How Online Education Transformed my Teaching and Leadership

November 29, 2018

How Online Education Transformed my Teaching and Leadership
Once a upon a time, there was a middle school teacher who was petrified of an elephant that lived in her classroom. Every day, it taunted her, spiking her blood pressure; she was convinced that one day, it would get the best of her and cost her her career.

That elephant was technology. Each day, the teacher worried her principal would come in and angrily observe her dated instructional methods, wondering why this young teacher was deliberately ignoring innovations in technology. She feared the day she would receive the ultimatum: Get with the 21st century, or get out. 

That teacher was me. It was 2011, and I was still content with just using the dry erase board and the Basal, a curriculum guide full of fictional and non-fictional literature with pre-made questions and assignments. I thought technology was overrated and a distraction for students. Back then, I felt it should only be used for special occasions like evaluations. My viewpoint changed when I was awakened, not by a prince, but by online education. 

RELATED: I Was a Skeptic of Online Learning—Until I Got My Master's Degree Online

I wanted my second master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and I needed a program that could fit into my super busy schedule and that wasn't a financial drain. I took the plunge with American College of Education, hoping I would survive. And I did.

I was forced to face the proverbial elephant head-on.

All my assignments were online. My classmates, discussions, library, tutoring, surveys, payments, schedules, questions, comments, and concerns—all online. I became an expert with digital tools, converting documents, trimming and adding enhancement to my videos. By the end of my first course, I was able to transform my thinking, and subsequently, my teaching and leadership.

The first thing I implemented with fidelity was an online classroom management system through Classdojo.com. This is a point system where students earn or lose points based on behavioral choices. Parents are able to view why points were earned or lost, monitor class projects, and post comments. This tool can be shared with the entire school so students are accountable throughout the school day and have a unified management system. 

RELATED: Boost Student Accountability With These Goal-Setting and Student Conferencing Tips

My document camera is also a staple in my classroom. I use it to brainstorm, and to show how to edit assignments and annotate texts. It's also used to display and analyze exemplary work. I have my students use it each semester to teach their own 10-minute lessons on on a previous subject.  

Google

Another routine in my classroom? Google Classroom. I use it to create assignments and tests. Students get reminders and can have discussions with me and other classmates about assignments. It's also easy to send parents these online assessments to track their child’s progress. 

Google products have proved to be a godsend, in general. I've led Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for the past four years on vocabulary and project-based learning, but Google products have allowed me to elevate my PLCs. With Google Drive, I can create folders and work on documents simultaneously. With Google Surveys, I can collect quick reflections and evaluations on the productivity of the PLC. And with Google Slides, I’m able to create workshops for new teachers, which spares them from having to spend extra money on products to download onto their computer. It’s been a win-win for all of us.

RELATED: Why PLCs' Are Teachers' Greatest Resource—And How to Create Your Own

Speaking of assessments, I use another online tool called Kahoot to help me gauge my classroom’s knowledge on a specific English Language Arts skill. Using Kahoot, students complete a timed, multiple choice test. Based on their responses, we can analyze common misconceptions.

Kahoot also shows the top five leaders after each question, bringing out the competitive nature in students. Teachers have access to thousands of assessments and can even create their own. Students love the music, the colorful screen, and the fact that they can use their phone to access tests. Teachers can access this tool by visiting Kahoot.com. I have also used this tool when I facilitate teacher workshops to evaluate understanding. 
 
But the benefits of technology don’t stop at evaluations. Digital tools can also help foster creativity in the classroom. For instance, my students frequently use Publisher to create flyers for school plays I’ve produced, and they have used iMovie to create PSAs on domestic violence and breast cancer awareness.
 
All in all, online education helped me attack the digital elephant. As I became more comfortable with testing new digital tools, I realized my anxieties weren’t about technology about at all, but rather my fear of the unknown. The only regret I have is that I didn’t choose online learning sooner. 
Tags: teacher tips
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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