The Nature of Summer

Every day of summer vacation includes some professional time. I’m not one to take the summer off. Even if I could truly take the summer off, I’m sure I’d fill my time with professional development or a project of some kind. I’m not good at vacating!

While summer gives me time to regroup and change up my routine, it also allows me time to reflect on what’s truly important in my career as well as my home life. What parts of your work life spill over into your home life? If you’re an educator, then probably a lot.

beach during sunset
Photo by b. on Pexels.com

Educational professionals lead a different kind of life. There is a constant need to reinvent oneself as technology changes, curriculum changes, schools change and demands change. It can cross into your personal life in such a way that you never truly feel like you are away from your job.

So how do you balance it? Every person does it differently, but I find that I have to still teach all summer. Maybe you teach at a summer camp. Maybe you give professional development sessions to other teachers. Maybe you teach your own kids. Or maybe you teach yourself new things. I try to combine as much of that as I can but on a less demanding schedule than the traditional school year.

I teach teachers online for the New England Institute for Teacher Education.¬†Two of my established technology classes are running concurrently right now. The summer is the only time to run two at the same time while working full-time! This adventure is full of new things every time I do it. These teachers find new angles that I hadn’t even thought of! I get a “2-fer” – I get to teach and I get to learn at the same time. Now that’s a great summer!

The nature of my summer might look a lot different than yours. Yes, sometimes I long to go take a really long walk on a beach somewhere, but my family has other demands that just don’t allow for much of that. It’s all good, though. I’m able to help them out and still get to do something I love: educate and learn.

How about you? What’s your “Nature of Summer”?

 

Developing an Online Course Is Like A Box of Chocolates

Chocolates would be good right about now. Every time I sit down to work on the next piece of one of my online courses, I start searching for the one with the gooey caramel center. I mean, that’s what it’s like. I look for the nuggets of wisdom. The centers of rich and creamy perfection that I can share with my online students.

box of chocolates

Gee! Now I’m hungry – again!

Teaching online is a bit different than just taking your seated course and moving it to the cloud. Some universities and professors find that an acceptable way to educate adults online. Frankly, I haven’t seen it work yet. You have to find the richness that is found in your topic and make it relevant to the classroom.

The online platform requires a different set of skills for the learner. If I don’t find out what kind of learner they are, I can’t assist them in any way. Asynchronous courses – those that can be accessed and worked on at any time by teacher or student – are tough for those that aren’t used to self-directed learning and being in the proverbial closet when doing their work.

While I’ve tried to set up synchronous meetings in past online classes, the availability of busy teachers (including me) just hasn’t been helpful. My summer courses seem to have a bit more flexibility, but even then my students are often working other jobs to make ends meet.

So back to the development of these courses…

My courses are project based. They have to be. Writing papers for an online technology course is like asking a cat if he wants a bath. It just isn’t pretty. Besides, it doesn’t show me what my students know and are able to do.

I create tutorial videos and screencasts which help a lot. But, if my content changes every 10 weeks or so, it’s hard to keep up that recording schedule. My dog isn’t much help. He barks every time I need a quiet moment. Or the 3D printers start printing a remote job. Or someone comes to the door. Or, well, I could think of a million excuses.


Who did we ask before Google

The fact remains, that I keep searching. Searching for just the right chocolate. Searching for just the right center. And then Google changes the way they do something. Or links go stale. Or the LMS (Learning Management System) gets changed. Or I’m just not satisfied that I did my best work. Or I’m in a hurry because I also work a full-time job and have a family.

Do I love it? Yes! Do I need to keep reinventing my courses? Yes! Maybe you are a teacher reading this and you think you might like to learn more about learning online. Or you need CEUs and want to learn more. Come shake up one of my classes. Come try out your Growth Mindset because you just don’t have it all done YET. Oh, and bring chocolate. Because everything is better with chocolate!

Barbara Vinal is a full-time Instructional Technology Facilitator and Magnet School Coordinator. She teaches online for the New England Institute for Teacher Education. She also teaches piano and plays keyboard/sings in a contemporary Christian music band.