So You Want to Be (or already are) an Online Educator?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by catnfiddle, Jul 13, 2014.

  1. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Jul 13, 2014

    Let's make this THE thread for those who are interested in or already are teaching at virtual or blended learning schools. We can share interview tips, best practices, and frustrations here.

    I've been teaching at an online K-12 school since August of 2008 and love it at least 95% of the time. I've also been an online graduate student since January of 2013 and love it about 80% of the time. Having the experience from both sides has made a difference in my expectations of both my teaching and my learning.

    How about you?
     
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  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Jul 13, 2014

    So You Want to Be/Are an Online Educator? Part Deux

    Let's make this THE thread for those who are interested in or already are teaching at virtual or blended learning schools. We can share interview tips, best practices, and frustrations here.

    I've been teaching at an online K-12 school since August of 2008 and love it at least 95% of the time. I've also been an online graduate student since January of 2013 and love it about 80% of the time. Having the experience from both sides has made a difference in my expectations of both my teaching and my learning.

    How about you?
     
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  4. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Jul 13, 2014

    Since this type of question pops up from time to time, I thought it might be a good idea to make it a sticky so it's easy to find.
     
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  5. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Jul 13, 2014

    Thanks!

    For starters, here are a couple of older posts I've written about teaching online:

    http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=109754
    http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=127596

    Also, some people have asked me about online schools in their states. The best resource for that information is here. Note that not every state has online learning below the college level. Do some research to see what the requirements are for teaching at each individual school. Most require their applicants to be Highly Qualified, which means a valid state license is a must. These schools tend to be scrutinized by the government and the media, so they have to be meticulous in their hiring process.

    Any other questions? Who is new to the experience in the fall?
     
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  6. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Jul 14, 2014

    Thanks for this and the links to prior posts! I have a 2nd interview at an online school tomorrow for HS English. I am a little nervous because I am not sure what questions to ask--I am VERY curious about the work day, but whenever I think of how I am going to phrase them, it sounds like I am asking about how heavy my workload will be, which is NOT the impression I want to give! :haha:

    I settled on "Tell me what a typical day will be like"....but even that doesn't really feel *right*.
     
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  7. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jul 15, 2014

    Great idea for a thread - and a stuck one! I have experienced online learning, but not 'teaching'. Almost all of my students are enrolled in online classes and I often communicate with their teachers. So, I have kind of the opposite experience as you have, cat. I have often thought about being on the other side, though.
     
  8. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Jul 15, 2014

    Good questions:

    What is your curriculum? Is it designed by the teachers or pre-packaged?

    What is the ratio of synchronous to asynchronous teaching? In other words, how much is live teaching and how much is email and telephone tag? This may vary depending on grade and program (I teach a lot more synchronously with freshmen now than I did teaching seniors).

    What is the teacher mentor program for new teachers? This is equally valid for veteran teachers and those who need to go through the Resident Educator Program.
     
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  9. Sunflowers

    Sunflowers Rookie

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    Jul 15, 2014

    Perfect timing!

    I'm interviewing for a k12 high school math position on Friday. I'm so excited to interview, but part of that is a 10 minute mini lesson via PowerPoint. I don't know if I'm going to have any participation from the interview panel or if it's just to demonstrate how I explain concepts. I don't even know where to begin! They only gave me a few days notice (on purpose I'm sure) so I'm just at a loss. The interview email specifically says PowerPoint and a microphone only, no other technology or platforms. Any help on how to plan such a mini lesson would be so appreciated!

    Also, I am wondering how online teaching works with those of you who have children. I have a one year old at home and I'm not sure what to do in terms of childcare. She's a very quiet, independent kid and is very content to play alone, so I'm not sure if I would need a part time nanny or what.

    Looking forward to hearing from other online educators!
     
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  10. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Teaching with a PowerPoint and microphone isn't too bad. The trick is to avoid putting EVERYTHING in the slides. Save the majority of your words for your notes, saving the slides for images that illustrate your standard(s) and for major points the students should note. Most likely, you'll have "students". Check them for understanding by giving them a quick formative assessment, even if it's having them solve an example as a team.

