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I am an active member of a number of online communities. They reflect different interests in general, but tend to converge at various points. I am active on Facebook, Edmodo, CCAEagles.org, luonline, ISTE, and a number of other sites like Skype and Twitter to lesser degrees.
To me, online communities allow for better contact with students and parents. Within the confines of these contact points, I am able to explain and clarify the intricacies of the day’s lesson. I am also able to assign work and collect assessments of my students through sites like Edmodo. Here, students are able to message me with questions or post those questions to the stream so the entire class is able to benefit from their question and my response.
Through my school blog/class website (ccaeagles.org) I am able to easily interact with parents and students about academic progress and the like. Here is where I post notes whole cloth. Via the email function of the page, students are able to voice concerns or gain clarity on tougher concepts, thus, allowing me to reach out to their classmates with the clarification or additional information the class needs to succeed.
Facebook is the tool I use to connect to friends and family near and far. I prefer these discussions be in the open with students, should they have an urgent question. Photos, videos and text converge in this forum to provide a fairly balanced platform. As with any technology, care must be taken to not over-use Face book. I try not to check my Facebook too often, but daily birthdays and occaisional notes about big events are posted here.
With each of these, balance is key. If we are not careful, we can easily get swamped by artificial obligations to check and post to our online communities.
I am fortunate to teach within an environment that fosters exploration and implementation of technology tools and strategies that benefit student understanding of material. Teachers at Calvary Christian Academy are encouraged to try new tools and share the wealth of knowledge gained by the exploration of new tools. Administration distributes tools like iPads to groups of teachers to try out new tools and present their findings to the faculty at large.
The faculty at my school is very tech savvy – even those seasoned teachers among us. Typically, the younger, new teachers bring the new technology to bear on their lessons, but at CCA, every teacher is encouraged, by administration and by peers within the confines of each academic department, to experiment with new tools.
The down side to this progressive nature of our faculty is that, from time-to-time the faculty “out runs” the rest of the institution in the area of implementation of new technology and tools. IPads are a perfect example. In an effort to get it right the first time and to allow the greatest number of CCA families to benefit from their implementation on a 1-to-1 basis, administration has moved slowly towards that goal. Family finances are a heavy concern for the administration. Not wanting to over burden the family with five students in the school, we are working on a solution that will provide the technology to all students as inexpensively as possible. Meanwhile, faculty and staff are encouraged to find new, innovative ways to engage the students with the iPad in the classroom. Without class sets of hardware, this makes practical demonstration of the benefits of the technology very difficult. The barriers to implementation tend to be administrative.