As I sit here in the middle of March 2020, I am faced with not being able to go back to my school tomorrow. In fact, I will not be able to go back to my building, students, and co-workers for the next two weeks at a minimum. We are dealing with something that we have never had to deal with before, and for many teachers, they are being faced with a different challenge. How do they educate their students online?
While we all have been trained and tested in multiple modalities of education, online teaching is one that we just don’t have much, if any, background in.
I taught at a 100% online school for four years and I have a few tips for educators new to the online space.
#1 It’s Very Different
Our normal day is to go into school, deliver our lesson, and help our students. Nothing about that is different when doing it online, but it’s new for all of us. We as teachers have most likely never done our jobs entirely online. The same goes for students, parents, and administrators. Be kind to everyone involved. It’s different and there needs to be a chance to learn from it. From the way that you go to school to the way that you interact with your students, everything will change. Embrace it. Learn from it. See how you can apply it to your typical teaching experience.
#2 Plan/Schedule Your Day
We are built to follow a schedule. I know at 10:08 AM my first class of the day will depart and that I will have my second class entering four minutes later. The problem is, that doesn’t happen online. Your classes, times, and pretty much everything else will be different. Make a schedule, plan your day, and conquer.
#3 Be Yourself
Just because you are online doesn’t mean that you lose yourself, You can keep the same personality online as you can in person. In fact, I would recommend that you bring more of yourself online than what you do in person. Your job is to engage students. If a simple video or joke gets them hooked, do it. Make sure you are following the proper guidelines from your school, but be yourself. Don’t pretend or put on more or less than you are. Your students appreciate authenticity, so do you. Your kids will thank you for it.
#4 Video Tips
I’m a huge fan of video. Luckily for you, there has never been an easier time to create and distribute video-based content. If you make mistakes, leave it in. Be real with your students. Just don’t make the videos too long. Get to the point. Cover the important ideas and move on. Your video should be the stepping off point towards more content, not the only content.
#5 Feedback is Key
Feedback is the most important thing that you can give an online learner. No matter how much time and effort you put into your lesson, you will forget one key thing that you wanted to see out of your students. In a typical classroom setting, you would quickly be able to correct the problem, but we are not in typical times. Provide your students with the feedback they need to give you their best.
#6 Tools and Time
There are hundreds if not thousands of tools out there that you can use to enhance student learning. Don’t invest the time to learn them all. You don’t want to overwhelm your students with different ways of doing things. Give them a core set of tools that they will use in your class and work from there. I would recommend no more than 2-3 tools when just starting out.
#7 Master Something
To match the last point, master something. If you are using 2-3 tools, master them. Know them inside and out. Get good at finding the common failure points and teach your students how to get around them. You should be the only tech support your student needs when you are the one asking them to do something.
#8 Embrace New Learning
We ask our students to learn something new every day. We need to be willing to do the same. Embrace the new challenge that we have been given. If we aren’t willing to learn something new, why should our students be? The skills that we learn during this time are not going away. The time you take to learn new tools, communicate with your students, build lessons, forge relationships, and more will be paid back tenfold. Invest in yourself, your students, and your skills.