Saturday, March 8, 2014

Online Discussion Board: Synchronous

Blackboard: Love it or leave it. It's our main platform for online learning, in spite of its anachronisms, it's annoying clutziness.

Today I held my last Guiding Behavior class online, in a synchronous Discussion Board. I do this when the weather makes class impossible, for instance. During Snowmageddon, all of us in the Loudoun adjunct group transferred our classes to Blackboard to keep students working on their courses. My students in this course fervently didn't want to come to class the Saturday before Spring Break, and, while I am an old fashioned teacher who thinks to herself, "Since when did my professors ever cancel class because it was before Spring Break?", I compromised. Our students have access to the internet from anywhere. All of them "showed up for class" this morning.

Between 9 and 11 am we had 174 posts. I had required them to use teaching strategies from the Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations for Learning (CSEFEL) website and reflect on how those strategies worked for them in their classroom, or with a child they knew, posting that reflection online. I was so pleased to read the posts and replies, and enjoyed responding as well.

The advantages of using this technique instead of a synchronous webclass using headphones is that students who don't have the appropriate equipment or computer software can participate without buying something or learning a new technology. The downside is that there are A LOT OF WORDS to read!

I began by taking attendance. They were required to sign in at 9 with a thread saying, "I'm here", essentially. After discussion got going I deleted these attendance threads. Many had posted or at least written their reflections ahead of time so that worked well. Very pertinent questions arose from the various discussions about each teaching strategy, with encouraging words offered. This is what I love about early childhood educators: They are so supportive of each other. Suggestions were on-topic and constructive. Some personal triumphs were shared as well.

When the discussion began to wane I introduced a new question based on the Virginia Early Childhood Career Competencies, linking them to the current discussion which seemed to provide energy to the ongoing conversation.

I am generally well-pleased with the result of this strategy. And my students didn't have to drive to campus on what they think of as their first day of Spring Break!

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