Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Most Important Factors in Determining Readiness for Online Teaching and Learning

The two most important factors in determining student and teacher readiness for entering the online world of learning are initiative and curiosity.

Students must be willing to take the lead with online learning, asking questions, figuring out assignments and objectives, interacting with classmates online, contacting the teacher, and overall owning their education.  If a student is willing to seek out the answers, ask difficult questions, admit when they need help, and offer assistance to classmates who also may need help, then they are off on the right foot. 

A second factor is curiosity.  Just as a student needs to be willing to start the conversation, sit down and work rather than be distracted, and figure out the requirements, a student needs to be curious.  Curiosity means that you want to learn, want to know the answers, want to look up a topic, idea, or word because you want to know more, not because it is required.  Students entering this environment, more than anywhere else, must be curious about their world, about their classmates, about technology, about collaboration.  Students must understand that they can learn without being told to learn.  They must be curious in order to stay up to date and current, and in order to get the most out of their education.  Initiative and curiosity go hand in hand.

Teachers must be willing to take the lead with online teaching.  An online teacher cannot wait for someone else to teach them all they need to know.  They must take the initiative, take the lead, and start learning on their own, just like their students.  Seeking assistance is essential.  It is foolish to try to do it all alone, but waiting for that assistance rather than starting the process or moving on to another task while waiting, remaining flexible, and being patient, is key.  Initiative goes hand in hand with planning as well.  Planning lessons, getting ideas organized, and taking the lead when it comes to learning along with your students is important.  As an online teacher,  if I do it right, I will constantly be stepping out of my comfort zone, will constantly be learning, and will constantly be researching. 

This leads to curiosity.  What is new and innovative now will not be new and innovative in a few years, or maybe even months, in this ever-evolving world of technology.  Online teachers must be curious.  They must ask questions, join Twitter, start following leaders in the world of online and blended learning, they must collaborate, be willing to put in extra time to create lessons rather than use pre existing ones.  Curiosity, just like initiative, will take online teachers out of their comfort zone.  For me, this will not only make me a better teacher, colleague, student, and mom, but will also allow me to guide my students through the process, understanding what it is like to be in their shoes a bit.