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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Thornhill

Back to School - Reflection 2 (2.5)

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

So, for the first time in 20 years, I am taking a legit class! This is more from a continuing conversation a friend, who is also a teacher, and I are having about it.

So what's new in TTLO-land?

This week we worked a lot on taking our face-to-face activities, lesson plans, and assessments and transforming them for the online environment. It was a ton of work, but super enlightening as well.

It sounds like you're getting a lot you can take away. What's it like to experience an online class from the students' perspective? Has it affected how you view online language teaching?

It's been a great experience so far, but we had to see how the sausage is made, so to speak, to truly understand. It's a lot of work. We had to take listening, reading, writing, and speaking activities and make them ready for online use. We also had to tweak our ideas on participation. I definitely have a renewed appreciation and respect for the sheer amount of effort it takes to transform a face-to-face language course into a well-planned, well-scaffolded online language course. It's quite a tedious undertaking, frankly.

[Laughs] Don't mince words - tell me how you really feel, Dan.

I always do! All kidding aside, I knew how much work it would entail. It's well-known that effective online teaching requires intense planning, much foresight, and much insight. I've had these beliefs further validated now that I've had more first-hand experience in this area.

What's something that you learned about that you're going to use right away?

So, TTLO has successfully established social presence, the idea that we are all humans taking this class, not faceless, emotionless avatars. There is a sense of community here (which I didn't really expect). I know more about the teachers and fellow students than I thought I would. One thing our professors did to foster this was to heavily use video. They would upload video announcements and video feedback, which was a great idea. We also responded to each other's ideas with audio and video quite a bit. We got to see and hear one another - that was invaluable.

This stands in contrast with other online language classes I've observed where the students are disconnected. They don't know each other and don't work to lift one another up, because they don't have to. I plan to recommend video feedback immediately to address this.

What's been difficult so far?

Regarding difficulties... I haven't had many difficulties. I would say again, though, that this window into the effort required for planning and executing an online course has been eye-opening. It's given me many strategies and tools to use in my own courses, and also a better appreciation for the amount of detailed work that has to happen to take a course online.

Speaking of that, how did you go about transforming your face-to-face activities for online classes? What went into that?

I actually envisioned myself teaching the face-to-face versions of all my activities and did a think-aloud protocol (TAP) for each one. I then went over my TAPs and described what each element would look like in a fully asynchronous online environment. Based on the feedback I got, this was a successful idea for transforming face-to-face activities and lessons into fully online versions of the same.

So are you sticking to your 5-star rating?

Most definitely!
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