Teaching online

What a year 2020 has been for all of us and where perhaps it has turned your teaching on its head.  I’m sure I’m not alone in making more of my freelance training work after losing my day job.  Expanding my own reach, growing my own tech skills and trying new things.  With over three months of new work places, patterns and processes, it feels like a good time to reflect.  Here are my top 10 thoughts in no particular order:

  1.  My focus has been on synchronous teacher training and my delivery means so many of my F2F methods and materials are transferable to Zoom or similar – therefore, there’s nothing to fear, it just needs a little practice perhaps with patient friends or family! 
  2. I’ve been using Zoom for online teaching for almost 4 years and continue to find it is the best (for reasons I will share later).  If you are new to it,  you could set up a meeting with no participants (yes it is a bit lonely!) just to see or try the main functions before using it with students. Its functions are very limited on a tablet or phone so advise students of this.  
  3. I’m careful of keeping to our usual schedules due to time zone differences and emailing my student/s before class with materials and reminders, to keep them engaged and provide some stable timetabling in these changing times.  I email after each lesson too with resources and encouraging messages until our next class. 
  4. Most of my students and teachers have been competent with Zoom but there may be some who need extra support – it might be worth translating some of the tech language to help lower level students in your class (words such as annotate / share screen etc)
  5. Using a learner management system platform such as Edmodo may be a benefit.  It is pretty easy to learn the functions (it has a similar look to Facebook) and has valuable operations to support your class, students and you – it has a useful media library to store lesson resources. 
  6. Be aware of your students’ technical limits, in that their households may be sharing the family laptop or PC so lesson time might be limited or need to be amended. 
  7. The three great functions of Zoom are the ability to share the screen whether it is a white board, a website or Power Point (or Google slides etc); the useful breakout rooms where you can easily set up pair or group work (and join in to monitor) just like a F2F classroom and finally the chat box or participants box so you can keep an eye on attendees plus send messages or even files between the group.  These really make it feel as close as possible to a real life classroom. 
  8. The Zoom functions above enable us to importantly keep the lessons as interactive as possible – keeping our students engaged during this challenging time and while outside of the (possible) usual classroom is vital to help support them and ensure they don’t lose out in this unstable time.  Using the chat box for feedback or setting up a task, adopting the breakout rooms for roleplay and practice – where you can still monitor (although it can take a little longer), all help towards a successful student centred lesson.  
  9. I have been teacher training with small groups of 6 or larger groups of about 14  – the smaller groups are more effective I feel because better rapport is established and I can keep track more easily.  However, the larger groups do work well as I use the breakout rooms efficiently so they are getting to know each other and the chat box also helps to keep on top of things. 
  10. Finally, it is not only our students who need extra support and understanding at this time.  We too need to look after ourselves, take regular breaks and get outside at least once a day (lunch time or after work).  I take our puppy out for a walk every day which is as good for him as it is for me!  Fresh air, daylight and some exercise do wonders for the soul. 

I hope your journey with online teaching has had similar positive outcomes and that you too stay safe and well.

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