Reply – Re: Topic #1: Introduction to the Online Learner
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Re: Topic #1: Introduction to the Online Learner
— by Erin Eckholt Erin Eckholt
     I currently teach at a middle school in Iowa.  I would say that online and blended learning is still a format that most teachers are not comfortable using.  There are some of us teachers that use it when applicable and appropriate, but others are not able or willing to put in the extra time it takes to really develop a solid blended classroom.  As for me about half of planning is spent on a blended classroom.  This has greatly helped me to reach students on a variety of levels and has created a more differentiated space for learning.  
     I teach science and love the aspect of a blended classroom.  I am able to create different spaces and lessons to reach the students who need more scaffolding and reteaching, or push my more advanced students to the next level of understanding.   I love that I am able to spend more time in class on labs, as the students have time outside of the walls of our classroom to explore and learn more about the science behind what we are doing.  
    Blended and online learning definitely pose some challenges.  One of them being the access to internet outside of class time.  Our city does have city wide wi-fi that is free, although it is not accessible to those that live in other areas, like Carter Lake.  Although we are a district that is one to one, some students have lost privileges for poor choices which will limit their internet access to gmail and Google apps only.  
   One theme that was repeated over and over again was the fact that technology is an integral part of learning in our present and future. That we need to find ways to utilize it effectively, not just for word processing.  The fact that there are so many free web tools available to teachers like SoftChalk, is one indicators of the importance technology has in our classroom.  Another part I related to in the class was the importance of teaching our students how to be digital citizens and proper netiquette.  This is extremely important for their safety, but also for the success of future online interactions.  I believe that this is also one of the reasons why many teachers shy away from online or blended learning.  Many adults do not understand digital citizenship or how to teach their students how to have proper online interactions, instead many just block all access and try to control what their students do.  
   Blended learning is wonderful tool that can be used to enhance our teaching.  It gives teachers the unique ability to differentiate, and reach all learners in way that works for both teacher and student.