Teaching in
Public Schools

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From Thurdestorm to Rainbow: Learning from a Distance
Mariza Riva de Almeida
Déborah Scheidt

Distance Learning can be very frightening for learners and instructors. It takes time to get acquainted with the many possibilities involved in the process. In relation to time and pace, instruction may take place in real time (synchronous learning) or on a time-delayed basis (asynchronous learning), so that learners can progress through the course at their own speed with some amount of flexibility. Synchronous learning provides immediate communication and feedback, although it might not give enough time for learners to absorb and process the information being dealt with. Asynchronous learning comprises a combination of self-study with substantial and rapid interaction amongst participants and teachers, without the requirement to be on-line at the same time. Although the learners and the instructor are separated by time and space, they are linked by common interest and electronic communication.

As for place, one has to keep in mind the possibility of working at satellite campuses, at work or at home, providing room for traditional and non-traditional learners to progress in education. In relation to path, different alternatives are available, including audio technologies – telephone conference calls or radio; video technologies – videotape, compressed digital video, cable, satellite delivered programming; computer-based learning technologies – CD-ROM, internet, desk-top video conferencing, and support technologies – e-mail, fax, phone and the world-wide web. The possibility of combination of different technologies brings great benefits to distance learning education.

These distance education aspects are being put into practice in a project called “Prática de Ensino On-Line”, a site opening in August 2002 under the address:

The project is being developed for the “Teaching Practice” subject at the English/Portuguese major of “Centro Universitário Campos de Andrade”. That is a private university which currently has more than 8,000 students and operates in the city of Curitiba, Paraná.

The English/Portuguese major is a short-length course (3 years) that qualifies teaching professionals to be acting as teachers in the primary and secondary school sectors. The working field for these professionals is in state schools mainly in Curitiba and the metropolitan area around it.

As the site is directed to trainees graduating in English as well as in Portuguese, many of the contents are in Portuguese, although as the site progresses and develops there are plans to make it entirely bilingual.

“Teaching Practice” is a subject that is offered in the last year of the course. Its objectives are to scaffold the transition between the theoretical content (all the linguistic and methodological subjects) and practice (when students begin to perform as trainees in primary and secondary schools).

One of the main points to justify the creation of the site is that about 90% of the work in the Teaching Practice Subject is done outside college under the supervision of a small team of professors.

Each supervisor has under her care about 50 trainees and as a consequence, trainees and supervisors often face problems in scheduling personal meetings. Although supervisors always make themselves available at the university at certain pre-arranged times and make their telephone numbers known, trainees do not always have the flexibility of time or feel at ease to call the supervisors at home. Consequently there have been some reports of feelings of demotivation and isolation.

Another difficulty is that the training program encompasses schools scattered all over the city of Curitiba (2 million inhabitants) and the metropolitan area. There are few opportunities to exchange impressions and to reflect about the work being done in loco. Additionally, supervisors have to make a great deal of effort to keep track of the work being done by individual trainees. Some of them deliberately evade supervision.

The main objectives of the site are twofold. As for the pages of the site that are restricted to the university students, the objectives are to facilitate the trainee’s access to the materials related to the subject and mainly to facilitate communication between supervisors and trainees.

As for the pages that are open to the public in general, the aims are to integrate the trainee, the university and the schools where the training program is happening.

Secondary objectives are to provide trainees and teachers in general with an opportunity to display their ideas and the work they have been doing and to provide the opportunity for trainees to meet people with the same interests and concerns virtually in their spare time and in the comfort of their own homes or at the computer labs of their institutions.

Finally, due to the fact that people from two universities are involved in the creation of the site, another objective is to integrate trainees from different universities.

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