Ms. P. is currently working as an after-school tutor in the school where she formerly taught second grade for four years. She is dividing her time between being a stay-at-home Mom with a baby and a toddler, and being a tutor. She tutors children in grades 3-6 mostly in reading and math, but also helps them with their other homework.
Gaining content knowledge in science. Ms. P's college science background was limited but she found the SoS course to be an excellent learning experience.
The content was advanced; it felt like a college level course. It helped me to understand in a deep way about space and time. Since it was based on Einstein's theories, it opened my world in terms of science. Some of it was way beyond my thinking, but I got enough out of it so that it was very worthwhile. The ideas about gravity and force and motion are useful even in thinking about teaching simple machines in second grade.
A "safe space" to learn with other teachers. Ms. P. gained from the experience of taking the course with teachers who have a range of science backgrounds.
The instructor would propose a discussion question after the reading, a question you were supposed to answer. You would try to answer it and you could ask your own questions, and others would respond to your posting. Some of the participants were high school science teachers and other people in the class took responsibility for helping you learn. They would explain things and talk about your questions. In this course there was interaction with other student-learners. Lots of different levels of expertise. They gave me a different perspective.
As a novice science learner, Ms. P. felt comfortable with her online learning community.
I felt safe saying I don't understand something. The prof said at the beginning, this has to be a safe place where you feel okay asking questions. There can be no criticism. It was strange that you didn't know the other learners, but were comfortable asking for help.
The convenience and efficacy of online learning: Ms. P's science background was weak and she needed re-certification credits. The options available to her for continuing education were limited. The nearest college was almost an hour's drive away, and in-district professional development was provided infrequently. The flexibility of the online course allowed her to complete coursework and still meet the other demands of her work and her young family.
Comparing this course to other online courses that she has taken, Ms. P. noted the depth and variety of experiences and opportunities this course provided, and the richness of the resources.
Gaining experience and resources to support her tutoring role. Although she is not currently working in a classroom setting, Ms. P. has found the course useful in her work as a tutor.
I help my students with their science homework and sometimes they have questions that they cannot answer with the available materials. Because of this course, I learned to use the web differently, and so I am able to help them use it also. I have always wanted students to look for their own answers, rather than me giving them the answers, and the way this course was structured reinforced that. It might not have occurred to me to use the web in this way [prior to this course] and it gave me ways to help them do better research. It may not have helped me directly with content my tutor students need, but in terms of process, it did.
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