. My desire to complete my degree in less than 5 years helped keep me focused and out of the LBJs.
According to the article, it appears that online courses are creating LBJs of their own due to feelings of isolation and lack of self-discipline. The idea of assessing one's potential for success in an online program is very appealing and worthwhile. Just like I knew that I probably didn't have the discipline to move 800 miles away from home two weeks before my 17th birthday, online learners should be aware of their own limitations. I have to admit that I recently received an I in an online learning course due to feelings of isolation. The course was designed for technology leaders in schools or districts. Although I'm a leader when it comes to integrating technology in my teaching and helping other teachers do the same, I wasn't at the same level as the others who were making purchasing decisions and the like. The conversations didn't really interest me, and as a result I stopped participating. Although I had been successful in an online course before, this particular course was not a good match for me due to the course content.
Upon completion of this degree, I will probably try that course again becuase then I'll be attempting to do my own scaffolding. After learning about the value of different technologies and their impact upon teaching, I plan to move into more of a leadership position, and then I'll be ready to talk with others about purchasing decisions, etc.
Understanding the importance of self-assessment, mentoring, scaffolding and sense of community can positively impact the attrition rate in online courses. When people have a better idea of what their getting into, there is a strong likelihood that they'll make better decisions regarding what works for them. This same effort should be made by people choosing to teach online courses. Self-assessments, mentoring, learning about the important of building community should all be taken into consideration before designing an online course. So often, teachers think they can teach using any method, but I've learned that the online course, while appealing to me due to the use of technology is much more challenging and will require even more planning than my average 8th grade Language Arts class. Wouldn't it be a shame if the online teacher became an LBJ of her own course?

Posted by spea0054 at 1:25 PM

July 22, 2004

I Love Learning

Today, as I was sitting in class after staying up until midnight finishing up FOL chapters 3 and 4 (I got a late start), it dawned on me.... I love school. I always have. I was the kid who hated when June came and couldn't go to sleep the night before school started in September. Although as a teacher, I now look forward to June, I still can't sleep the night before school starts.
I've been back in school for a couple years now, and if the content is engaging and helps me reflect upon and, consequently improve, my teaching, I truly enjoy my classes. Since I've been at the U, I've only had one bad experience and that was a Flash class that was totally over my head. I think if I saw the practicality of the course, I would have had more success, but I tried to do a May intensive course and I just bombed.
But, I don't think I've ever simply "hated" school. Even though Science is my least favorite subject, I remember the joy I had when I learned the entire Periodic table (that knowledge comes in real handy when I'm playing Jeopardy or completing crossword puzzles).
One reason why I think the thought struck me during this class was because I looked around and the others in the class seemed to be taking in the knowledge and enjoying the process as well. There was a lot of nodding and looks of "Ah-ha" going on, and it felt good to be in....yes, I do believe it's true - A COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS!
Even though I'm anxiously hoping to finish my master's degree (for the sense of accomplishment mainly), I think I'll be a life-time student. Hmm, that's a little redundant almost - because any one who lives a lifetime is a student of life. (I'm so philosophical - lol). But I know that I'll always want to learn, and that, I think is partly what will help me grow as a teacher. The day I want to stop learning is the day that I will need to stop teaching. I just hope my students don't cry too much when in the middle of guiding on the side, I take my last breath...

Posted by spea0054 at 2:57 PM

July 20, 2004

Back to (summer) School

Yesterday was my first day back to school. I'm in Distance Learning - Learning Communities. I'm very excited to have the chance to learn more about creating my own online learning community. Although I don't know if I'll be back in a middle school classroom or not, there are many ways that I could use a learning community. Last year, I taught some Community Education courses for adults, and it would be great to offer them a place to ask and answer questions. Also, I could create a distance learning course for those students who want the information but can't afford the travel, time, etc. I'm also looking forward to pursing my certification in aerobics, and it would be great to have a place where my students could ask questions, and share their health and fitness success stories.
Well, I just wanted to put my first entry on my U of M blog. That's all for now.

Posted by spea0054 at 12:19 PM