The Working Waterfront

Navigating my way through designing a class

Sharing teaching expertise through technology

Ian Watkins
Posted 2015-02-19
Last Modified 2015-02-19

Ian Watkins is​ an Island Fellow, a participant in a two-year service program operated by AmeriCorps and the Island Institute, doing community development work on islands and remote coastal communities. Watkins works on Deer Isle and the Downeast coast with high school students. 

The three-ring binder is one of the bigger ones, 3- or 4-inches wide, and stuffed to the gills. A few dog-eared pages stick out from the top and if you were to open it, you would see a file folder labeled with blue painter’s tape resting on top of the hole-punched pages. The adhesive label, meant instead for marine varnish jobs, reads “Assorted Quizzes” in black Sharpie pen.

This particular binder is bound in plastic, allowing for the handy 8.5-inch by 11-inch printout title page to be slipped neatly inside. Reading simply “Navigation,” with a generic image of what might pass as a lobster boat, the binder contains notes, resources, lessons and of course, assorted quizzes, are for a navigation unit at Deer Isle-Stonington High School.

Part of what used to be called the school’s Marine Trades class, the binder has material dating back to 2005, with much of the updated or altered information coming in the form of margin notes made in pen or pencil. This material is serving as the primary source and guide for an online class in navigation that I am creating for the Eastern Maine Skippers program.

The binder is full of great material. But it was really made to serve as a guide for one person: the teacher who assembled it and teaches the material. If this material were accessed as an online class the way it appears in the binder, it would be useless.

A class isn’t about handing a student a thick binder, online or otherwise, of lessons and assessments; it requires the teacher delivering and teach the material. The main task of creating an online class involves substituting this time-tested and highly effective method of delivering content.

If you’re not an expert on the topic, you rely on other resources. In using those resources, you must consider how can they be presented and delivered in a coherent way that doesn’t necessarily include a teacher standing in front of a classroom.

Luckily, for this navigation unit, I share an office space with the author and teacher of the original course material. Filming a custom lecture and lesson presented a perfect opportunity to capture and deliver the material. Borrowing a camera, and gathering classroom charts and navigation tools, we went over the course outline once more before I used some amateur skills in directing and camera placement.

Following about an hour and a half of filming, and before spending twice as much time editing, I now had lightning captured in a bottle—a bit of isolated program expertise now available across multiple schools. It might not be the trusty binder, but it will do the job.