This past week I wrapped up a ten week intensive training course to become a certified Virtual High School (VHS) teacher. The course ran my cohorts and I through weeks of discussion boards through VHS’s new “Distance2Learn” or D2L platform, a privatized, secure, online classroom setting complete with collaborative graphic organizers, blog and wiki platforms, online assessments, and dropboxes. For a final assignment we were asked to generate a “farewell speech” to post to our class blog. Not to be outdone, I personally recorded my farewell address using Garageband to give it a more personal feel (and to ensure people would actually pay attention to what I said!) The audio file can be found below along with a written transcript for those who find my voice grating… or possess hearing disabilities.
When I graduated Melrose High School in 2001 our class was blessed with the label of the first graduating class of the new millennium, a claim still disputed by the class of 2000, but no matter. My best friend, and vale-dictorian of the class, Dan Bachovchin, left us with a speech in which his message was simple: RAG short for Remember, Appreciate, Grow.
Almost ten years have passed and those words have not lost their meaning to me, yet their context has somehow changed. As I virtually stand here before you in a ceremony without walls, diplomas, cheering, tassels or mortarboards, I ask you fellow educators to RAG as we venture forth to lead a burgeoning generation of students full of inquiry, enthusiasm, and an insatiable capacity to learn.
REMEMBER the great lessons taught us by our investigations and discussions. The best practices for virtual learning. The ways to build an online community that is warm, thoughtful, and collaborative in nature. The fine art of molding a conversation online playing the role of participant instead of principal voice. Remember the need for pain-staking attention to assessment and the value of well crafted rubrics and expectations. The need to insist on the citation of sources for both educational content and elements of style. The importance of maintaining a support staff tuned to the needs of a variety of learners the world over, and centering our classrooms around our students.
APPRECIATE the vast, virtual world we enter together. The internet is commonly framed as a place of mistrust and even danger to those who have not yet learned how to master its digital frontier. But to the well trained educator, the internet and virtual classroom can be a safe place where student’s great potential can be unlocked thanks to the endless quantity and variety of different resources at their disposal. Appreciate how web 2.0 tools can unlock higher order thinking from students who might otherwise shy away from sharing their voice, and the powerful ability to bring our students together in creative, collaborative ways they had not previously been able to.
Last, but most importantly, GROW as virtual educators and as professional learners. As we close an introductory chapter in our lives as online instructors and collaborators, it is critical that we see this moment in our lives not as a capstone but as a foundation to better teaching and learning. The online learning world will continue to be a place that evolves at a breakneck pace, with new tools, resources, and accompanying challenges. Our students will enter our classrooms with different experiences in both their real and virtual worlds that we will forever be required to come to understand and adapt to so we may best reach them. Therefore we must remain dynamic and not static, open to the use of tools that do not yet exist, hungry to know more about the ever changing landscape of our trade.
Remember, Appreciate, and Grow. Three words that have never lost meaning to me, yet have come to mean something completely different. I bid you a fond farewell but also a timely reminder that in today’s flat world, staying in communication with one another is more easily done than ever before. You can always find me on Twitter @MrMusselman, or via email through firstname.lastname@example.org, no matter where I am in the real or virtual world. Best wishes, salutations, and congratulations!