It is interesting that the very first question people ask is, “What do you do for a living?” It is meant to be small talk, but for me it always takes the conversation in a whole other direction. It goes something like this.
“I am a high school science teacher,” I say. They smile and start nodding along. “Online.” Their eyes widen.
“Oh, how innnntresting...how do you do that? Do you see your students? How do you do hands-on?” Their tone registers open skepticism, especially if they are a fellow teacher!
Now this is where I have two choices: politely divert or start to explain. Inevitably, being a teacher, I begin to explain.
“Teaching science online is amazing and unbelievably fun. Right now, every science teacher worth their salt aspires to STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Or even better, STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/design, and Math! So when I began teaching online, I just tried to bring those things to my class.”
“How?” They are clearly not convinced.
“There is so much out there right now on the web, and people in STEM fields drive it. Behind Khan Academy, Facebook, Google, Apple, and You Tube is a group of people that would have been right at home in my science course. They thrive in creating technology because it is hands-on. The spirit of the web and science are a perfect match.”
“No, but really, how do you do it?”
“I film my science demonstrations and put them in You Tube. I use online simulators and animations. I show students that before an engineer builds something they design it on the computer first. Heck, the guitar designer I met designs his guitars on the computer first!”
“Yeah, but do you see them? How do they do labs?”
“Some students sign up to go on field trips, but I always make sure to take a video or webcast it so speakers can answer streamed questions live. But mostly, I ask students to take and upload pictures of their projects or labs (taken with their cellphone cameras of course!). They create webpage science portfolios. Also, unlike most classrooms, I also encourage them to look up answers online or text their friends for help. Then I fiercely challenge them to synthesize and analyze what they find in blogs with each other.”
Agreed. “How about that weather?”