With the COVID-19 pandemic causing chaos throughout the country, teachers have found themselves suddenly having to teach remotely. With little experience and guidance, they have understandably been at a loss as to what to do.
As digital learning is our passion, we thought we would share some top tips to help you, the teachers, with this mammoth task. We spoke with Sabine de Kamps, our Learning Experience Designer Team Leader, who shared her thoughts.
There are four areas she is concerned about in particular, aware that they will have a significant impact on how you teach remotely.
Let’s look at her suggestions for tackling them.
When choosing what technology to use, it is important that it is fit for purpose. Instead of diving straight in and seeing what is out there, you should first think about what you need the technology for and what features would help you, and then see what is available to fit your requirements. That will make the whole task easier and much less overwhelming.
Once you have made your decision, it is important that you get to grips with it as that will help ensure that your sessions go smoothly. If possible, practice, ask colleagues for advice, or look on YouTube, as there are many helpful how-to videos out there.
Video calls have a lot of benefits. They are particularly useful when you need to explain things or to give the students opportunities to ask questions. There is also an important social aspect as well, as it provides a nice opportunity for the students to see their friends (and you!) and reduce that distance a little.
If you are explaining a task, it is worthwhile to make a recording. This allows the students to re-watch it if they are struggling to understand, or even show it to their parents if they need to.
Lastly, when doing a live session, have your camera on and don’t just rely on slides. It is important that students can see your face too, as it will help reduce the distance that they will be feeling.
But, it is best not to go overboard with the video calls and use them all the time. Instead, use a variety of approaches – a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous is best. One solution could be a video meeting in the morning to explain the upcoming work, but then ask the students to download worksheets or resources to do in their own time and at their own pace.
Video resources can be great, but be aware of their length! Attention spans are short and the students may become bored.
Expectations and guidance can get lost in remote learning. So, to combat this, be clear about what you are expecting from your students. One tip is to clearly lay out what is going to be covered at the beginning of the video call, and then at the end you can summarise again.
It’s important to be aware of your student’s different learning needs, but luckily, one benefit of remote learning is that your students can work at their own pace. If they are struggling, they can take the time they need rather than feel the pressure they may have done in class. But, if you have students who fly through the work and want more, it may be worth having additional activities on hand.
Feedback is something that happens incredibly naturally in the classroom. But teachers lose those important visual cues over video, such as eyes glazing over or students looking confused. So, how do you get around that?
Polls are an effective way of quickly gaining feedback that you would miss out on, and they are especially useful with older students. For example, you can ask them if they understand what has been said, and as it’s anonymous, they are likely to be more truthful as they won’t worry about how they may look in front of the others.
Don’t forget to give feedback to the students too. It happens much more naturally in a face-to-face setting, but with remote learning you will have to make a more conscious effort.
Questions are a natural part of the classroom, but can easily get lost in remote learning. So, make sure there is a way for them to ask for help or ask questions, whether that is through messages or over a video call.
Make sure it isn’t all work and play. Consider structuring your day with a morning and afternoon video call. The morning session could lay out the task and set them going on the learning, but the afternoon ones could be used for more relaxed, fun time – something to look forward to. They could include games which are related to what they’ve learnt, or even competitions between different classes.
Parents will likely be supporting their children, especially younger ones, but will be juggling this around their jobs. One of the most helpful things to do would be to provide a clear structure of what will be covered each day, but making sure to allow for flexibility.
Let the parents know what the essential tasks are and then what is additional. This will help provide focus for them and allow for flexibility knowing that on busy days they can just focus on what is essential.
Though you can’t get away from the extra work that is required when changing to remote learning, there are ways you can help reduce your workload a little.
Encourage students to work together and help each other solve problems. Then, once they have tried and still can’t solve it, they can then go to you for help.
Try setting larger tasks rather than lots of smaller ones, as this will help reduce the amount of work you are creating. This works especially well with older children.
Don’t forget there’s a whole array of pre-made resources you can use, such BBC Bitesize or Khan Academy. Good quality resources like these are incredibly useful at times like this.
It can’t be denied, this situation is really difficult for everyone. But, if you can muster up the energy, there are potential positives out there. One we think is especially exciting is the opportunity to do things in a different way, an opportunity to be really creative and push your usual boundaries a little.