Most of us are in uncharted territory as learning moves online quickly in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Texas Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, has advised superintendents and lawmakers to prepare for long-term school district shut downs.
Because of this, many districts are asking secondary teachers to supply assignments and educational resources online or hold classes virtually. There are many obstacles that are out of teachers’ control with this, such as students’ access to technology and high-speed internet. But, providing online options can be a great way to create stability in an otherwise chaotic time.
Here’s some helpful tips in how you can ensure a successful experience online.
Utilize Communication Platforms
Use email (if not already created, make email distribution lists based on courses and periods so classes can have specialized information), Canvas, Google Classroom, Remind, etc. to keep students and parents up to date.
Place Class Materials Online
In addition to any assignments or lessons, consider including documents that students frequently use as an information resource. For English, this may be an active verb list or text structures guide. For science, it could be the periodic table or the scientific process.
Set Classroom Norms
If you will be using Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, etc. for live conversations, give clear expectations for behavior. The same is true for student collaboration on online projects or during written “discussions.” Also, monitor the written comments students may leave on each other’s work.
Record Live Sessions
Make sure that you record any sessions that take place whole-class and make them available to students who may not have had the chance to participate. If you are recording a lecture/direct teach portion of a lesson, practice at least once and make an effort to include your face in the recording when displaying documents. Both will lead to a more engaging experience.
Make Learning Active
Plan for discussion, collaboration, and other “we do” activities before asking students to practice independently. Just like classroom teaching, students need the opportunity to see learning modeled by the teacher and then have experience with the concept with others before trying it on their own.
Chunk the Material
Design activities to be 10-15 minutes and vary the format. Consider any places in the lesson where you can incorporate choice. This not only increases interest, but it also offers differentiation for students with special needs.
The next few weeks and months will be uncomfortable, but our teaching can be strengthened as we add more technological skills to our toolbox. The opportunity to experience online learning will prepare students for college and other learning opportunities that are increasingly online.
And keep in mind that we are in this together—you are not the only teacher in Central Texas wondering how to make this shift! Please reach out to us with questions, needed resources, etc. so that we can share what’s working for you with other teachers in Central Texas.