As I have spent the past two years as a student in an online classroom, my eyes have been opened wide to a new kind of learning.  This classroom design offers more than I ever would have imagined.  Prior to starting this program, University of Illinois Curriculum, Technology, and Education Reform,  I thought that an online program would be lacking in interaction – boy was I wrong.  I truly feel that I interact with my classmates and instructors more often and on a more complex level than I ever have in a face to face environment.  I think that our conversations are more carefully planned and thought provoking than face to face conversations.  Take a moment to think about all of the times that you have left a conversation and thought “oh I should have said this” or “I wish I would have worded this more clearly, I should have said…”.   In an online environment, you have time to construct those complex thoughts and you can always, easily, go back and review the conversations and revisit the conversation, and add to it. 

Tonight, I was given the opportunity to lead an online discussion.  Although the thought terrified me at first, I got through it easily (actually the time limit expired long before I was ready for it to – the teacher in me could have continued on).  Every week I sit, so to speak, in the Elluminate classroom and listen to the instructor and follow the chat in the chat box and absorb all of the information.  This week was different.   For 10 minutes, I got to be the “instructor”.  As I shared my information, I felt overwhelmed by all of the interaction going on.  I have always considered myself a great multitasker, but tonight I felt overwhelmed by the need to continue to talk fluently and yet read the chat box at the same time.  I finished my ten minutes and felt the need to defeat the multitasking beast – the need to practice and continue to learn how to create a discussion online in which I can speak and read and facilitate.   Although I do not see a need for elluminate or online discussion in my classroom (in my high school of 200 kids), I do see the need to teach students to use the tools of the future.  Every student will likely encounter an online classroom, an online discussion or meeting, at some time in their future.  As teachers, we need to prepare them for THEIR WORLD, the world that they live in now and more importantly, the world that they will be living in during their adult lives.

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