    I also suggest you begin and end your presentation with a Know Understand Do list. For example, "By the end of the lesson, you will know the meaning of FOIL, you will understand why it is important to use this order to correctly solve an equation, and you will be able to use it to solve an example as your exit ticket."
     
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  11. teacherguy111

    teacherguy111 Cohort

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    Jul 19, 2014

    I have thought about this before.... My school does online virtual days instead of snow days. I have found these to be pretty stressful, with kids logging in and not really doing anything. Or not logging in and saying they had computer issues etc. I am guessing that maybe this would not happen as much with kids that are doing it full time.

    I have watched some videos from online schools. They seem to stress that it is nice to not have to be pushing kids along to get to class etc, telling them to stop talking while I'm talking and all that. What has been your experience with classroom management? Is it a plus or a minus?
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    What platform are you using? Depending on which online teaching program you use (I personally prefer Blackboard Collaborate but have used others), you can monitor student chat and withhold privileges from those who are off-task. Heck, you can take away ALL privileges when you have something important to say, but don't do so for too long. Interaction is key to engagement.

    Speaking of engagement, getting students to log in can be the toughest part. My suggestion, if the school allows it, is to give five points for initial engagement (getting on the computer) and five extra credit points for active participation, which can be measured by an exit ticket. If the student doesn't complete the exit ticket, no extra points.
     
  13. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Jul 31, 2014

    Well, I got the job! I will be doing HS Literature. I am really nervous because I am not getting a lot of details. I start Monday but I don't know my full in-service or orientation schedule yet, which is frustrating because I have to arrange for childcare until my kids' school starts.

    I don't even know if I have a curriculum--I asked at the interview and they said it was prepared but when I spoke with my supervisor and asked if I could get any texts, resources, etc, she was like "......". We'll see..... I know there will be growing pains into a new job (and I keep reminding myself how UNHAPPY I was at my previous school) but the not knowing is scary....
     
  14. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Congratulations! It's very likely the curriculum IS already laid out for you. The shift to Common Core in most states will make the lessons new to almost everyone, so you'll be on similar footing with the majority of the faculty. The programs you'll use will become second nature.

    Have fun!
     
  15. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Thanks! That truly made me feel a lot better!:love:
     
  16. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Aug 4, 2014

    Borrowing from the thread about the first few days of school, I wanted to give the new online teachers a gentle warning that it will be vastly different for schools like ours!

    The first few days of school are mostly insane because of the transient nature of our students. My class size tends to shrink and swell on an hourly basis, but this settles down after a week or two. Don't panic if you see your own numbers change.

    The students are also getting hit with a lot of changes to the style of curriculum as well as a new virtual classroom platform. The switch from state standards to the more rigorous Common Core will be fun enough, but my school recently made the switch from WebEx to Collaborate. I've used the latter and prefer it for teaching, but change is rough for everyone.

    My thinking is that I'm going to make several recordings of myself (making sure to use my web camera so the students have a face in mind when I call) introducing myself and my classroom policies. This includes things such as:
    • DO… call with any questions
    • DON’T… hang up if you get my voice mail
    • DO… read all of the directions
    • DON’T… create your interpretation of the assignment
    • DO… check your email at least twice a day
    • DON’T… ignore your school computer for weeks at a time

    There are silly explanations for these and more, such as, "You will make yourself miserable when you suddenly have to complete 15 assignments in a week. I probably won’t be happy while grading, either." At the very least, I recommend having the basics for our version of behavior management easily available. That way, if they do something that you've warned them against, you can point out that you've gently suggested that's a BAD IDEA.
     
  17. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Aug 6, 2014

    Catnfiddle, are your students self-paced or do they have to follow your lessons? Our students can start anywhere in the curriculum as long as they get it all done by the due dates. So I might have 5 kids reading "To Kill A Mockingbird", 2 reading "Outsiders", and 1 reading "Animal Farm", is yours similar or is everyone doing the same thing at the same time?
     
  18. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Aug 6, 2014

    Sort of?

    Students are highly encouraged to stick with me so they don't fall behind and don't get overwhelmed. I'll probably only open one week ahead of the unit I'm teaching at that time. Students who really want to work ahead tend to ask me what the next major reading assignment will be so they can find it online or at the library.

