Distance Ed Tasmania provides education for K-10 students who, for various reasons, are not able to attend face to face school. Their students come from around Australia and overseas and many are geographically isolated. The teachers use their online classroom to increase the interactivity of their programs and try to overcome the social isolation that many of their students feel. The emphasis is on providing the opportunity for the students to share their work and learning experiences allowing them to build a real community. Recently Phillip ran a school asssembly in Centra with over 60 families logging in at the one time to take part. I think this shows just how successful the use of online classrooms can be.
Some of the subjects taught are maths, art, music, reading and French. The teachers use the tools available in Centra 7 such as breakout rooms, web safaris, the interactive whiteboard and application sharing in their teaching. Using web safaris they are able to broaden the experience of their students by tapping into international news sites. It can be a window to the world for students living in isolated communities. The teachers also make extensive use of many of the valuable online educational sites that are appropriate for the age of their different groups of students. Of course the online classroom is just one of the tools that the distance ed teachers use but they do feel it is a very valuable one.
Many of the advantages of using online classrooms that Phillip and Geoff identifed are relevant to teaching and learning in all situations not just for the K-10 age group. These are:
- building community
- increased spontenaity
- increased collaboration
- access to online resources
- opportunity to demonstrate skills
- ability to share high quality images (especially useful for the art program)
- ability to share video files
Phillip and Geoff have established protocols for the use of their online classroom. All participants are aware of these protocols and they help to ensure the sessions run smoothly. Their ideal group size is 15 - 20; with this number they can get some good discussions going amongst the group but it does allow the quieter students to sit back and listen until they feel confident to participate.Thank you very much to Phillip and Geoff who hosted the session for us in Centra 7. They presented a very interesting session about how they use their online classroom to enhance teaching and learning.
We had over 20 people book into the session but as always happens some people experienced technological issues when logging in. My apologies to those who did have trouble, the session was recorded so you may be able to catch up that way.
I am looking forward to our next session which is scheduled for Tuesday August 14. I will be sending round details for this shortly.