As the world is adjusting to the new normal of online classes, teachers are suddenly the new students. Teachers are learning to use technology to teach lessons that used to be in the classroom, face to face. Along with preparing the online content, scheduling, ensuring connectivity, they have additional challenges to overcome. Like how to engage the kids and keep the class interactive and fun? How to make it productive and motivating for kids? How to time manage the classes?
Here are few tips on how to address some of these challenges.
KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)
Keep technology, content and lesson duration short and simple. There is a huge learning curve for kids, parents and all stake holders involved. Start slow rather than going in with all guns blazing. Give everyone time to absorb and then introduce next level. A survey of parents showed that overwhelming 90% were in favour of online classes only 2-3 times a week. Get everyone comfortable to attend first. Then bring in online content, homework, grading etc. Similarly keep the class syllabus or content light. Do not try to explain complicated topics in the beginning or pick up a complex chapter. Shuffle your syllabus, cut difficult parts if required. Some easier topics which were kept for end of the term can be moved upfront.
Where communication is concerned, more is less
I see some schools going in for complicated technology, difficult to comprehend instructions and then bearing the brunt of unsatisfied parents and students. We understand you put in lots of effort to put together instructions, lessons etc. but do not assume everyone is on the same page as you are. There will always be some parent or child who did not understand your instructions. Be prepared to repeat things multiple times. Plan to guide them actively and frequently. A daily meeting initially and then weekly with parents, stakeholders will go a long way in building consensus and to understand their issues. Take feedback and improvise as you go.
You have guests
When you are teaching at school you have your class of students to teach. Now you will have their zealous parents, grandparents, siblings and maybe their dog too listening to you. So it’s important you be mindful of what you are speaking. While you might have too many judgemental people on call, do not jump to conclusions where your students are concerned. You need to have your sixth sense on to figure out child behaviour online. We look at nonverbal clues in class to see if child is zoned out or disengaged, while teaching online you have to add more clues to your arsenal. Like observe if a child is answering well because he or she is prompted by someone in the family or a kid is always on mute as he or she is shy to speak up in front of his family or due to some background noise or connectivity issue. Keeping a look out for some non-visual signals will help you to understand your students better.
Go beyond PPTs
There is a lot more you can do than just putting up plain ppts. Explore videos, tools like Sway, interactive apps or try white boarding apps. Add more visual appeal for e.g. GeoGebra is a freeware, interactive geometry, algebra application intended for learning and teaching mathematics and science. This makes the class a lot more interactive than just going over ppts which makes it boring after a while and it is difficult to hold students attention for long. Learn how to use the whiteboard provided by video apps to draw and explain some key concepts. Let them also share their screens at times to show homework etc. to keep them engrossed.
Engage, Engage, Engage
This cannot be stressed enough. 90% of the teachers do not like online teaching as face to face interaction is definitely far more superior and it is in your comfort zone. Do not let this show in your online class; it’s a lot harder for students than it is for you. You take efforts to make your class enjoyable and to be their favourite teacher in school; you can do the same online as well. You have to create that differentiation for yourself. Have more visual, interactive content, including humour thus engaging them, rather than rambling alone on and on. Your presence in the traditional class was sufficient for kids to keep quiet and keep a poker face while you spoke at length. Unless you enforce students webcam to be switched on, expect them to be snoozing on the sofa during your lecture. If you talk more than 5 mins and they are already switched off their mind. So how do you step up your game? Keep your speaking session short; ask questions after every short interval. Include them in reading, explaining or presenting revision of previous topics. A degree of randomness in asking questions will keep them alert and responsive.
Let’s admit it. Kids would rather switch to playing games rather than be in your online lecture. While gamification as a concept has been around for some time, this is the time for you put it to the test. Many teachers have seen their students’ participation improve by adding games and creative reward systems to their online classrooms and you can do so as well. Reward them for attendance, answering correctly in class or better still form teams. Use Avengers, Harry Potter theme to form class groups and see your class popularity soar!
Include pre-study (flip learning)
Let’s acknowledge that online sessions are marred due to poor connectivity, sudden burst of noises due to people unmuting/muting themselves, technology issues etc. That effectively means you have much less time to teach. While some schools are sympathetic to this fact and have cut down the syllabus to be covered, you might not be that lucky. In regular school we are used to teaching and then giving home work. Try the reverse for online class. Give them pre reading or prep videos to watch. Keep it light, only viewing/reading material, no memorizing or burdening the parents to do your job. Then when you come into the class some amount of readiness is there and you can focus more on getting everyone on same level of understanding and in the process making it more participative as well.