The shift to online teaching was one that many predicted, but nobody saw it coming with such pace and urgency as it has done in the last month. The speed at which schools and teachers have had to adapt has left many struggling, at the detriment of their students and their own mental health. The effect on schools is also potentially catastrophic; whilst pupils at state schools are somewhat committed, parents will be watching closely to see how the school handles the changes, and private institutions are at risk of total collapse if parents begin to withdraw their children or fees. With this in mind, we put together some tips on how to effectively teach using online resources. With all of the below, it goes without saying that safeguarding is paramount and you should refer back to your school if you are in doubt about any of the things you plan to do.
Make use of the technology
With so many platforms, capabilities and developments out there, it can be overwhelming, and teachers may easily retreat to the comfort of familiar formats such as powerpoint slides and worksheets. This is some of the least engaging content for students who are used to rich experiences, so try to push the boundaries a little! Video lessons are a great way to get pupils more engaged, and if you deliver them in real-time you can add some structure to their day. You can also arrange group or individual meetings with students to discuss work in more depth – giving a greater level of feedback. Take the time to explore what’s out there. Your students will thank you for it!
Experiment with new content
Online learning is an opportunity to explore things that wouldn’t work in a traditional classroom environment. Try some close-up demonstrations, use internet games, or even get up and jump around.
Set (longer) deadlines
Make use of the fact that you don’t have to fit into a one-hour timetable slot. Ask pupils to go away and consider something and come back, or do their own research.
Make it personal
When you’re not in the classroom, the traditional teacher-student relationship is no longer so formal. Make use of this fact by playing on your personal life – reference things in your own home, or wherever you may be teaching from. You may want to dress more casually, or you may want to maintain an air of formality, that’s up to you. But it is often the case that students engage more with a teacher that they can relate to.
We all know that ‘helicopter parenting’ is not necessarily helpful. But digital learning allows you to tap into parents as a motivational tool. Design your lessons to make use of parents’ knowledge and try to get them enthused in the education process. Parents can also structure evening activities around what children have learned and try to encourage further understanding.
Digital learning is certainly the way forward, so don’t fight it. The reduced environmental impact, increased flexibility, quick access to resources, and added features such as gamification means it is here to stay, and teachers must adapt to providing effective lessons digitally if they want to thrive in this new learning landscape.