Classrooms across the nation have made a transition to remote learning within just a matter of months. While many of us are quite savvy when it comes to navigating our newest smartphone, making the switch to the digital classroom is not nearly as simple as selecting the best filter to post a perfect picture on Instagram. Many teachers have faced a steep learning curve, but fortunately, teachers have a knack for learning. Be it a current teacher having a bit of trouble transiting, or a teacher-in-training who wonders what the future of online learning will mean for their classroom – help is on the way! We have scoured our resources to provide you with some essential tips to help you get your online classroom running smoothly.
Embrace the learning curve.
This is a sudden and unexpected change for many. It’s okay not to do things perfectly. Students are often told the why of the answer is just as important, if not more. Finding the answer to helping establish your online classroom may take some trial and error. These mishaps provide valuable insight; you need to weed out what doesn’t work to discover what does work. You’re not expected to be an IT expert or a tech guru by nature – you’re a teacher. Share your challenges with your students. It can be an important lesson to allow students to see that teachers make mistakes too, just like everyone else. Better yet, ask your students for tech advice – guaranteed you’ll be surprised by their helpful suggestions.
Establish class rules.
Outline a set of virtual class rules. Just as you wouldn’t allow texting in class, also let students know this is unacceptable now. Kindly ask students to put anything which may distract them away during the lesson.
You’re already a pro at planning; it’s what you’ve always done! Before you dive in, create a plan of action. Communicate the plan with your students to make sure everyone is on the same page. It will be important to incorporate various online tools throughout your day. You have likely developed some strong lungs teaching for hours in front of your classroom over the years, but virtual teaching is a whole new game. Try to break up your day with group assignments, interactive tools, videos, websites, blogs, and discussion boards. If you plan a full day of live instruction, you may quickly lose steam, and your students will likely lose focus.
Set a class schedule.
After you have the framework of your plan, share it with students. Try to provide a good dose of things students are already accustomed to doing, along with the new. This will provide a thread of normalcy during the transition. Set an agenda so students understand common goals. During ‘class’, make sure to keep track of the time. Without a school bell to loyally remind us we’ve reached the lesson’s end, our digital computer clocks may afford us the same courtesy. Be respectful of your time and theirs. As much as possible, try to stick to an allotted schedule.
Make sure your students can connect.
Students cannot learn virtually without a computer or internet access. Get in touch with your students and assure they all have internet connectivity access. If not, your school or district may have resources available to lend or provide to students in need.
Don’t use technology as a crutch.
You’ll quickly find that face-to-face teaching is different than virtual teaching. Technology is an amazing tool, but it is just that – a tool. Do not replace teaching with a stream of different apps and videos. Remember, you have trained to be a teacher, so do just that. Avail of the tools you need to make your online class successful, but resist the urge to use them ALL. Imagine trying to teach all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in one year! Simply because they exist doesn’t make a strong case for having to teach them all. Use only what you need to make your virtual classroom successful and refrain from the rest.
Check in with your students.
Just as you are learning how to teach remotely, students are adjusting to a new normal too. Find the balance between cutting students some slack and laying down the law. Students are dealing with a lot of external stressors and may react to online learning differently. The goal is to try and meet each student where they currently are in their development and then encourage continued learning. Consider building time into your schedule to provide them with space to speak about what’s going on. Everyone is affected by this, so thoughts and feelings deserve a voice. If you identify a student who may be struggling, follow up privately. Make yourself aware of any support services your school or district may provide for students.
Keep students engaged.
One of the biggest changes, sure to be noticed by all, is the lack of conversation. You may long for the days when you were constantly requesting students to please, save the discussion for later. The normal chatter between students is a fundamental staple in the classroom; don’t let this fizzle out! Students need to keep the conversation going and it’s still possible to help facilitate it. Encourage students to partake in online discussions or start a chat group. When you join these discussions, remember the intention behind the discussion. Try not to get too caught up on correcting grammar or entire sentences written in abbreviations and acronyms (it will happen). Stay focused and engaged with your students to partake in a more meaningful conversation.
Remember, everyone is in this together. No one gets it right the first time. Any teacher can tell you things rarely go according to plan. Adaptation is key. Right now, there just isn’t time to sweat the small stuff. Stay positive, share the joy of learning with your students and do what you do best – teach! You’ve got this.
Below, you will find some of our favorite resources to help you transition to remote learning.
Learning Management Systems:
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Platforms:
- British Council
- KitKit School
- Facebook Get Digital
- Discovery Education
- Seesaw: The Learning Journal
Content Creation Tools:
Are we missing any of your favorite resources or tools? Connect with fellow teachers in our Facebook community and share how you’ve managed to tranition to remote learning with these tips!