Editorial Note: A special post from Dr. Erica C. Boling, Associate Professor of Literacy Education, Rutgers University. Dr. Boling's current research focuses on the impact of technology on teaching and learning, and how the integration of technology can challenge the fundamental beliefs educators hold about education.
You are an Associate Professor at Rutgers' Graduate School of Education. What sparked your interest in online learning?
It all started when I was a doctoral student teaching courses at Michigan State University. My doctoral advisor invited me to use a series of online hypermedia videocases in my teaching. I personally observed the powerful learning that can occur when technology is used to support classroom instruction. Over the years, I’ve integrated more and more technology into my teaching, and moving into online learning seemed to be a natural progression. I also owe a great deal to the Verizon Foundation and a grant that I recently received from them to develop a fully online, graduate level certificate program in educational technology.
Tell us about your current work.
My current project, “Educational Leaders of the 21st Century,” is funded by the Verizon Foundation and is focused on creating and implementing an online Rutgers University graduate certificate program in educational technology. The goal of this program is to assist educators in acquiring the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are needed to effectively integrate technology and 21st Century literacy skills into various types of educational environments. This program is unique in that it has the capacity to educate a wide teacher audience throughout the United States while leveraging the educational impact of Thinkfinity through its integration throughout all three courses. In January 2012, all three online courses will be offered through Rutgers Graduate School of Education. The first course examines teaching and learning through the use of various Web 2.0 tools. The second course looks at the design, development and use of web-based multimedia tools in classrooms. The third course will closely explore how to successfully develop and implement various types of digital e-learning environments in both distance and hybrid learning contexts.
You have used the Thinkfinity Community for several of your online courses. What are the benefits, and what is your favorite aspect of conducting learning this way?
In addition to providing teachers with a wealth of free, online resources, I think one of Thinkfinity’s greatest assets is its online community. Providing teachers with a way to network with one another and with other professionals in the field of education is invaluable. Interacting with others in this way makes learning even more personal and more meaningful to our teachers.
What are some of the technologies that you foresee being the most beneficial in the K-12 environment? Why?
In order for children to be successful in a Digital Age society, they must learn how to use technology to support critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation. I believe some of the most beneficial technologies are those that allow students to engage in these types of activities and practices. In addition, I think we need to keep a close eye on the role of mobile devices for both in-school and out-of-school learning.
Online learning is becoming more integrated in the K-12 curriculum. How do you see this developing over the next five years?
I believe that it will just continue to grow, and we will see more hybrid learning experiences occurring in our K-12 classrooms. I also believe that students will begin to see more online options available to them when they take their classes, and we are going to see an increase in the number of virtual schools that exist.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of teaching an online course?
I think one of the most challenging aspects is being able to create an online learning environment that supports meaningful and authentic learning experiences for students. Online students (and instructors) don’t want to lose that “human touch” when they are engaged in online education. I think one of the greatest challenges is finding ways to maintain these meaningful connections while creating opportunities for students to learn from one another. I believe it’s a challenge, as instructors, to break out of the mould and from what’s familiar so that we can envision new, more dynamic ways of learning.
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