A Juggling Act with Distance Learning

As I move forward to increasing the number of courses that I teach through distance learning, I am finding that there are more considerations to take into account. The one I confronted today was time.  For instance, scheduling becomes a nightmare when you want to meet everyone one-on-one to answer their questions and give that personal touch.

When do you meet? There is no set schedule. All class members are running on different schedules and have signed up for the course knowing that it is online without set times for physical meetings. And if you, as an instructor, desire to add that personal touch or bring students into the online environment for participating through social connections in online meetings or office hours, you must decide how to best schedule the time so as to meet everyone’s needs without creating obstacles or additional stress for the students.

In addition, once you schedule times to meet, you must make sure that you do not leave anyone out or that they do not escape you (or dodge you). Plus, when you have large numbers of students, figuring out how to meet all of them individually may be a scheduling nightmare! Just how many time slots do you have in a day? It is quite interesting to lay this out and realize that time is very valuable and limited, indeed!

The juggling act that occurs with distance learning is setting time to meet with students and not duplicating those same time frames across classes. It may not always be as easy as sitting in your office and leaving your door open for students to drop by during scheduled office hours. Ugh!

Teaching/Librarianship Portfolios May Be More Important Now

With the rumblings about change in education and some districts eliminating positions like school librarians to cut costs, it might be time for updating the portfolio. Building a stronger representation of  what we do with students and sharing it with those who hold the keys to our positions and paychecks is vital. We know the strides we make with each student. We see progress on a daily basis and over time. Those who are outside of our environments and who must balance budgets do the best they can with the knowledge they have. The information we provide them might help us continue our work as we support student learning.

When I created my first constructive portfolio that served me well, I referred to How to Develop a Professional Portfolio: A Manual for Teachers, 3rd ed. by Campbell, Cignetti, Melenyzer, Nettles, and Wyman, Jr. (2004). Prior to that, I followed what our school had developed for evaluation purposes. With the manual, I found a more comprehensive, professional, and reflective way to represent myself and my repertoire as a teacher and a school librarian. The portfolio I developed served me well.

Now, I am going to revisit my portfolio with an eye on the future. What will be most important for evaluation? What skills should I focus on or seek professional development so I may add them to my knowledge base? Will I include items that I have on the Web? How will I address electronic applications that do not translate well to paper? Should I develop two separate portfolios: one paper and one electronic? Should I add to those a portfolio that has elements of both?

When I make these decisions, I will want to make them with the knowledge that the formats that I select will be accessible in the future. Why? Last week I cleaned out a drawer that had floppy discs in it. They are useless now. Whatever portfolio information that I might have had on them and did not have in a different format is not accessible to me at the moment. I will want to be sure to choose formats that I can keep for a long time. This will offer me opportunities for reflection and evidence of growth.

To get started on my new portfolio, I need to plan. Decisions must be made on what to collect, where to store what I collect, and how to organize it all. I have options. I would like to use what I have rather than make a side trip to the Container Store or my local office supply store. This might take some thinking time and creativity, but I am sure it will be worth it. A good start will help set a solid foundation for developing a portfolio that will provide evidence of what I do well.