The blended learning class begins on Tuesday, and we’ve got a lot of work yet to do. One of the challenges was the site itself, D2L. I don’t know it yet. Eventually I will, but for now it means a lot of trial and error. There is technical support (off until sometime next week).
Current issues: I can’t access “alerts”. I can see I have some, but it never opens. I can select it, but the timer goes on indefinitely. Same with checking messages.
Second challenge – new students have just been added to the course and do not have login access yet. Tried to get this done Friday, i.e. within minutes of finding out that three new students had been registered. This was when I found out that tech support was off until next week. This means we cannot use the D2L platform until these learners are registered.
Time is always a factor. There is so much information out there, but I don’t have the hours in the day to go through everything prior to the class beginning.
That said, the course is beginning to take shape. We have a basic first week outline and a backup webpage already loaded with information, articles, and tasks for the students. I am going to keep the website open as a mirror of D2L, in case there are issues with access. The course is only 5 weeks, with an outcome exam in the last week. Students will only be in the classroom 10 times, in the mornings only.
Pay close attention to this (I’m talking to myself). I think that the following will occur:
- between my colleague and I, we will have a tonne more information that we can realistically deliver
- we will find that using the D2L platform will gradually get easier each time
- some learners may not realize the workload and will complain that we expect too much
- some learners will not be prepared prior to the classroom time (i.e. they may not have viewed the required videos, read the articles, or completed the assigned tasks)
- some learners will be quite advanced and may actually finish much more quickly than their peers, meaning that they might be bored with the progress the class is making if the pace is slower than they anticipated
- learners may not be able to manipulate the internet, use search engines, use basic word programs as readily as others, requiring much more one-on-one time than others, possibly requiring time after class
On the plus side, I do honestly believe that we will be able to produce a good working model of how to incorporate blended learning in the ESL classroom for adult learners.
My Tech Background
I figure I’d start out by elaborating a little more on what tech skills I have. This won’t take long:
- I was a call centre technical service representative. If your internet went down in Texas, Louisiana, or New Jersey, you called me. I told you to unplug your modem and count to 30. I also asked you to disconnect your router. Then nine times out of ten, your internet connectivity issues were solved. When you asked me why you had problems when the router was connected, I referred you to the router manufacturers’ websites and wished you a good day.
- I was a call centre representative for a major automobile assistance hotline. When your keys were locked inside your car, or you had a flat, you called me, and then I figured out where you were and arranged for a tow truck. Less technical than the internet position, but I needed to access a number of different programs at the same time with some precision. Lots of toggling between screens and empathetic conversations with anxious Americans.
- I became the go-to person for photocopier jams at my one job, and then at my current one. Here, I help out colleagues with internet issues in the classroom with the media cart, help set up the media cart, trouble shoot compatibility issues (i.e a student has a presentation saved in a new format that our ancient computers can’t handle).
- Also, I was fortunate to have a SmartBoard in my classroom and have taken some workshops on how to effectively use it. I love it. I have been asked to deliver training several times now to colleagues on using it in the ESL classroom. I even presented “Interactive Media in the ESL Classroom” in a classroom that was without a SmartBoard.
- That transpired into two things happening at once: my professional organization asked me to become their communications chair and maintain the website, mail server, etc AND I was asked to develop the Blended Learning program for ESL learners using the D2L platform with a colleague, for which we received a few hours of training .
That’s it – that’s where I am. We have spent our first day going over the syllabus for “Writing in the Real World” (which I think sounds like a reality TV program).
One of the challenges is that the syllabus was not written for a flipped classroom; it was meant for the traditional ESL class, so there is some adaptation to be done. We need to decide what to keep and what to chuck. What are the functional, experiential outcomes of the course? I.e. what do we want the learners to be able to do?
Information overload is also another challenge. As of this moment – we have a bare skeleton plan for day 1 laid out. The goal is to outline the program by the end of the day. Wish me luck.
So I’ve become a techie. That’s what they tell me. I can figure out how to use a SmartBoard in the classroom and I’ve put together a (fairly basic) website for my ESL class (which desperately needs updating). But that’s about it. I always used to think “html” was short for “hot-mail”.
I am now co-developing a Blended Learning course for my school using the D2L format. This blog is to record how it progresses. I normally spend a lot of time exploring how to do things wrong before I serendipitously do something right.
I am flattered that my people have given me the opportunity to explore this awesome resource. I love being able to create something new, especially something that learners will be able to use to develop their communication skills.
Here goes…getting ready to jump into the flipped classroom experiment!