Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Jim Hicks

Jim Hicks retired in June 2006 with 32 years of experience as a teacher and counselor. He will be a part-time instructor in Fall 2006 with the Kentucky Department of Education in the Virtual High School. Jim was originally introduced to Tappedin during a workshop conducted by the Kentucky Department of Education for Instructional Technology Leaders in the late 90s. At that time Tappedin did not have all the features that it has now. You could get an office but it was nothing more then a graphical space with which you actually had to design your own office using graphical software. Still the goal was to bring people together in a professional development atmosphere to share ideas. At the time Jim was an ITL and was introduced to the concept and became very interested in online learning.

Jim's Perspective

I felt that this was a way of bringing together diverse groups of educators with many points of view that could improve the professional development opportunities for teachers. I have never been disappointed with this. Tapped In has proven time and again that it has the ability to bring people together to share ideas for the improvement of the profession. With the addition of the student campus there is now the ability to bring this type of online learning to our students.

It has been ten years since that initial involvement, the Tapped In environment is now much more user-friendly then it was 10 years ago but the benefits are the same. It certainly has been of benefit to me. I retired from teaching this past year after 32 years of teaching science in Kentucky. I can now pursue one of my interests, online learning and teaching at the Kentucky Virtual High School.

Working Online with Middle School Students

Over the past couple of years I have had the opportunity to work with some of my middle school students in an online learning environment. Using the Tapped In Student Campus I was able to set up and Advanced Science workshop that students who were in our district's gifted and talented program were able to login and participate in discussions of topics that time in class did not allow for. During our first semester the core content and curriculum map had a strong genetics and heredity component. While we were able to stress the basics in class there was little time for advanced topics related to this such as cloning. The students jumped at that opportunity to get online and discuss the topic. Each student who wished to participate was issued an ID and password along with an introductory letter to both the student and their parents. Each student had to participate in a practiced session to become familiar with the online environment. Once students became familiar with the environment a session on cloning was scheduled. The session lasted almost 90 minutes and concluded with a 29 page transcript on the session.

The response to this and several projects that I posted in the student workshop room was tremendous. Parents especially were pleased with the concept. They had the ability to see first-hand the things that the students could work on and follow the progress. The room was not only the student's source of advanced topic information in science but also became a homework help room. The students who participated loved the opportunity and still login during the summer to check sites and files that I have uploaded into the room.

The experience I have gained from this has been great. This fall I hope to take some of this and be able to extend it into my work with the Kentucky Virtual High School.