Top 3 Tips for Teaching Online During CORONAVIRUS / COVID-19 Times
COVID-19 has turned our world as we know it upside down. How will you survive the quarantine restrictions for an indefinite amount of time? Whether you are a teacher, parent/guardian, or student, these school closures have no doubt impacted you drastically.
Students who are very social beings are required to be isolated from their friends and teachers and take online classes. Parents are being asked to telework, keep their kids on task in online school, and even help teach their kids. Additionally, teachers who are used to teaching in a physical classroom, who may only use technology as complements to their lessons, are now being asked to completely change their pedagogy and put everything online.
If you have ever designed a completely online course you know that it is not as simple as making everything digital and posting it in your Learning Management System (LMS). I know from experience that it takes several weeks to thoughtfully design and develop an online course that is taught over the semester. Yet, teachers were asked to do this with as little as a 48-hour notice with some support staff. This has put tremendous pressure on teachers to completely change their pedagogical approach, learn new tech, and likely, create brand new lessons. It’s a lot for everyone. To help with this transition, consider these top three tips for Teachers to set you up for success during this time.
Top 3 Tips for Teacher Success
Start with the ADDIE Model
The ADDIE model is broken down into Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation steps. It is a very popular instructional design model that will help you get organized in thinking about where to begin and how to adapt your lessons to put online. Ideally, you’d work through this process with a lot more time and thought, but due to time constraints, you will likely be jumping into the Design, Development, and Implementation phases.
In the Design phase, you know your students. You know the ones that have trouble staying on task when you are in the same room as them. You know that they will also have trouble if you give them an hour long video to watch on their own. You’ll want to consider their vast learning preferences for these lessons. Consider this as a “Flipped Learning” opportunity. Use what you’d normally teach in direct instruction and create a series of vidcasts/podcasts. My advice is to not make each product longer than 2 min. per grade level. So if you teach 6th grade, your video shouldn’t be longer than 12 min. Break them up by topic so they can easily skip around and re-watch the ones they need to. Feel free to use other content on the web, YouTube, Vimeo, and Khan Academy are all very good resources.
The Development phase is where you put your content online. This phase may be very time consuming if you aren’t real tech savvy. This is where you should enlist help. Many schools are offering up PD and on-call support personnel to help you. Take advantage of this. Use your school’s LMS system. No sense in going rogue at this point or trying to be creative. You don’t have time for that. Save that for when you have the summer off and you are thinking ahead. Just use what your school is using. Make everything user-friendly to reduce the number of clicks and downloads. For instance, embedding Google Docs into your LMS will be accessible for all students. You don’t have to worry if students have Microsoft Word, they won’t have to download, save, and reupload. The Google Doc will open, they can edit without having to download, edit, save, and reupload. Embed links by making the text hyperlinked rather than posting the large raw link. Don’t forget to include a variety of media, bitmojis, gifs, memes, videos, audio, etc., just as you would in your face-to-face class products.
The Implementation phase is probably where you are right now. Use this time to make sure all the links are working, the flow of information makes sense, and the students know where to go to get information. Ask for feedback from your students constantly. If several of your students have the same question, consider tweaking your online content to address that. Add a Q&A place for students to ask questions and see what others are asking as well. Just like in your physical classroom when students ask questions aloud.
Use a Variety of Tech Tools
This is the perfect opportunity to use several tech tools that you’ve been wanting to try. Here are my top five with suggestions for integration.
- Snapchat: Yes, kids still use Snapchat. They prefer it over SMS texting for some reason. Create an account just for you and your students. Have them follow you. Post a welcome message to your story every day. Just the way you would if you greet your students at the door. You can also send personal messages to check in and ask how they are doing and give feedback. You can even create groups on there if they are working on group projects and give feedback to the group. Instagram works similarly and you can use that too, but I’d check in with your students to see what they prefer.
- VoiceThread: This is a great tool to pull in your presentation slides and create discussions around them. Students can participate through phone, video, voice, or written responses. If students choose to create a video response they can use the virtual pen to mark up on the slide to emphasize their points. The free version gives you five presentations for free; however, many schools have a subscription. If you don’t already have a subscription, now would be a good time to ask for one.
- Flipgrid: This is one of my favorite tools. It works on both mobile devices and laptops. I prefer the mobile version though. Flipgrid is a great tool for you to pose discussion questions. You create the video prompt and then set the time limit for student responses. They can respond to each other and post their own.
- All Google Suite Tools: Collaboration is key during this time. These synchronous collaboration tools allow you to see who is doing what as they are typing as well as what was done in the history of the document through the “all changes saved in drive” link at the top of a Google Doc. You can have students suggest changes or make comments on docs. This is another way to put students into groups and work through course work together so they can get more socialization.
- Video Conferencing Tools: My university uses Zoom which is robust and has a lot of features like breakout rooms, virtual whiteboards, chats, and slides. You can find many like it that are free with a simple Google Search. Other easy tools that everyone has available are Google Hangouts, FaceTime, WhatsApp video chat, or Facebook video chat. These tools allow you to check in and out with your students for the day and provide any direct instruction to your students that may be necessary, and that you feel are beneficial synchronously.
Provide Opportunities for Socialization
One of the big reasons kids go to school rather than get home taught or do online school is to socialize with other kids their age. This is an important piece of child development. Consider ways you can have students socialize with each other in all the ways that they would in a regular school day. This should include a recess, lunch, and even physical education (PE). Think about how you can create these spaces for students to engage in these activities together virtually. Create video rooms for “recess” where students can play virtual games with each other like Words with Friends, jump rope, or 21 questions. Allow them to get creative here. A virtual PE room can have students lead workouts and do them together. Physical activity is important for their brain development as well. For example, have students take turns leading a Tabata workout. (Tabata is 20 seconds of work and ten seconds of rest.) Each student picks a body weight activity to do for 20 seconds. Finally, create a “coffee corner”. This is a virtual space where students can just pop in and talk to each other while drinking their tea, hot coco, or tasty beverage of choice. You can even play coffee shop type music in the background. (Suggested tool is a public Google Calendar published on your LMS with set times for these activities or create several throughout the day to have smaller groups and add the conferencing (Hangout) option.
I hope you are staying healthy and calm during this stressful time. Perhaps you’ll find some helpful information here. I’d love to hear your comments or questions and even what you are doing in your online classes. But remember, in this transition period, be kind to one another. Understand that we are all in this together and that everyone is doing their very best. If you have feedback or can offer support, provide it in a kind, thoughtful way.