Paula Lombardi has worked for the School of Education at Granite State College for several years, most recently teaching General Special Education courses online. In addition, she has taught in private and public schools for over thirty years, mostly with students with low incidence disabilities, including: autism spectrum disorders, cognitive disability, and multiple disabilities. Paula’s daughter and one of Paula’s sisters work in Occupational Therapy (OT). Since there is so much crossover between OT and special education, there are plenty of lively discussions on aspects of disability and education at family gatherings. Paula lives in Hillsboro with her husband.
Getting Started Online
Paula was very excited when she learned that the GSC Post Baccalaureate Teacher Certification Program (PBTC) courses were going online since she had dabbled with website design since the 90’s. After teaching online she says, “This online teaching venue lends itself to my tech skills and interests, familiarity with the GSC teacher education courses, and my teaching experience. Of course, I love working from the comforts of my home.”
In talking about her online experience, she states:
|Online learners need to be self-motivated and organized. I like to point out at the beginning of the course that these are the same characteristics that are essential in the teaching profession. I also help students by creating an organized course that includes frequent reminders, checklists, due dates, and an open line of communication to discuss issues. Issues do come up in teacher education courses where the students are expected to teach specific lessons, co-teach, and meet with other professionals. In addition to the core content, teacher education students have a large amount of scheduling and collaborating to do in order to meet the competencies. Because of these situations, communication between the instructor and student is frequent and ongoing.
||Online learners need to be self-motivated and organized. I like to point out at the beginning of the course that these are the same characteristics that are essential in the teaching profession.|
Within my courses I use Moodle messaging when I want to send out a quick note to all or some of the students. I feel that is the quickest route of communication. I also use the Announcements Forum and go.granite email. I attempt to touch base with every student within the first week and if I don’t get a response, I will find alternative emails, offer my phone number, my alternative email, whatever it takes to show the students they need to communicate with me and that we will find a way to make that work.
Discussion forums, also a focal point of communication between the student and instructor, make the overall teacher presence more effective. I participate in the discussion forums in a variety of roles: praising, adding information to the topic, summarizing the theme of the forum, being supportive, and providing resources when the need arises.
In my Instructor’s block I have recently added a link to my personal homepage “Paula’s Special Education Resources”, a blog that I write on ADHD and Autism and my Twitter page. I use the Twitter account to bookmark high quality materials that mesh with the courses I teach. That way, students can check out the links and I can access resources quickly. It is my hope that students will see my use of these Internet environments as doable options for themselves too.
Spending time online and seeing what other teachers are doing is really helpful in developing new methods to upgrade courses. I also subscribe to online discussion groups about different facets of online teaching and technology. I am working on creating mini lessons to help introduce, summarize and fill gaps throughout the courses using tools like: PowerPoint, Jing, Snagit, Camtasia and YouTube. The Internet provides a wealth of tools to enhance the online learning experiences. Even with beginning level skills, a teacher can add supplementary and alternative material to the texts using web resources such as audio files, YouTube and other videos, journal articles, discussion groups, pdf ”books/manuals”, online newsletters, blogs, etc. These are easy to embed and give the students a richer set of resources for learning
Getting Instructional Support Along the Way
I have gotten a lot of help in developing my online courses here at GSC. The rich media specialist, Steve Covello, has been my role model in online teaching. His tutorials and webinars have helped me develop courses and identify what I need to do to move forward with my rich media and course development skills. Steve’s presentation on Podcasting at the Academic Technology Institute last June was, in my opinion, the best one, not only because of his presentation but because of the excellent “manual” of directions he gave everyone. He demonstrated that presentation is not enough in good teaching. You have to give the students tools that they can take with them so they can develop and use the skills. Also, having an instructional designer available to edit and give suggestions certainly improves the quality of the developing course. Other GSC online instructors in the special education program have been very open and helpful whenever I have had a question or asked to access their courses for learning purposes and we share our “best practices”.