Hello! Sitting on My Hands - Amy's Newbie Experiences

Hi Everybody! Thank you so much for letting me into your classroom. I feel special! My name is Amy Brown and I am an adjunct teacher at Lewis and Clark Community College, where I teach Speech Courses (public speaking & public and private communication) alongside your OLO teacher, the awesome Ms. Tracey Smith smile. I have been teaching face-to-face speech courses for the last eight years and absolutely thrive on that in-person learning connection (uhmm, I am the communications teacher, lol…students call me one of the most enthusiastic/passionate teachers they have ever met) so when I started this online teaching transition (I completed this very OLO course) I was very nervous and even a bit skeptical (thinking - yeah right, I am going to be so boring online…how will they learn without the Amy f2f passion and facial expressions, voice tone, hand gestures, posture, etc.). Essentially, I worried that in an online classroom I wouldn't be that same super award-winning teacher and the learning would suffer, and the whole situation would be a big old mess with my name attached to it (you remember that Amy Brown at LC?), lol. In other words, I was going to ruin the learning experience and my students would blame me forever for not being able to speak clearly and confidently at work, in a classroom/group situation, at a wedding when toast time came, or when accepting that Grammy/Tony/Oscar/Emmy, etc. The good news - I WAS dead WRONG approve! Online learning/teaching IS for me!

To date I have been teaching online for six semesters. I still call myself a newbie! In the Fall of 2008, I was given a WebCT shell/a course copy from a fellow fabulous speech teacher and then the magic happened……I worked with other online teachers and did private sessions with Ms. Mary Lou Watson, the Director of Technology Enhanced Learning to make my course more – me, Amy smile. Note that I didn't reinvent the wheel since this was my first-time out of the gate, but I did give it a good interpersonal tweaking via my kind of wording (more conversational style), discussion questions/examples, pictures of myself/clip art, colors/fonts, etc. I know this doesn't sound like a lot, but I worked hard to make the course more "interpersonally" me. During this time of making the course "more Amy" – I constantly clicked all website content (hmmm – this link looks interesting..must click!) and then goofed up the things I finally figured out two days prior, lol. I also spent lots of time learning how to upload and save outside documents, importing students into my course so they can see themselves (duh!), making an easy to follow course calendar and grade book, and setting the release times of quizzes (I still fight with these things since we just went to Blackboard 9…no more WebCT .....I only had a mild heartattack learning both programs within that short time frame - lol). The key for me….to take super detailed notes from my online gurus while they are showing me how to do something (it always made sense until I was at home alone – lol). Now, I have an arsenal of notes that make me seem very savvy…these notes include the easy to read Blackboard "how to" links/documents within our Blackboard page (Thanks Mary Lou!).

So – that's it – a few semesters ago I taught one section of Public and Private Communication online for the first time ever and loved it, and I didn't ruin any students in the process (well, the end of course evaluation said they learned tons and enjoyed it, lol). Info about it - Public and Private Communications is a combo course of public speaking and interpersonal communication rolled into one. Students are required to visit the LC campus three times to deliver their required speeches – informative, persuasive, and tribute. These visits are mandatory and are stated on the course home page and throughout the unit pages (you miss one visit for any reason – you fail the course). This online course is considered a hybrid (web-blended) because of the on campus visits.

For me the biggest challenge has been letting the learning erupt naturally and not bossing my students into the "right" answer, lol. I have learned to login, sit back, and watch. In real-life, I can be a terrible interrupter and super talker (working on this and am getting much better thoughtful and well, I found myself doing the same things online (at least F2F I can interrupt nonverbally with a forward lean/hand gesture/eyes gaze and hold my verbal tongue, but not online). Now - I basically "sit on my hands" (thanks Tracey for the phrase, however, I prefer to call it handcuffing me to the desk) and give my students the time they need to soak in/understand what has been posted. I have learned to let them comment and to move their own communication/learning instead of Bossy Teacher Lady Amy doing it for them (yes, even if it goes in the wrong direction for a few posts). I have now come to truly appreciate and love seeing this permanent written record of the learning and how it shifts over days…..minus 75 posts from Amy smile.

I know that many online teachers talk about the workload being unbearable, but I find that if you grade things as they come in, post students grades/homework scores on a weekly basis, debrief each unit as it ends by revisiting what happened in the threads, and outline clear login rules and contact info at the very start then the workload is fine. Honestly, I think the key to a super online class is in the upfront planning and making the lecture and course guidelines clear and easy to find/follow, and then following those via good communication skills when the course goes live. In fact, to make sure all systems worked and made sense before the course opened – I gave it many dress "click" rehearsals. I let non-online and online folks play around in it for a few days with my supervision.

Now – I hope that my newbie discussion gives you a sense of my online teaching experiences and encourages your head to have a few "never thought of that/good idea/hmmm/why did she do that?" big grin. At this point I would like to hear from you. Let's express those online teaching and learning strengths, weaknesses, excitements, and/or worries. Like Nike says – Just type it - lol! I want all of us to start those online courses with heads held high or hands confidently placed on the keyboard. I will discuss with you what I can and if I don't know the answer, no worries, somebody will wink in our online family.

Thank you again for this awesome opportunity. Happy Onlining –

Amy Brown

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