Our 10 Top Virtual Teaching Tips
Covid-19 has changed just about every aspect of our lives, not least of which is how we educate our children. Both teachers and students have had to adapt from learning in a classroom to suddenly being faced with the virtual realm. While the ability to adapt is human nature, this doesn't mean that this new method hasn't presented more than its fair share of challenges.
Most teachers are experts in engaging kids in the classroom and keeping them focused and learning. But very few have the skills to provide this same expertise through remote learning. It is a matter of evolving the skills that teachers already have and integrating them into a new teaching structure.
So how to do this? Trial and error and teachers sharing information with other teachers is critical to overcoming the challenges that come with remote learning. Below are 10 top tips for virtual teaching:
1. Be Flexible
Teachers are already aware that each child is different. In the remote learning world, these differences become even more apparent. Access to resources, family and living arrangements, as well as a whole slew of other factors need to be taken into account when setting tasks, assignments and projects for different students.
A student that has constant access to a device and internet is going to be able to attend classes and complete tasks faster than a student who doesn't. So, be flexible and take into account each child's unique circumstances when setting deadlines, pop quizzes, and tests.
2. Adapt and Evolve
Teachers already have the skills necessary to teach, so it isn't a matter of starting from scratch but rather adapting and evolving existing teaching plans and strategies to be integrated into this new way of learning. Think of the virtual classroom as a new channel that offers a wide range of tools and benefits to you and the kids rather than as a hurdle that you have to overcome.
Use technology to enhance lessons and take some time to get to know the tools and techniques that are now available to you.
3. Communication Is Key
In the real world, you may never see or hear from a student after they have left the classroom- or their parents for that matter. The virtual world, however, provides students and parents with greater ease and confidence to communicate with you. This means that you are going to have to stay on top of communicating with your students and their families. Set aside time to answer emails, texts, or other forms of communication and answer questions and queries.
While this is going to eat into your time, it will benefit you and your students in the long run. You may, however, need to set some rules about communication, like how quickly they can expect a response and your preferred means of communication. A good idea is to create a social media account for the class and parents. This will allow students, parents, and teachers to interact on an entirely new level. Social media can actually be a great advantage to facilitate communication that was already challenging in the real school environment.
A virtual classroom should be no less interactive than a real classroom. Just because you are stuck behind a screen should not restrict interaction and communication between students. Encourages students to talk to each other just like they would in a regular class - as long as the topic is related to the subject matter and stays in communication online. Let them form virtual study groups. Keep in mind that social development is more important than ever in a world where socializing has been severely restricted.
5. Human Error
Be aware that just as you are learning a whole new method of teaching (and using the technology that comes with it), so are your students. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if you make mistakes along the way and encourage your students to do the same. Take advice from the more technologically advanced students and allow them to help other students who are tech challenged.
Don't try to be perfect and don't expect your students to be either. It's going to take time for everyone to learn and adapt, and a teacher who is understanding is just what your students need.
Another of the great benefits of remote learning is that students can do most of the work on their own and don't require as much adult or parent input as they would in the classroom. Once lessons have been planned and posted online, the child can learn the material without needing a teacher to explain every aspect of the lesson.
It is a good idea to schedule a virtual class after posting lessons to discuss what was learned and address any problems. This not only gives you more time to attend to other important tasks, like planning those lessons and communicating with students, but also teaches the students how to learn independently.
You may be quite accustomed to evaluating your students, but how often do you take the time to evaluate yourself? Set some time aside to reflect on how your virtual classroom is working and identify the strengths and weaknesses. Build on what you feel is working, and let go of what is ineffective. Some input from your students may help you find out what is keeping them engaged and learning versus what they find boring or distracting.
It is extremely important to realize that you are not alone in this - although you may feel that way when stuck alone at home. There are a wide range of online resources available to help teachers learn the tech and tools as well as put into practice teaching methods that are appropriate for the virtual classroom. Access these resources and use them to make remote teaching a little easier on you.
And never forget that other teachers are going through exactly the same process and struggles that you are suddenly facing. Stay in contact with your colleagues and maybe even join a support group. Forums are a great way to share virtual teaching tips, stay informed and just get a little support when you need it most.