    That being said, my lessons are designed to be asynchronous and at the individual student's pace. I record all of my live teaching sessions so students can go back and review or catch them for the first time. By the time I'm writing my first set of interim report cards, I'll have students all over the place in terms of their progress and completion.
     
  19. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    I understand. My units are all "open" so the kids will all be working on different things. Then we meet 1X a week for a general skills lesson and 1X a week for a specific lesson/discussion on what they are actually reading. At least, I *think* that is how it works; I'll find out more at my orientation next week.

    It seemed pretty mapped out but I have the freedom to create my own general lessons. I am nto sure if it is better to start with a review of elements of lit or do some background knowledge of the time periods of my novel, etc.
     
  20. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    In my experience, TKAM and Animal Farm DEFINITELY need introduction for the time period. My kids really struggled with Animal Farm when I taught it.
     
  21. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Thanks! I was just using those as examples. I haven't been told yet what I will be teaching. But I agree....and both have such rich historical backgrounds I would WANT to do it anyway! :woot:
     
  22. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I loved teaching the background for TKAM. We talked a lot about Emmett Till and the Scottsboro boys. Very interesting!
     
  23. Toast

    Toast Companion

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    Aug 12, 2014

    My biggest question is the possibility to work from home as an online teacher. I live in California, but am only currently credentialed in Arizona.

    Any knowledge on being able to teach remotely?
     
  24. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    I am teaching remotely, but I am required to go onsite for in-service and PD. Luckily, that is only about an hour drive for me. I know a lot of colleagues who work across the state from our main office (6-8 hours) and the school makes hotel arrangements for in-service days.
     
  25. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Aug 12, 2014

    There are companies out there who hire online SLPs, so I'd love to do that in the future.

    Regarding my own schooling, I'm in an online grad program right now & love it. Before that, I took part in an online SLPA program & before that, I took some undergrad courses online. The schools I took all of these from are all B&M (brick & mortar) state universities.
     
  26. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Aug 14, 2014

    CatnFiddle--do you feel like the grading is more of your time than the actual teaching? Because my classes are a blend of synchronous and async, I am worried about just being a grading machine and not experiencing teaching as I know it.
     
  27. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Aug 16, 2014

    Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I was taking the week before Convocation to go camping.

    In a way, grading IS actual teaching in an asynchronous environment. I give very detailed feedback to all assignments and, starting this year, will include videos of reteaching when needed. Yep, I will put myself on camera explaining the material and leave it in the student's dropbox. Think of yourself as a teacher in a flipped classroom. Much of your live instruction is going to be reviewing what the students have already read, checking for understanding, and correcting their slight mistakes.
     
  28. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Thanks. Thinking of it as a flipped classroom opens up a lot of ideas :)

     
  29. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Aug 26, 2014

    Wow, what a week, and it's only Tuesday! My class roster was all the way up to 241 students but has ebbed back down to 220, and most likely will to continue to drop. Because I'm in a year-long course and most of my school is on block scheduling, I won't get many late transfers.

    Technology is our friend in the virtual classroom, but I am fighting mine to a certain extent. My school switched from WebEx as our live classroom platform back to Blackboard Collaborate. I haven't used Elluminate in years, so I'm pulling a lot of information from the back of my brain to the front. In addition, I'm supposed to implement Study Island in my class starting next week. I've never used it and haven't really had training on it. Thankfully, the school has mentors who help even the vets like me.

    The kids are amazing. So far, only one student has broken a major rule (no exchanging phone numbers or emails address) in my class. That gets his chat suspended for a day on a first offense. Hopefully, that will be the end of that.

    How is everyone else doing?
     
  30. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Aug 26, 2014

    We haven't officially started yet--Meet the Teacher this week and so far I have 8 of 80 kids show up to check in. From what I hear that is pretty standard for HS.
    I have 165 students so far--yipes! A lot of the mini-quizzes are auto-graded and then the data is pulled and sent to me so that should help with grading.

    We use Collaborate and Elluminate too---Plan seems a little confusing!
     
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  31. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I am still remembering how to work Plan. When I do, I will post the instructions here.
     
