Unexpected, extended school closures have required many teachers to provide online instruction with minimal training or practice. If you are feeling a little anxious or overwhelmed, that absolutely makes sense! In this short series of “Making Online Instruction Work - Now!,” we hope to help you see:
- how much you can apply what you already know,
- how doable that ‘sometimes intimidating' technology can be, and
- that you really can get this started right away...and improve a little bit more each day.
In this first edition, we focus on six key ideas to help you get started.
1. Your Students’ Resources
Reach out to your students to better understand what technology is available to them. You can send an email to students or parents, but recognize that not all of them may have email accessibility. Or, you could call their homes and find out what technology resources they have available to them. Who knows, they may be excited to hear from you!
Regardless of the way you find out the information, you will have a better sense of what options exist for your students to engage in online learning. You may find that many of your students have PS4 or XBox systems. If so, did you know they can use those to access Google classroom?
2. Your Resources
Explore what is available to you. Sure, you probably have your desktop or laptop computer, and maybe you even have a schoolwide learning management system such as Google Classroom. If not, then it’s time to get creative and seek help from colleagues and friends. You don’t need 15 tools. Two to three tools that work well for you will get you started. It's likely you have a cell phone with a camera and video capability. If so, you can create short videos to communicate with your students.
The point here is to quickly identify what technology resources are available for you and your students.
3. Instructional Planning and Teaching Routines
The same way planning and instructional routines drive learning in your face-to-face classroom, they will also drive (or derail) learning in your online classroom. The ideas are the same...it is just the implementation that changes.
Start with what your students need to know and how this learning must be demonstrated. You are already planning standards-aligned lessons. You will continue this in the online setting. Remember, even though the place of instruction has changed from the physical classroom to online, the expectation of mastering grade level standards remains constant.
Next, select two or three high impact activities that will facilitate and scaffold students’ understanding of the required standard(s). Remind yourself that not all learning activities are created equal!
Engage your students in a few high quality activities versus trying to fill time and keeping students busy.
Assigning versus Teaching
How are you going to make sure your students are actually taught how to do things in the online environment? Again, just like classroom-based instruction, assigning work is not the same as guiding and teaching students how to do things they couldn’t previously do. As you think about your standards and learning activities, the following are a few common instructional tools used in the online environment:
- Brief, teacher-made videos. These do not have to be commercial quality. What matters is whether they move students from confusion to understanding! Multiple, short videos (think YouTube) usually work much better than videos lasting 4 or more minutes.
- Reading material that explains the learning.
- Collaborative learning supported through technology such as Google Docs or Zoom video conferencing.
4.Classroom Routines and Procedures
Routine and procedures are critically important in the online classroom - just like they are in an onsite classroom. Online students of all ages need explicit instruction regarding the “how to’s” for each teacher’s online classroom. Just to get your brain going, think about the following items you will need to proactively plan for and teach your students. How will your online students:
- know what they are learning?
- know what they are supposed to do each day?
- access activities and assignments?
- submit assignments?
- receive work with feedback?
- work with each other?
- get help if they don’t understand something?
- involve their parents?
And the list goes on...
Tip: Providing students a daily or weekly “To Do” list that specifically lists all of the items students need to complete and by what date will be worth its weight in gold.
5. Communication Tools
Your next step is to determine a primary method for communicating regularly with your students and their parents. Your students are probably already masters of communicating with each other via online tools. So, now it's just a matter of selecting the means that best serves your students based on their technology resources. Many older students have their own cell phones, and many younger students have at least some access to a cell phone. Let’s take a look at some communication tools that might work for you:
- Email (simple, but effective)
- Video conference (Zoom, Google Hangout, FaceTime, Skype, etc.)
- Group messaging services (Remind, ClassDojo, etc.)
- Learning management systems (Google Classroom, Infinite Campus, etc.)
- Videos (make your own short videos)
Intentionally connecting with and motivating your students is extremely important in the virtual environment. As you shift your practice to online, your students, and likely you, will crave opportunities to connect with one another. Definitely, communicate often with your students. Your students will want to hear from you, and see you, even though they may not admit it. This is also a great way to just check in with your student to see how they are doing in general, not just academically. Your students’ needs for social interaction and social/emotional support may even be more important at this time than previously.
Thinking about these six topics - some of which you already know a lot about - may help as you transition into teaching online.
- Your Students' Resources
- Your Resources
- Instructional Planning and Teaching Routines
- Classroom Routines and Procedures
- Communication Tools
Watch for more information in the “Making Online Instruction Work - Now!" series to explore these areas more deeply.
Feel free to reach out to our team if you are in need of support with your current certification process or are interested in learning more about getting STEM certified. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org