Thursday, February 6, 2014

Teacher Effectiveness in a Virtual Education Environment-Part I

The title of this post begs the question: How can we determine teacher effectiveness in an online environment? In an earlier post I suggested that unless teachers re-define their roles in an online environment, others with different priorities will do it for them. Here is the reasoning why it needs to be done and sooner than later.
Teachers are the products of their training. The training that most teachers have received have prepared them to function in the environment of the physical school and physical classroom. Everything that a teacher can expect to face in that environment they have received training and practice in dealing with. The assessment strategies have been refined and focused on for implementation in this environment. Teachers have become quite comfortable with the training and the accompanying education philosophy behind them.
Now, a new educational environment appears which is in fact quite alien to the teacher. His or her training does not quite synch with this new environment and so the response is to try to modify and integrate the training so that it fits into this new environment. Due to the fact that this is very uncomfortable for the teacher, the education authorities decide to take it slow. This results in the blended learning initiatives which allows the teacher to experiment with this new environment but still the comfortable security of the physical classroom.

Then, along come the students who are digital natives and feel quite at home in this new environment. Students are very perceptive in discerning when someone is uncomfortable in this environment and if it is their teachers there are some students out of good will who are willing to mentor their teachers. There are also others who see this as an opportunity to take advantage of these digital immigrants. I will tell you that we learn more from the students who try to take advantage than the ones who are willing to mentor teachers. What these students are saying is that our "best practices" are becoming anchors around our necks and that of the students. Why? Teachers need to be innovators in this new environment and resting on the "best practices" of the past that applied to the physical school and classroom environment is leading to stagnation when applied to the online environment.
Why are students tempted to cheat in an online environment? They need to know that the teachers are comfortable enough with the online environment to innovate practices in that environment that seamlessly fit with the nature of that environment. They need to know that we have created practices that make cheating a non-starter. They also need to know that the online lessons are not just more of what they had in the physical school. That educators care enough about their education to push the boundaries in the way we design the learning experiences for them. Do we take advantage of the wealth of ideas in the online environment to make lessons that are stimulating, challenging and inspirational?
What ideas of teacher effectiveness relate to the online environment? That is the next part....

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