Saturday, May 26, 2012

NL WNCP Curriculum Implementation... An Online Teacher Perspective

As you all may or may not be aware, our province is in the midst of curriculum revision and renewal . I must say it is an exciting time to be teaching mathematics in our province. We are implementing a curriculum that is, or will be, common for all provinces and territories in Canada with the exception of Ontario and Quebec. The resources that have been and are being developed for the new curriculum seem to be well done. In one curriculum shift, we have gone from being poorly resourced teachers to being resourced near beyond our wildest dreams... if I teach in the regular face to face classroom that is.

If I were in the regular face to face classroom I would have been resourced with a student ebook, a teacher resource (both in PDF format), Smart Notebook files, Geometer Sketchpad activities, TI Nspire document files... and the list goes on. Even the Blackline Master activities and the activities introduced during our PD sessions ( which were very well done I might add) were easy reproducible and useable in the face to face classroom.

The problem that I have is that very little of what I have seen and what I have used can be immediately used in our virtual environment. For example, a student e-book is wonderful. It can be loaded on to a tablet (provided it isn't constructed in Flash) or viewed on a computer. But how does an online teacher "see" if the virtual student even opens it up. The answer is... not easily and sometimes unfortunately... not until evaluation time. Moreover some of the student e-books contain little or no interactive content. And how would I know if they even access that interactive content? In short for me, as an online teacher, the content I have seen is not built for the Learning Management System Content Manager tools which would allow for the student text to be interactive and trackable.

The WNCP publishers would counteract with the argument that they provide some of this functionality within their own LMS type systems. And that would be true. But within the WNCP framework there are different recommended publishers within different courses. For an online teacher like myself, I could potentially be using online LMS systems from Pearson, McGraw Hill, Nelson, etc... for multiple courses. It takes time to effectively use or master a single LMS. The need to master multiple systems... that is an online teacher's worst nightmare. None of the resources developed by the WNCP publishers, or the ones I have seen, are user friendly for LMS systems external to their own publisher LMS. Considering the future of blended learning, there seems to be a big gap here.

Let me again preface what I am about to write below by saying the provincial PD session that I attended had been well organized and well delivered. However it did not include the online teaching perspective at all. It was developed with delivery to the face to face classroom teacher in mind. When the presenter makes the comment "I'm not sure how this activity would work online" says it all. How a teacher would bring these activities into a Blackboard Collaborate room or any other synchronous teahing system was never factored into the PD session. Even the provincial web resource, while online, shows exemplars of the face to face classroom only. Even here, the online teacher does not have a presence. Again I will reiterate the PD I attended was an informative and extremely useful PD session and I am glad I attended. But it missed my classroom and my students.

So where does the WNCP curriculum implementation leave me, as an online teacher? The answer is with a great deal of work and planning ahead. Much more so than the regular, face to face teacher. They get to hit the ground running in September... with more resources than time will allow use of. Me, I have an empty Desire2Learn course shell. But sometimes starting with a blank slate is a good thing :)

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