I enjoy being a full-time graduate student; discussing theory and research issues with fellow doctoral students and faculty in my courses, assisting faculty as a grad assistant, and working on my own research. But sometimes I miss my kids. Not the ones left at home, I’ve never been a parent, but the students I had the delight to teach in my high school science classes. One of my great joys as a teacher is getting to know my students, both as learners and as people. I did not realize it at the time, but according to The Digital Realists’s blog post, I was practicing “immediacy”.
This is probably what drove me to use Google+ when I had the opportunity to teach my first online course, Preparing Teachers to Use Technology. Sure, it also offered the prospect to conduct some research, but more importantly it allowed me to see, hear, and talk with my students. It provided the chance for us to participate in those immediacy behaviors identified by Albert Mehrabian as essential to cutting down the perceived distance between student and teacher alike. It helped me get to know my students as individuals and to target the type of content and instruction that I believed would help them internalize the course content. That last part is crucial for me as I am preparing future teachers. They need to understand more than basic course content, they need to know how to apply the concepts in order to help their students learn as well!
My state is beginning to lean more heavily towards online options for our K-12 students. For now the majority of the students who take online courses are screened as to their compatibility for that type of learning; are they self-motivated, do they have extenuating circumstances that make attending face-to-face classes difficult (such as travel or work commitments), and other similar characteristics. But more and more, politicians and others are looking towards online education as an answer to a budget crises and a panacea for low graduation rates. The chances that those students who may not fit the ideal profile for successful online learning will wind up in a distance education course is increasing and I want my preservice teachers to be prepared to offer those students the best chance at success. Exposure to video posts and video conferencing will hopefully show them how to help create teacher immediacy with their own students, thus making the task of teaching a little easier and certainly more enjoyable for both teacher and student!