I thought it would be interesting to get a closer look at a program which seems to be one of the furthest in style to what I currently have experienced. eCADEMY is an ‘online driver’ model of blended learning. I think it is difficult to contemplate what this would look like in my current school since it is a completely different - almost opposite - model, however it may be interesting for those students who have individual passions or interests, where an additional 'online driven' course - almost as an After School Activity - could complement their work within the school...
For better or worse, eCADEMY’s main claim to fame is that it is a money saver. It requires less space, less facilities, less teachers. eCADEMY has changed the way teachers are paid and when they work. As it is made up of predominantly online courses, traditional holiday ‘restrictions’ no longer need to be enforced. Teachers get paid per student per semester and can work all year round and administer multiple courses. A point of note is that all teachers are required to have a district recognised online teaching certification.
Students begin each of their courses face to face but then are able to do the rest of the course online, providing they maintain a sufficient grade. eCADEMY also cites parent relations to be of paramount importance and as disciplining has decreased with the move from the traditional face to face environment, parents and teachers are able to focus more on the successes of the students in their communication.
The physical ‘brick and mortar’ school is open longer each day (from 8am-10pm) to allow for flexibility but as students choose when and indeed if they need to physically go to school, the facilities are of a much smaller scale (and therefore cheaper to maintain) than other schools with a similar population. Teachers are on location at all times if students want more face to face interaction.
This model seems to be flexible but rigorous and even though it is predominantly an ‘online’ course, the face to face interactions are still there. As Salman Khan (2012) points out, “You need the human to do the mentorship. You need the human to understand the emotions of the child. You need the human being to really guide the student through rich, deep, open ended projects.”
However, my one major concern of all of these blended learning models is that what is lacking is the human interaction, not only with the teacher, but primarily with peers. In a world where personal interactions are rare, what does reducing the possibilities of peer to peer interactions, problem solving, compromise, communication, conflict resolution etc do to the youth of today? Although educated and certified, will these students have the skills to be successful in society? What are your thoughts on this?
This certification is - honestly - my first official attempt at a structured external course (online or otherwise), since University 14 years ago! I have attended workshops and PD days but have avoided traditional ‘Professional Development’ – including starting my Masters – because I seriously believe that my professional reading, my online subscriptions, my Google Plus and my personal experiences inside the classroom with real students and teachers – SO my ‘Personal Learning Network’ – keeps me in the loop with all the things that I am passionate about; namely education and the use of technology as a valuable tool to access, share and present learning.
I don’t want the focus to be on the piece of paper – the certification – at the end. I want to learn and extend my learning in practical and meaningful ways. I want to be encouraged to try new things and use new tools and look to the future rather than the theories of past experts that may not be as relevant as they once were.
This course was meant as a tester in a multitude of ways. Can I cope with the extra work and time commitment while balancing my time with two children and a demanding (!!) wife? Can I still be the teacher I want to be – and am expected to be by my colleagues – with the added commitment of an online course? Can an online course really embrace future technologies and keep me enthusiastic about learning? And am I really ready to start my Masters?!
I love finding new ways to make learning accessible and fun for students and fellow teachers and I get motivated by spending time with like-minded individuals – who are passionate about sharing their love of technology. This course seems to give me both and for the first time in 14 years I am itching to get back into (online) classroom as a learner rather than a teacher.
Quietly excited... :)
2. Online vs. face to face Venn Diagram
3. Collaborative Presentation of Web2.0 Tools
4. Designing an online discussion
5. Establishing an Accessible Social Presence
6. Designing a comprehensive Assessment Plan
7. Online Course Syllabus
8. Reflection: iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching
Hello, I am Tony Potts, the Director of Digital Learning, PK-12 ICT Coordinator, ICT teacher and technology integration specialist at GEMS World Academy, Dubai. Please feel free to ask me ANY questions...