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Take your teaching online

Week 4: The benefits of support networks and how to develop them


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Figure 1 Technology gives us the opportunity to connect widely

One of the best ways to enhance your confidence and ability in teaching online is to reach out to others. This may be to form a network of peers who are all at a similar stage and can work through teaching ideas together and offer moral support and shared experiences, or it may involve connecting to people who have already achieved the objective you are trying to achieve and can pass on useful advice. The great advantage of using online tools, and in particular social networking tools, to establish these connections, is that you can decide what you want to discuss, how, when and with whom. You can be passive and ‘lurk’, or be more active and join in with sharing or discussion. The control lies in your hands, and you can choose to share only what you want to share, or how much time you want to invest.

Concepts that we have introduced to help you understand online teaching, such as synchronous and asynchronous communication, also apply to the variety of platforms and tools you find here. Social networking tools include discussion or message boards, but equally, can focus on ways of sharing and curating information such as social bookmarking and micro-blogging. Much of what you do when you use the internet can be shared if you want it to be. In turn, you should be able to find people with similar interests in using online learning to you, who share findings or resources that they think are useful.

In this week of the course you will find out about what advantages can be gained by expanding your online networks, and will start to work on developing your own.

Teacher reflections

This week we have another clip from Sarah S., whom you have already encountered in a previous week. Here she reflects on her experiences with online networks:

Download this video clip.Video player: tto_1_week4_vid1.mp4
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It's fair to point out that prior to these studies, I had absolutely no digital presence whatsoever. So I've only really dipped my toe in the water. I've tried a couple of things, which is made a real difference and have been incredibly beneficial in my teaching practise, and that's what I'm sharing with you today.
I'm a music teacher, and I have a busy private practise. And I have set up a private group within Facebook for myself and for my pupils and for my pupils' parents. I use it to deal with timetabling issues, with publicising when exams are going to be, terms dates, all the nitty gritty, that's sort of practical stuff.
It's been incredibly useful, because prior to this I'd have to use the telephone or send out letters, whereas now I know instantly who has read the information, and therefore I know if I need to prompt any further.
I have also been surprised to find that it has created this community within my group of students. They now are doing things like sharing resources. And also, they are offering each other support for exams, congratulating each other on their successes. And that's a nice side development from the whole thing.
The second part my career is that I teach academic subjects online. And I have used for that a Twitter account to create this professional presence online. I have been astonished how useful I find that. I have discovered through having this Twitter presence, conferences which have been beneficial, I have found fellow professionals working geographically close to me.
I have a particular interest in teaching students with Asperger's syndrome, or who are on the autistic spectrum, on the high functioning end of the autistic spectrum. And I have discovered all sorts of resources and people who are able to help me in my endeavours. And I am really surprised at how this network has just developed and how I'm learning constantly. I've read articles that I wouldn't have expected to have found, and therefore, my own teaching practise is much improved by this.
I admit I was sceptical, but it has been really beneficial. So just two small examples of how sort of spreading your digital presence, can be really helpful. Thank you.
End transcript
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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • understand the benefits of networks to the online teacher
  • discuss the concepts of communities of practice and network weather
  • develop useful online networks to augment your teaching practice.

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