  32. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    ACK! Here's an occasional gadfly in online teaching; my classroom site has crashed. Every classroom has crashed. It's like we're all stuck in the hallway because some prankster put glue in the doorknobs so we can't use our keys. It usually happens in the first couple of days, so I'm impressed that it took two weeks for the first system failure.
     
  33. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    We had some crashes this week with Collaborate too. Nothing that affected me but a lot of kids had problems.
     
  34. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    We've started creating a new Collaborate link each day. It's what seems to keep it from crashing. My only major annoyance with Collaborate is that I cannot find a way to get transcripts of the chat when we aren't recording. Had some questionable student conversation I'd like to investigate. I could do that with my old live teaching platform.
     
  35. raneydae

    raneydae Companion

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    Sep 8, 2014

    Hi - I hardly ever visit these forums anymore (A LOT has changed since 2008 in my newbie teacher days when I first found this place and it was a god-send! :)), but catnfiddle - you're awesome. It's nice to see you as the resident virtual teacher expert on these boards.

    I too teach at a K12 school and occasionally receive PMs for people asking about my experiences which brings me back to this site. I used to teach CAVA (California Virtual Academy) for 5 years, but this year just switched to the K12 International Academy, which is the private school that uses K12 curriculum. So being on my second K12 school, I can tell you that there's even quite a few differences between these two schools.

    I can't promise that I'll be super active on this thread, but I'll try to pop in now and then to answer questions, give advice, and share my experiences as well. :)
     
  36. raneydae

    raneydae Companion

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    Hi Sunflowers, I don't know if you ended up getting the job or not, but I will answer this question anyway for others who might be curious.

    As far as kids at home and teaching online - it can be done, depending on your position and requirements, but it can also be difficult. It really just depends. However, since I'd say that the majority of CAVA are mothers with young kids at home, know that the home/work balance is something that you won't be alone on!

    When I first started working at CAVA, things were a little more flexible and many teachers worked with their kids at home. But over the years, as the requirements changed, I feel like more and more teachers needed to have at the very least some part time childcare help. K-8th teacher have to go out and meet with families in person quarterly, so you'd definitely need childcare for that, but I'm not sure if HS teachers had to meet in person? You will need to have something planned for when you're teaching live classes though. You may be able to arrange things during naptime, but you might be assigned to teach in a different time slot.

    When my now 3yo was born, I hired a girl to help at home with me for a few hours each day, BUT I was teaching live classes 4 hours day and could not have juggled both a baby and teaching. The next school year my husband was working from home at the time and so he'd have our daughter in the mornings and I'd have her in afternoons and let him work.

    The requirements are a bit different here at K12 Int'l Academy, and my daughter has now started a T/Th preschool so I'm able to manage by working around naptimes or after bedtime, or independent play time (oh and we now have a 4 mo. old boy added to the mix as well :) ) and don't need additional childcare.

    So yeah, you may end up needing a part time nanny. It really just depends on the duties of your specific job and school. I wish I could help more. :(
     
  37. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Cat, can you set your options to auto-record? We record every session, even our office hours! What a pain to have to send out a new link for each session.

    I am frustrated with anything that is an "extra" in Collaborate. My Plan files load fine and the kids can see/use the whiteboard, but any time I want to show a video clip, do a file transfer, or do an app share, it crashes. Very frustrating because those are the things that keep class engaging.
     
  38. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I cannot auto-record because I share my Collaborate links with three other teachers (we teach in a team and rotate in and out). I only record my office hours or help sessions if there's something I realize everyone should see.

    Still not back on Plan yet. It's HARD trying to remember how to use a platform I haven't worked with in years, and I had only just figured out Plan for a few months. There was a system for turning the recordings into mp4 or mp3, but I cannot remember. That's something to ask my mentor.
     
  39. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    It is so good to see you have returned! K12 is some wonderful material, so you must be having a great time. My school's software, with the exception of Collaborate, is home-grown. My guess is they will start franchising out to other states within the next five years, but I'm not part of that process.
     
  40. Elocin

    Elocin Comrade

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    Sep 15, 2014

    Anyone have any good resources for online lessons? I am adapting things I used in my B&M classroom but I wondered if there was any sort of blog or website that is focused towards online teaching.
    Thanks!
     
  41. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Are you talking about creating full-blown content or material for live sessions?
     

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