Online Tools With Synchronous Learning Environments

Online Tools With Synchronous Learning Environments

Kerri Richardson (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1476-4.ch005

Abstract

In this chapter, the author highlights the tools used in an online environment geared toward practicing teachers earning their master's degree. The focus will be on web-based platforms and the importance of both synchronous and asynchronous online learning. The author offers existing and new online instructors' ideas on how to structure their own synchronous learning environments. She will support her suggestions with relevant research references. Samples of teachers' representations used during class sessions will be included so the reader has a visual understanding of how the tools work. Asynchronous ideas will also be discussed for those who integrate both styles in their teaching.
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The Importance Of Pedagogy

Embedded in face-to-face settings is the spontaneous nature of human interaction. Depending on one’s teaching style, students typically ask questions, work in groups with their peers, and engage in interactions that generally involve some sort of written word and/or any host of visuals to emphasize the work completed. Specific to mathematics, the real time sharing of equations, figures, graphs, drawings and any other kind of representation are an integral part of teaching and learning because information from these sources allow teachers to provide ongoing feedback as part of their scaffolding. Throughout, the traditional chalkboard, white board, document camera/overhead projector, and/or paper are taken for granted tools used by instructors in all settings. When educators make the move to online platforms these tools suddenly look, behave, and feel differently for everyone involved.

These differences relate more to the evolving nature of the available tools and an instructor’s familiarity with them than they do to the adoption of a particular learning theory. While I still follow the same theoretical constructs that I use in face-to-face instruction, my tools to promote students’ engagement and learning differ. Fortunately, online learning has evolved over the years in a multitude of ways and this development makes it easier for those of us who provide online instruction.

Hjalmarson (2017) identified three key factors in an online environment geared toward in-service mathematics teachers, each of which should be considered when teaching online. I am always aware of these factors when setting up my course because each one is essential for developing quality instruction. Hjalmarson (2017) reminds us of the need to support students’ engagement and autonomy, to create authentic and practical learning experiences, and to foster collaboration and community. As stated earlier, while each of these factors is critical for face-to-face instruction, instructors need to attend to each of these factors by using a different set of tools when presenting online instruction.

With online Mathematics Teacher Education programs and online professional development offerings becoming more prevalent across the United States, technology is needed to align properly with the demand. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics note in their position statement for the Strategic Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning Mathematics, the importance of technology in teaching and learning mathematics and its influence on the mathematics that is taught (NCTM, 2011). Their position on strategic use of technology in the teaching and learning of math is such that a balanced approach is a key factor. What follows is a description of how I structure my graduate level online mathematics education courses, the technological tools I utilize, and the pedagogical practices embedded within the mathematical content. Pedagogical, technological, and mathematical factors are all interwoven in my descriptions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Input Device: A device, such as a stand-alone writing tablet or computer tablet, which allows for handwriting and drawing of ideas.

Synchronous Online Learning: Learning that takes place in real time within parameters set by the instructor.

Pedagogy: The study of how student interactions take place during educational experiences.

Asynchronous Online Learning: Learning that takes place at the student’s own pace within parameters set by the instructor.

Online Community: A group of individuals who communicate and interact in an online setting.

Web-Based Whiteboard: A website instructors and students’ access to hand write and/or draw ideas using an input device.

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