Teaching and learning in an online environment has its PROS and CONS. I did not truly understand what these could be until taking these classes through MSU. I have taken many other online classes over the past 10 years (via Blackboard). Although these classes were online and had some level of interactive, the level of collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity was nowhere near what I have experienced in these past few months with CEP 810 and 811.
If I look at my current teaching assignment, on the surface, integrating technology seemed to be something of a daunting task. However, through the course sessions, I realized I already incorporate some technologies and there are a few that could easily be included. The biggest obstacle for my students is actually physically accessing the technologies (assuming internet and computer access is a given, which isn't always the case). Many of them are still developing the fine motor and visual motor skills to use a mouse to activate the computer. If the student has alternate computer access, often the online technologies do not support the adaptations (e.g., switch use). My students often have to rely on someone else to assist with utilizing the technologies.
With that said I believe that although my students are challenged by the access, it doesn't mean that they should not be exposed to some of the technologies and online learning opportunities. Access to these just needs to be a little more planned, structured, and adult facilitated, but the students can still explore these tools. Currently, I utilize email to communicate with [some] parents in forms of emails specific about their child and classroom related news. I have created a classroom blog which highlights technology information and classroom activities. My weekly lesson plans are available online as well as a link to the school/classroom calendar. With a SMART Board in my classroom, I often structure my lessons around an interactive component. We also have an iPad in the classroom. I try to incorporate this both in individual work (choosing apps that focus on IEP objective) as well as group work (using apps to develop turn taking skills as well as using it to create a "collaborative" project). For the future, I there are several online learning opportunities that I would like to explore with my students. First, I would like to explore the use of Skype in the classroom. I think that is important for students to see other students that are similar to them as well as give them the opportunity to experience other classrooms around the world. Next, I would like to begin to develop simple screencasts, SMART Notebook recordings of skills that would benefit from repeated practice, as well as create a video to share to practice basic skills (such as sight words, colors, numbers). Lastly, I would like to set aside dedicated time to properly assess and teach the students in their technology skills.
In addition to student online learning opportunities, I see some of the online tools to be great resources for the paraprofessional who work with my students. I am considering creating an RSS feed bundle of special education/technology sites that could service as a professional development resources for them. I also intend to use a session of online webinars relating to special education and assistive technology to provide them with up-to-date information about these topics.
I am excited to see what the next 5 years holds for education!