Thursday, March 27, 2008

Observation: Virtual School AP U.S. History - Study Session

Last evening, I observed a virtual study/review session for AP U.S. History. The topics were Ronald Reagan and The Clinton Years. Four students were in the session. I was impressed by the level of enthusiasm on the part of the students and the teacher. One student commented in the chat area, "I like these sessions. We should have them more often".

The teacher had an energetic virtual presence. Her voice was upbeat, and she clearly enjoyed the subject matter. Since the content included the mid-80's, the title page of the presentation showed a picture of the teacher's high school graduation. What a great way to relate to the students. They got a big kick out of the 80's style.

I was impressed that students had a number of opportunities to interact with the content. An interactive table was posted on the Eluminate whiteboard in which the students defined their personal history by filling in music, clothes, politics, events, and technology of their time. We all enjoyed comparing answers. Students also had an opportunity to use the whiteboard to vote on which 2 events (Watergate, Clinton Impeachment, or Iraq War) posed the most serious threat to progress during the modern era. A thoughtful discussion followed.

The session lasted about 35 minutes. Students were able to ask questions and make authentic connections to the content. Every student was engaged. I submitted some questions to the teacher after the session including:

  1. Is this session optional for the students? I'm assuming it is since there were only 4 participating.
  2. Did you design the Eluminate presentation or is it part of the prescribed curriculum?
  3. How often do you hold Eluminate sessions? The students seemed to really like the interaction.
I will post her answers when I receive them.

Another Resource:

Christopher Sessums, Director of Distance Education at the University of Florida recently posted "Notes on Workload Management Strategies for Online Educators". I found some useful resources for managing my own online courses.

I was particularly interested in Teaching courses online: How much time does it take?
It stated that online courses generally take between "3 1/2 and 7 hours per week" (Lazarus, 2003, pg. 53). However, I find that I'm spending slightly more than that. I'm still anxious to hear if that rings true for the k12 virtual school.

Lazarus, B. D. (2003). Teaching courses online: How much time does it take? Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(3): 47-54. Retrieved 24 March 2008 from

1 comment:

J-Lang said...


I enjoyed your post very much. I have yet to be able to observe this kind of interaction with my host teacher and her students. Because they are all Seniors and reaching the end of their year, their presence online has been sporadic, so I appreciating being able to learn from your experience. It's great to know how engaged the students were and it sounds like this 35 minutes was far more useful than many 90 minute class blocks I've had with 25-plus students.
Your experience presents me with a thought. When the students are meeting with their teacher online in a virtual school, there is an inherent purposefulness to their presence. They are there to learn, not socialize and be distracted by everything else going on in a traditional school. There is no one calling your classroom to ask for a student, or a question, or to come over the intercom with an announcement, and the students haven't just come from lunch and been overly stimulated by group interaction. Further, in my case, they aren't just about to get out of class and head to work, having my class as their only academic class on campus. It is a battle to keep these kinds of students focused (one I can't quit on), and I have many of them. Yes, I think it's great what you described and the interactivity of the lesson probably had a lot to do with it. They definitely couldn't hide out in the back of the class there.