Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bricks/Mortar to Clicks/Cloud

I believe in the power of a classroom. I have started many 'philosophy of education' pieces with that phrase. Until the summer of 2013, that classroom would be the traditional space with a white board, demo table, student desks, and lab stations. Now, my new classroom will include a flipped approach with multiple sets of podcast lessons and video conferencing with a screen share of my writing tablet and uploading student structures via iPads and drawing apps.

It has been a very steep, intense learning curve for me to get to this point. I have been told that snowboarding has a much steeper learning curve than skiing, so I like to think of all the detours and struggles I have encountered in the last four months much like the time a novice snowboarder spends sitting on the slopes.
This OChemPrep endeavor started in the spring with a visit to my accountant. I told her that I wanted to start a company to help students get ready for organic chemistry in college. She said she could file the incorporation papers, and she also wrote down the name of a client who might be able to help me with website development.  It was not more than one minute later when that client, my ‘producer,' walked into her office. I gave him my OChemPrep ‘elevator pitch,’ he took the hook, and I was the owner of an edtech start-up!

I have learned so much in such a short amount of time that I sometimes feel like a first-year teacher again. Maybe with a bit more control over my life, but like then I am awestruck by those who seem to know so much more than I do. 

What have I learned?
·        Podcasting—Wow, it takes FAR longer than I ever expected to produce good educational videos.  From planning to recording (and re-recording) to editing and rendering and then compiling a list of all the links in a cloud-shared document, this process required many days, and some nights.

·        Marketing--the most time-consuming, frustrating, but ultimately rewarding part of the project. I have a healthy respect for anyone starting a new business. The effort paid off and I cheered with each and every ding from the Gmail app as a student registered for a summer 'boot camp' class.

·        Tweeting--Oh, the world of educational twitter!! The #satchat and #tlap chats with tweets flying past faster than one could read. (It took me weeks of lurking before I knew what #tlap stood for--you teaching pirates out there know who you are!!) This was the most amazing (and fun) professional development tool ever.
So now, having worked all summer to build a website, a blog, a forum with a set of interactive games, a video textbook for organic chemistry prep and a PLN on twitter, I am ready to take the step out of my bricks-and-mortar classroom into my cloud-based one.  I just read a post by Jake Clapp of Global Online Academy, and I will quote:  “Teaching and learning in the online environment demands creative approaches to instruction, assessment, community building, and formative feedback.”  So maybe there is a reason why I have felt like a first-year teacher again.
So into the virtual classroom I go, hoping it’s a steep curve up, but a great ride down.

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