Online teaching best practices – from the K-12 Online Teacher of the Year

The nation’s first-ever K-12 Online Teacher of the Year is Teresa Dove of the Florida Virtual school.  The award was created by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).  I’m not clear on how the winner was selected (seems like a difficult task!) but I did think Dove’s five best practices are interesting and worth dissecting a bit.  According to Dove, these practices make her effective in an online environment:

  1. Keep the student at the center of every decision that needs to be made.
  2. Foster relationships with students and parents, because parents can be a teacher’s biggest help.
  3. Talk with your students every day by phone.
  4. Celebrate every effort and success, no matter how big or small.
  5. Build relationships with fellow teachers.  Share resources, best practices, and stories to feel less isolated or alone in the home office.

Wait – aren’t these relevant for the traditional classroom as well?  What does this tell us about online learning?  Does it mislead teachers to believe that it is an easy transition from a traditional classroom to an online learning environment?  An online learning environment is actually quite different from a traditional one.  I would love to hear more from Dove about the tools and specific techniques she uses to celebrate success or foster relationships with parents.  Does she leverage social networking tools?  What about tips on how to communicate effectively – over the phone and via email/chats?  We all know that email messages can easily be misinterpreted, causing unnecessary confusion.   There is quite an art to creating a vibrant, enriching community among students who never (or rarely) see each other in person… I’m not sure that is emphasized enough in the eSchool News article and via Dove’s best practices.