Over this past week or so I have had the opportunity to view and evaluate online video tutorials and take part in an online discussion group about my findings. This has been a nice opportunity to review websites that I hadn’t visited before as well as some that I didn’t know existed. Overall I have found that there are some excellent online resources out there that are age appropriate to be used in the classroom. These videos could be used at various stages of learning from an introduction to a lesson, a review before an assessment, as a supplement to student’s learning or to give students an opportunity to investigate a topic further at their own pace at home.
The first video I watched was a TED Talk by Salman Khan that he gave in 2011. In his talk Khan explains how Khan Academy got started and how he feels online learning can be, should be used in the future. He has a very creative way of speaking which captured my interest and made me ponder some of the points he made. Khan explained that when students are able to watch videos to learn content it gives them the opportunity to watch, pause, rewind and go back if needed so that students don’t need to feel like they are bothering anyone if they need to ask questions. Khan stated that in his plan lectures are assigned for homework and what used to be homework is now done in the classroom. He feels this removes the ‘one size fits all lecture’ and students can learn at their own pace. Khan went on to say that using online learning humanizes the classroom because students now have the opportunity to interact with each other in the classroom rather than quietly sitting and taking notes. One of the strongest points Khan makes is that the traditional classroom moves on even if a student didn’t fully master something. This is a problem that I see frequently working with special education students. The students that I work with tend to learn at a slower pace than their same aged peers, which can make it very difficult to keep up with the curriculum. The online tutorials have the potential of being incredibly helpful to my students.
The next video I watched was a Brainpop video about Cells. I chose this subject because I tend to support students in their science classes and last year I worked with two 9th grade Biology classrooms. Even though the video was geared toward younger students the content could be a good resource for high school students who need a basic overview of the subject. It could also be used as a visual to reinforce a lecture. I was a little disappointed that only components of Brainpop are free but was happy to hear that the middle schools in Westford subscribe to the site.
In addition to the videos I chose to watch I was exposed to additional videos suggested by my online learning group. I wasn’t sure how being part of the online discussion group was going to benefit my learning but I ended up finding the experience a positive one. My fellow group members not only shared tutorials but they shared their insights as well. It was nice to hear other teachers’ perspectives as well as the benefits and challenges they have found from using online resources. The online discussion definitely helped me consider new options for how online learning could benefit the students I work with.
I am not sure I am ready to make the complete shift to online learning that Khan describes in his program but I can definitely see the benefits. My personal experience so far with online learning has been positive. I have appreciated being able to watch tutorials when it is convenient for me. Over this past week I have been able to work in the evening after my kids are asleep, I watched one video while dinner was cooking and I am writing this post as I sit on my deck watching my daughter swim in the pool. I have been able to pause, rewind and replay portions that I wanted to hear again, just like Khan described. I was slightly challenged when I was in Maine with limited Internet connection but I was able to make things work. I have an Android phone and iPad and was glad to see that there are apps for Edmodo and Edublogs. The apps haven’t worked as efficiently as I had hoped but I am still glad to have them.
Overall, there are always going to be challenges and obstacles to overcome in any learning system. Online tutorials appear to favor the positive side of the chart.