By Harman Singh
Schools across America are using motion sensors in their facilities to conserve energy and avoid lights being left on while rooms are vacant. Adopting that technology highlights the importance of energy conservation and cutting facility overhead.
But what if thousands of schools could begin significantly reducing required office hours by enabling instructors to have student meetings online in a way that exceeds the capabilities of email communication? Teachers would stop wasting campus resources because they could conduct office hours from home or any location of their choice. Students could meet live with their instructors via an online classroom platform. From there, instructors could re-teach lessons or tutor students by bringing up PowerPoint lectures from prior classes; walk students through handouts via a whiteboard content-sharing feature; show video clips; and much more.
The technology to do that is as available -- and perhaps even more easily applied -- than motion sensors. Much research demonstrates that (as reported from a study at the University of Maryland) an automated process greatly reduced faculty timeand generated tests more quickly.
Concerns about educational quality arise, however. Research, like that done at the University of Kansas on high school students, shows that achievement in online courses was equal to or better than achievement in regular high school courses.
For example, a math instructor with an inexpensive writing tablet can easily teach any mathematical concept by using the virtual whiteboard. Ultimately, anything that's taken place on campus can be re-taught in the virtual classroom. That not only cuts down on school overhead costs, but also gives both the student and the teacher greater flexibility and convenience in the learning process.
Class has begun and students are coming to the teacher inquiring, "Did I miss anything?" and "What was our homework assignment?" and "Can you explain what happened in class?" and "Can you get me the handouts you passed out yesterday?" Every day, period after period, teachers all over the nation waste precious class time, office hours, and other resources re-teaching the previous days materials to students who have missed class. Helping students stay caught up is an important but time-consuming task.
When lesson plans must be followed, it's frustrating to have to re-teach material already covered. Teachers spend much time and effort deciding how to cover course material. The following is an example of a Southern California teacher's frustration with re-teaching, followed by a cost-effective solution.
Each day, I come to work, ready to equip my kids with what they need to succeed in college, says Deborah Cruthers, a Pinon Hills, California, homeschool and private school teacher with interests in the use of technology for online education. I begin my day with detailed lesson plans, a timer, handouts and activities to bring the subjects I teach to life. The bell rings and class begins. As I'm getting to work, I'm excited that students hands are already raised. I'm thinking, Wow, they already have questions. But to my dismay, the students' questions are, Did we do anything important yesterday? What did I miss? I remind them that they need to check the lesson plans online, refer to the wall where I have detailed the week's assignments, and pick up the handouts in their class box. However, they still need explanations of what they missed and I start losing some of the great energy I arrived with. After six periods and more than 20 students asking the same questions about what happened, I become a little discouraged by all of the lost teaching time spent catching them up.
That story isn't too positive, but what if teachers could easily refer students to a pre-recorded session of the missed class? When students aren't able to stay after school or during breaks for explanations the teacher can't provide during class, wouldnt it be great if they could meet the teacher live online? By extending education time, online technology opens a whole new realm of possibility for teachers and students.
When teachers direct students to an online classroom platform where they can view the lesson from previous days via a recording, and also view PowerPoint presentations with detailed assignment instructions, much can be accomplished without interrupting class or office time. In addition, teachers can make handouts available for students through a content-management system.
E-learning applications -- such as WiZiQ.com-- take distance learning light years beyond email, saving time in the classroom and cutting out extra hours of using campus energy and other resources. It also saves students personal resources as they can go online from any location. The potential for transportation fuel savings alone are dramatic.
Imagine attending a morning meeting from your own home or classroom. You have breakfast, get dressed, and -- without the commute -- sit down with a laptop to attend. Teachers too can remain in the classroom and conveniently attend meetings, avoiding wasting precious time running around town.
Morning meetings, teacher in-service sessions, and other staff collaborations require more than just time. Many campus resources go into holding such gatherings. Meetings take time to organize, drain energy resources, and require inconvenient schedule changes.
Teacher in-service sessions, for example, occur when students are not in school. What if teacher in-service meetings could be conducted online -- with teachers attending from home via an online classroom platform? By applying that technology, educational institutions would not have to use campus resources. Schools would slash energy and travel costs as well as valuable administrative and facility resources. Doing the math on potential time and energy savings associated with online meetings clearly points to the immediate economic value of applying the technology. It takes very little imagination to calculate the enormous gasoline savings alone that could accrue if travel to even a few meetings per year were reduced by applying virtual capabilities.
Schools at every level are actively involved in making students more aware of the global environment and the effects of human activities. Specifically, educators are constantly trying to find ways to teach children how they can do their part in the effort for a cleaner, healthier environment. When people in schools use less energy by effectively using technology, they can have a huge cumulative effect in conserving energy, fuel, and perhaps most importantly, time for effective teaching.
Copyright © 2008 Education World