Thursday, February 6, 2014

Private "spaces" in education

I did not expect to be surprised by findings in my doctoral research.   However, as I plug away at my data, I have noticed an unexpected emerging theme.  I am looking at the notion of "teacher presence" in high school courses taught by video-conference to rural schools.  I am trying to determine what teachers can do to close the virtual gap and reduce the geographic isolation the exists between them and their make teachers feel more "real". 

Not surprisingly, students want to feel connected to their teacher.  "No significant learning can happen without a significant relationship" (James Comer) seems to ring true even in VC course delivery.  However, building that relationship is tricky.  It has some hurdles. Almost all the students and teachers I have interviewed have alluded to a lack of "private space" in a video-conference.  In other words, teachers can't quietly come alongside a student and ask informal personal questions such as, "How was your grandfather's surgery?" for fear of broadcasting it to everyone in the conference. Equally, students are reluctant to ask questions or draw the attention of their teacher because all their peers will will hear their voice over the sound system.

Even though I taught math via VC a few years ago, I did not predict this issue.  Now that the issue has been identified, we can work toward brainstorming solutions.

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