Saturday, June 23, 2012

Combining the Face-to-Face Classroom and the Online Classroom into One Course

For the last couple of years the classes I have been teaching at Lehigh Carbon Community College are web-enhanced. All the classes have an online-classroom page. At first, I simply added links to documents, notes, and websites I found useful for the students, along with the syllabus, calendar, and an announcement or two. However, I've been wading in the waters a little deeper this summer. For the first time, I've added a discussion board, some practice quizzes, and an extra credit puzzle, and for the first time I truly intermingled the regular face-to-face classroom with the virtual one.

So far I am enjoying the variety and the reinforcement that the online classroom webpage adds to the students' learning experience. I am currently teaching a Critical Reading class this summer, and summer semester, as you know, is shorter and very compact. It also gave a couple of students a schedule challenge in the beginning of the semester. I have two students who were finishing their senior year at High School, while beginning this course. I was informed weeks before the our Summer semester started how the students would miss two certain days due to High School final exams and graduation practice. This inspired me to put a little more on the online page as far as instructional activities, reinforcement, and a discussion board. I really think it helped the continuity of the class the week those students were unable to attend, since they were still able to participate within the online classroom. This is a terrific plus of teaching a web-enhanced class, and one I really intend to continue making use of into the Fall and beyond.

We have been reading the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. The discussion board was for the students to discuss their opinion of which parent, Christopher, the narrator of the story, would be better off living with. What I observed with the online discussion was that  a couple of students of mine who were usually a little more shy in the classroom, opened up in the discussion board. This brings a whole new element to classroom participation. It gives those who like to communicate more in print a chance to add their voice too. My grading on participation now takes this into account. I find the mix of the two different classroom environments is a wonderful way to meet every learning style in the classroom, and I am just blown away by how creative you can get with it as a teacher.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Addiction to Books is Now Even Worse; Thanks to my Nook.

My eldest son is in middle school, and really wanted a Nook or Kindle for his birthday last November. He was talking it up since the summertime. There were some contigencies though. He knew he had to pull up a couple of grades. Well, to make a long story short he did very well on his report card, and I knew I would need to keep my end of the bargain.

Since it was pushing the holidays both ereaders were on sale. I ended up getting my daughter, who is going into sixth grade, a Kindle. My method of madness was that I knew they wouldn't be mixed up, and I would also get to explore them both myself. Then, I couldn't resist the temptation to get myself a Nook too. Barnes and Nobles is a favorite hang-out of mine, and their marketing ploys easily won me over. Don't get me wrong though. Even though I enjoy my new gadget, I still enjoy the old-fashioned style book too. I find myself getting some books electronically and some off of the shelves. Why settle for one or the other? Why not mix the old in with the new? I still have my bookshelves full of current reads, old favorites, and textbooks from the classes I've taken and taught. Now I have 38 books currently stored on my Nook and some other pdf documents and texts too. I enjoy that fact that so much can be placed on that skinny square. It is so wonderful on trips. It's saved us a lot of back aches literally. I thought I was bad at packing up books in my suitcase, but I cannot light a candle to my husband. I would have to check his suitcase anytime we went anywhere to make sure he had some clothes in it. He would stuff it up with books. Fortunately, since he purchased his Nook Color, he has gotten out of that habit!

But when you drop one habit, you often pick up another. I've always been an avid reader, but now its escalated with the ease of WiFi and an ereader. I can "one click" buy the next book in a series. Without having to check if it were in at the book store or the library. For instance, I have been reading the Kurt Wallender Mysteries by Henning Mankell. The first few books I borrowed from my mother. Then I got hooked on the "buy" button! If I need my book fix. I can get it with one tap. My daughter is equally as hooked on her Kindle. She read the Hunger Games series, and enjoys how she can flick back easily to the first or second books, while reading the third.

I've also discovered a wonderful site for free ebooks: Many old favorite books are on this website and many ones that I have never read. I quickly downloaded Emma and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, which are ones I like to reread from time to time. I noticed that I can download books from in a variety of different formats that are compatible with different ereaders. I took my son's Nook and stuck on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and a book of ghost stories that looked like he would enjoy. For my daughter's Kindle, I loaded Little Women and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott. I thought she would enjoy them as much as I had. I'm happy that my children can also easily mix the new favorites and the old classics, and their ereaders do not take much space at all in the backpacks.

The major difference with the Nook and the Kindle is the way that you navigate, at least with the editions which we own. The Nook has a touch screen, and the Kindle uses navigational buttons. Both are very easy to use with a little practice. By the time you've read your first chapter of your first ebook, you'll have it down.

Another reason I've taken to my Nook so, is the book club I belong to. When my children were little, I joined the local chapter of MOMS Club International and made some wonderful friends in the process. We organized a book club then, and even when we all dropped out as our kids grew bigger, we kept the book club going and meet monthly. How easy it is to obtain the book for next month, just one click! It's pretty hard to put down.

If you haven't given ereaders a try, you may want to just take the plunge this summer!