Here we are, starting school virtually for the first time in human history. This situation is unprecedented and full of uncertainty, but one thing is certain; a lot of learning will be happening — teacher learning. As school districts adapt to life during COVID, systems and tools are rapidly being introduced to assist with the challenges of remote learning.
Teachers will need to quickly learn how to use this new technology to ensure student engagement and success. Getting to know these new tech tools in such a short span of time poses many challenges for our diverse population of teachers as they work to meet the needs of students and their multiple learning styles. If we approach this problem with the idea of keeping things simple, then we can better manage the new learning and help our students and families be successful as well. So what exactly does keeping it simple mean?
Focus on the Essential Tools for Remote Learning
As an educator, acquaint yourself with the primary tools you will be using for teaching and communication. Educators need a solid application for live-streaming synchronous learning, and right now, we’re using Zoom to meet this need. For those students who are not able to participate during live lessons, Flipgrid offers an intuitive, user-friendly app that provides a way to record video communication and more.
Go Beyond the Foundations
In addition to these fundamental apps, teachers need a learning management system to create a digital version of their real world classroom. For many educators, Google Classroom is a popular tool. While Google Classroom is relatively easy to learn and start using, it lacks many of the more powerful features of a full-fledged LMS. With this in mind, we can see how a good tool for live video, an easy-to-use application for recorded video, and a solid LMS are essential and provide a strong foundation for online learning.
When considering additional apps to add to your essential tech toolbox, invest your learning in tools that can be adapted for a variety of uses. One often overlooked but extremely flexible tool is Google Slides. Teachers often see it only as a presentation tool, but Slides can be used in a variety of creative ways, from publishing collaborative classroom magazines to creating interactive models.
Look through Get Creative with Google Slides to get more ideas on building Google Slides into your classroom. Think about altering any traditionally-formatted presentations you plan to use in your digital teaching to provide space for students to take notes and reflect on their learning as part of their learning process. Making this modification to any Google Slides presentations you use will enable students to hear you through Zoom, see your slides on their own copies of the presentation, and engage with the content, all in one place.
Flipgrid is another highly adaptable tool. Consider using it to bring guest speakers into your class, to provide opportunities for global collaboration, or even to gamify your lessons with Fliphunts. For more ideas to spark your creativity, explore Five Ideas for Re-Imagining Flipgrid.
Keep the Practices That Work
All of us now face the reality of teaching our students using technology, but this is nothing new: TEA adopted Technology TEKS for grades K-12 in 2011 to prepare our students for college and beyond. When thinking about how to teach and integrate technology, start with tried and true teaching strategies and practices. Chunk concepts and scaffold the learning by teaching one or two concepts at a time and practicing these essential concepts with your students until they demonstrate understanding.
Think Like a Coach
Think about teaching your students to use technology in an educational setting in terms of coaching. A good coach would not ask novice athletes to perform complex plays their first time on the field and expect success. Instead, the coach would provide the athletes with opportunities and time to first master the fundamentals.
As teachers, we need to do the same for our students and ourselves. Since learning new technologies is similar to learning a new language, think about utilizing strategies for English learners to help students become acquainted with the language and practice of online learning. Learners, both young and adult, will not be fluent in speaking technology initially, but with daily practice, we can build these skills.
Teachers are incredible people with meaningful jobs that create positive effects in our community. As teachers, we chose this profession because we have a passion for education, for our community, and for promoting the love of learning. Educators face a variety of daily challenges, and no one would deny that remote online learning is a challenge. But if we keep it simple and take it in measured steps, we can make it not only manageable, but also transformative.
Best of luck to everyone this school year.Photo: Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha / CC BY-SA