Sunday, September 4, 2011

Distance Learning

Technology is becoming more and more common in classrooms every day. For the most part, while I was growing up, there was not a large presence of technology in my classrooms. The most common item in the classrooms of my schools was the overhead projector. This projector, with its transparencies to write on, was how most of my teachers presented material to the class. 

I did have positive experiences involving the use of technology in the classroom. During my junior year of high school, my German class was held in a distance learning classroom. It was called a distance learning classroom because the video cameras and TVs in the classroom were used to interact with similar classrooms from other schools. So, for my German class, my teacher would not only instruct my class, but have another class connected with us who he would instruct as well. 

I feel the presence of another full classroom of kids had both positive and negative effects. First, having another classroom of kids took away from the time that my teacher could instruct us one-on-one. Also, it was difficult at times to establish and hold a solid connection with the other classroom, so time was taken away from the class period that could have been spent learning. On the other hand, when things ran smoothly, we could conduct group discussions that proved to be very beneficial. Having two full classrooms of students in on a discussion resulted in many great ideas being brought up. My teacher especially enjoyed when the students from each class could interact with each other and conduct a dialogue or discussion. 

Also, my teacher was able to focus a document camera on his desk and both classrooms were able to watch him on the TV screens. The audio was never really a problem for the other classroom, so this was a very effective use of the technology we had access to. I feel fortunate for always having our teacher there in our classroom, rather than just on the screen. I think I would have found it difficult to learn to the best of my ability if I had been the “distance classroom”.

During times when our teacher was not present, we were able to work on assignments that dealt with different videos we watched as well. Having an educational series that we would watch weekly helped us develop an understanding of the conversations we heard, aside from just hearing our teacher speak German.

We, the students, learned to have patience when dealing with setting up the connection with the other classroom. Also, we developed a better sense of understanding technology when it comes to cameras and audio feeds. I am glad I was able to participate in this unique style of classroom, and I hope to utilize some of the same technology in my class.

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