The big and important question for this module has been, “Are You Ready to Change the Way You Teach?”. My immediate response to this has been, and will continue to be a loud “Heck Yes!”. While I am open for change, I know some of my colleagues might not be on be on the “same boat” as me, and I understand their reasons for wanting to stay within their comfort zone. So, before anyone starts making assumptions as to why I am open to change, I believe it is important for me to state my reasons.
To begin, I have currently been teaching for four consecutively years and love it! I mean, I could not see myself doing anything else. At one point, I was a dishwasher (2 years), cook, (3 years) an operations operator for a bank (4 years), tutor (2 years), and a cashier & warehouse employee (a couple of months). Those jobs were just considered jobs to get me through school, as I called them. I did not get my first-hand experience at teaching until I started started my Master’s degree at Illinois State University, in which I got hired as a teaching assistant. Prior to this, I had NEVER taken any education courses, had never stepped foot into a classroom as an authority figure, or had even thought anyone with a lesson plan. I mean, I honestly did not even know what a lesson plan was! So, you can basically imagine me in my first semester of teaching as a guy from “fat camp” being thrown into a war zone with no training in weapons; I would learn how to use those weapons as the fighting would occur right in front of me. I am actually never going to forget the words of encouragement my supervisor would tell me, “You just have to survive you’re first semester”. I did. Not only did I get so overwhelmed with balancing my teaching priorities and graduate studies, but also got very fascinated by the way teaching worked. I got so emotionally involved in teaching, and became so hooked that I decided to make Pedagogy my second concentration at the Master’s level. Teaching has followed me all through my graduate studies, that even now at the Ph.D. level my second concentration is Second Language Acquisition (SLA).
All in all, ever since I started teaching in 2010, I feel that I am always changing the way I teach and always have an open mind to trying new ideas. I do this, because I am always looking out for the best way to teach something. Throughout the process I have learned that repetition is the fastest way to staying behind the best pedagogical practices. For example, every month or so, there are always new research articles coming out in top tier scholarly journals about new studies and their findings that provide suggestions that can be implemented into teaching. I feel that as a teacher, it is mandatory for me to stay on top of the latest teaching craze. If anything, I do not want to be one of those professors we have all seen (or had at one point) that is printing out copies from books that are 30 years old, or teachers that base their knowledge in research, around the time their were in graduate school themselves, that is not relevant anymore.
As far as answering the questions that we have to reflect on, there is much to write about too! To begin, the reason I do what I do, either in class as an instructor, or as a student taking a course, usually boils down to three reasons. One, I do what I do because it works. It completes the objective for the day without any hassle. Two, I am afraid to leave my comfort zone and are not too sure how going about it a different would work out. I know first-hand, trying something new takes preparation. Lastly, I simply do what I do, because I do not know any better and wait for someone to tell me otherwise. That is, if I get caught doing it “wrong”.
The next question, is about what I have learned that I did not know before. I have learned a lot, not just through the readings, but also just being placed as a student on this course. For example, I did not know that such a high level of interaction could be kept up through student-teacher interaction in an online course. Even though the interaction is mostly feedback, the teacher makes me feel that she cares about the students, expects the best from her students, and makes me feel like a human being on this end of the computer screen, not just a number on the roster. Another thing that I have learned, is how to use Diigo, which basically works as a digital highlighter on your computer screen, where you can highlight or add sticky notes for other group members, or yourself, to see. I also learned that modules work great in online education due to its chunking, or division, of the material for the course. After observing the online courses in Module 3, I have learned that “Ice Breakers” serve as a great common way for the learners to get acquainted with one another. I have learned that an online course actually needs the same amount of hours devoted to it as a face to face course (f2f), if not more due to trying to understand how to work the technology (modules, programs, posts, and etc.). I have learned that each module should have a “Help” section that students can access at anytime to ask questions that colleagues or the instructor could answer; similar to raising a hand to ask a question in class. In addition, I have been learning that each course should have a “Coffee Break” of some sort, where students can go and discuss anything related, or possibly not related, to the course. I have learned that activities need to be engaging and interactive in such a way, that they can also be assessed. Becoming students in this course has served me well. It allows me to see first-hand what it feels like to take a course online, before I go on designing one. Therefore, everything I have learned I will definitely keep in mind when designing my course shell.
For my online course, I definitely want the Discussions to be oral and in the target language,something similar to Voice Threads. I also plan to upload files with my voice in which I read vocabulary from each chapter in the textbook. Students would then have to repeat and record their own pronunciation, uploading the recordings as a file at the end of each module.