Teaching in the Cyber World

Ashley Dawkins's picture

What was my role?

This year was my first year teaching in the virtual setting
as a math specialist. In this role I remediate seventh graders who are not
where they “need” to be mathematically for their grade level. I see each
student twice a week for about 45 minutes. 
I have had several barriers throughout the year due to the students’ own
barriers. It definitely has been very different for me working in this world. I
will give you a glimpse of it.

Most of my day is spent on the phone trying to get students
to come to my “required” class. Since they do not go to a physical building every
day, it is their responsibility to come and go to their classes on their own.
Many of the students have barriers that make it difficult to make to class. They
may have to babysit their siblings, have jobs, sickness, or unstable homes
without proper support.  I also try my
best to make sure all the students in class are paying attention at all times,
but I really do not know what they are doing on the other side of the
computer. 

Like I mentioned previously, I see my students twice a week
for about 45 minutes at a time. After the first session of the week they are
given a pre test to assess their prior knowledge and what they learned during
the first session. And then after our seconds session they take the test again
to measure further growth. I always tell my students that their goal is to do
better than they did the first time. 
Really and truly they are aiming for an 80% or higher. We work on a
mastery system and 80% and up is considered mastery. I remediate them further if
they do not reach mastery and let them take the test a third time. So TEST TEST
TEST!

So what did I do with my students?

It did take quite some time to get used to the teaching in
my virtual classroom. I am still learning. I also was required teach my lessons
with certain elements. They were called the “Essential Elements”, which
included:

  1. Focus: State Standard, student objective, and
    essential question
  2. Activation: Hook and link to prior knowledge
  3. Mini Lesson: 15-20 min
  4. Guided Learning
  5. Extension
  6. Assessment

I used video clips, photos, interesting questions, music and
what were considered research based lessons from www.compasslearningodyssey.com
on top of my power point slides. I cannot say for sure that my students were
discovering the material the way that I would really want them too. Most of
what we did was considered review to what they have done in the past or in
their regular math classes. The students work at their own pace, so the
students who were not completing their work and were behind because of it, were
difficult to handle. Even though I knew I was supposed be reviewing with them I
tried to assume that none of them knew anything when I was preparing my
lessons.

I would not say that I was successful in creating an inquiry
based environment, but I would say I was successful at creating an interesting environment
built on relationships. I spent every class period finding out more about each
student. Whether it was what they were doing for weekend, what their favorite
color was, where they hoped to go in the future, if they have siblings and so
on. My goal was to create a welcoming and interesting environment to keep the
kids coming to class.

What would I change?

I would be more deliberate about having my goal be about
discovery and figuring out when it would fit best in my lessons. I think I am
heading in the right track and established important classroom norms.  I still need to figure out a way that more
students will ask questions and I think the only way that will happen is
promote discovery/inquiry more.  And
figure out better what that looks like in a virtual setting.

Videos:

Teach Me How To Factor(for high school- I didn’t use this
one): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFSrINhfNsQ&feature=related

Integer Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BswlX1dXL_s&feature=related

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