Reply – Re: Topic #1: Introduction to the Online Learner
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Re: Topic #1: Introduction to the Online Learner
— by John Kvapil John Kvapil
I read this article to best describe our situation and to get a handle on the varying degrees of blended and online learning.

For the most part we have majority classroom courses, followed by some synchronous distributed courses made possible by our 1 to 1 Chromebook program. There is small percentage of TAG students taking online classes.

I teach Coding to 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Muscatine West Middle School, in which students learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript with the goal of creating simple web-based programs and/or Chrome Apps. For the time being students use web based code editors to write and execute code. Students receive their some instruction through Google Classroom. Students each have an FTP site allowing them to execute code and create a portfolio of their work. All students have a Chromebook. Occasionally, I have students use Khan Academy, Code Academy, and to help with differentiation for both code savvy students and students who need a more deliberate pace.

There is a strong desire among many students to learn programming. I have found despite being highly interested students struggled with the free versions of online courses, such as Khan Academy, Code Academy, and One of my roles in teaching coding has been to help them learn how to use the online self paced classes. Syntax, analytics, deconstruction and reconstruction are some the basic skills they learn so that they can become better online learners of programming.

Students with learning disabilities benefit greatly from sites such as in a blended situation. I will have some students begin in and then pull them from it briefly to assess their progress pinpoint their struggles and provide additional resources.

Blended learning would work well for students moving from one school to another or has been absent for a long time. An incoming student can use this approach to catch up to join a classroom.

In a nutshell, online learning offers the most promise to students not on pace with the current classroom due to moving from another district or long-term absence, students with disabilities and students who advance at a quicker pace.

Personally, because I am mostly deaf and learning autonomously by reading all my life to stay on par or ahead prepared me well for online learning. So I wonder about the various ways  people learned without a classroom teacher before there were computers or internet.

There would possibly be resistance or hesitancy by educators in two ways and one is there would be a clash between their own knowledge and information coming from technology. Many teachers or districts operate on the belief they are the primary educator in terms providing the information to students and in essence compete with other methods of information delivery. The reality may be that teachers are just one source among many others. The role of the teacher changes significantly when it involves co-teaching with various technologies.

Another challenge would be due to lack understanding of technology in general. Despite the desire to include blended learning, schools and teachers struggle with fusing traditional teaching styles and methods with information technology and particular on-line classes. The understanding the various roles of online and/or blended learning is no small thing when considering standards, assessments, accountability, and the teachers themselves for successful implementation.

I am intrigued by the possibility of creating an online experience that works for all students. Also, not all students respond to online or blended learning equally so I am interested in how online delivery can respond to the various thresholds from when the student goes from being a classroom dependent learner to an independent learner. I am also interested in the dynamics of the ebb and flow between traditional face to face learning and online learning based on the changing knowledge level.