On Friday nights in the late 60′s and early 70′s — before Tom Cruise was out of grade school — millions of Americans tuned into the music of Lalo Schifrin and the episodes that usually started with the famous words, “Good morning, Mr. Phelps.” In the height of the Cold War, we were fascinated by the spy gadgetry and technological expertise — not to mention the weird plot twists. It was “The Sting” meets “James Bond” and fans loved it.
Well, here we are about to start on what might seem like another “Mission: Impossible.” You won’t need to be as devious as the Impossible Missions Force, but you will need to think as hard.
Over the next 16 weeks, we’ll be helping each of you acquire and practice the skills, attitudes, and knowledge to succeed in teaching at a distance. We’ll be working on defining what it means to teach at a distance and how understanding that definition might change your perception of yourselves. The technology of choice for this class is web and internet (yes, they’re different) and we’ll discuss, at least briefly, many different kinds of technology — net-based, web-based and otherwise.
The class is experiential. That means that the experience of being in the class is at least as important as what you study in the class. You will find it frustrating, aggravating, and even maddening at times — at least if I do it right — and when that happens, talk about it. If my past classes are any indication, you will leave wondering if you learned anything at all. In a year or two, you’ll come to appreciate some of the content we’ll be covering. The challenge for me now is to upset your notions about education enough that you can begin to un-learn what you know about education and start thinking about the relationship between teaching and learning. Along the way, you’re apt to find yourself questioning what you know about classroom-based instruction as well.
You will be graded based on the work you do, the work you don’t do, and the timeframe in which you do the work. If you have a question, ask. You lose points for not asking questions. If you don’t understand something, ask. You lose points for not getting confusing materials cleared up. If you are hurt/angry/upset, then call me out. You lose points … well, you get the picture. The point is if you don’t ask, nobody can help you.
Distance education is not “anywhere, anytime” but “everywhere, all the time.” From this point forward you are always in class. You can contact any or all of us with a simple email any time of the day or night. You never have to wait until class to ask a question, seek clarification, or note something interesting because class is right now. This shift in perception of time — and how to cope with it — will be a key theme throughout the course.
- Stay on time. The schedule calls for you to do something almost every day. If you get behind, and some of you may be starting out behind, you need to grind it out until you get current.
- Check email at least once a day. I know you’re busy. I know you have jobs, lives, and may have students of your own to deal with. But by staying in touch via email, you can be best positioned to handle changing class requirements as they come up. Don’t hesitate to use email to contact the class — and don’t wait for me to initiate discussions. You are the one who knows what is interesting/troubling/confusing. When you find something like that, put it on the list right away. Or write about it in your blog. It’s as much your class as it is mine. Use that.
- If you get into trouble, WRITE ME instantly. Either drop a note on the list, or email me directly. The longer you wait, the tougher it will be to get back on track.
- Have fun with it. The purpose of this exercise is to give you an opportunity to examine some tough issues in a low-risk environment. If you’re not finding the intellectual challenges fun, email me. We’ll see what we can do :}
Think of this class as an opportunity to learn something about yourself as well as about the discipline of Distance Education. You’re going to be stretched to assimilate technological skills and knowledge that you may not currently have. Oh, and we use a broad definition of technology. For example, Education (yea, Big – E Education) is a technology under our definitions. So is spoken language. We’re not just talking about computers here.
Your assignments and other course related data can be found in the Blackboard system. And …
“… As always, should you or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim.”