I know I was supposed to post Part 2 of my thoughts on that BuzzFeed quiz. I had it half written, but I didn’t like the tone/content as it was. I’m working on it. There are some thoughts in it that I want to share, but it needs tweaking. In the meantime, this post is almost a direct copy-paste from an assignment I had to write for the training class I am currently taking to teach online courses at my job. It’s a first draft and I didn’t try to go back and reword or reorganize anything. Just me, letting my thoughts out.
I feel a little like a hypocrite teaching this online calculus class this summer. Teaching online feels like—mercenary work? I don’t know how to describe it, I can’t find the right metaphor. Teaching online feels like something I shouldn’t do as a teacher, but it is necessary if I am to make money and still be able to fulfill my other responsibilites. I am very engaged with the #mtbos community on Twitter. That is, the “math-twitter-blog-o-sphere” which has quite a few professional math and science educators who are always discussing pedagogy, classroom design, management, and even social justice issues. One of the big things that I–and many other math teachers–have an issue with is Khan Academy. It isn’t the company itself or the videos–KA helped me pass Differential Equations as an undergraduate–but that KA is being held up as “the future/savior of education” by the media, Bill Gates, and others when really the site has some serious pedagogical flaws in its underpinnings and philosophy. Gamification of learning, presentation method of knowledge, etc. But here I am, linking to KA videos as I get ready to teach this online calculus course this summer.
This is partly out of necessity. My supervisor wants to use the KA videos, and I was given the class so close to the beginning of the semester, I don’t really have time to make my own lecture videos. But even if I do (and I plan to for the Applied Calculus I course I will be designing for the training class and implementing in the Fall) I feel as though I am comprising my integrity as a mathematics eductor if I simply give students links to videos and reading assignments. I can’t just say “Here, read this, watch that, answer these questions, quiz next week.” There is more to math than that. There is more to math teaching than that. I have a few ideas of my own–I annotate the reading with questions and I link to Desmos (a free online graphing calculator software) with small activities to help students work through concepts. But I feel there is still an aspect missing. How do I create a problem based task for students in an online class? I reached out today on Twitter to the #mtbos today and asked for advice/help/resources. A principal of an online high school in Tennessee responded and emailed me some examples and ideas. (By the way, that interaction reinforced for me the importance/value of being an eductor on twitter.) I will be using what he sent me as well.
I enjoy teaching a lot. I view my profession as a craft and I take pride in being good at it and getting better at it. One part I enjoy is the interaction with the students. This enjoyment stems from my gregarious personality and maybe a little narcissm. I like to entertain the students as well as teach them. It feels to me that this aspect of teaching that I enjoy so much will be lost in an online format. I can record my own videos and that does transmit some of my personality and style, but it feels more canned. I like to interact to what the students say and get a sense for how they are feeling. It may be that teaching online is just a different type of enjoyable and I need to find the positives about it. I am looking forward to trying.