How To Make Remote Teaching Easier–And More Enjoyable
by TeachThought Staff
How can you make remote teaching more enjoyable?
Easier? More sustainable for both you and students? Of course, there’s no magic wand but we’ve gathered some thoughts below.
This post is a mix of tools, tips, and strategies. If you’re looking only for tools, you can read more about the best remote teaching tools. So we won’t mention the obvious tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts or Skype or Microsoft Teams.
We’re also going to skip the more obvious and fundamental ways to improve streaming such as a decent camera and microphone, strong WiFi, and well-lit, dedicated area for streaming your class, unique backdrops, and some of the more well-known strategies.
Oh, one more thing: more than ever, ideas like ‘teaching what’s most important,’ power standards, or however you approach this concept is necessary. Approach every lesson with, ‘If they learn absolutely nothing else, every student will be able to…’.
On to the list.
1. Adopt the right mindset
This is critical for any challenging endeavor: how to think about it.
Just like in a physical classroom, the perspective and biases and hopes and fears and daily intentions you bring to remote teaching (and eLearning in general) will largely dictate the results.
Part of this is also considering different goals–not lowering standards but considering the sociocultural circumstance and developing objectives and goals and outcomes that make sense for your students and are sustainable for you and your class.
Being flexible. Tolerating uncertainty. Laughing when something’s funny. (See below.)
2. Plan for the worst and hope for the best
Plan lessons with the worst in mind–zero engagement, barking dogs, dropped WiFi connections, etc.–and, as in life, hope for the best.
Be flexible and remember that the whole point of education is to empower children and improve life outcomes and the academics are just a strategy to get there.
Habits of Mind can help here–see What Are The Habits Of Mind?
3. Use new grouping strategies & activities
You’ve probably learned this already but grouping is an incredibly useful remote teaching strategy but traditional ‘elbow partner’ or ‘stand and find someone who…’ approaches don’t work in eLearning environments.
The more grouping strategies (and activities that lend themselves well to eLearning groups) you have in your teacher toolbelt, the easier you’ll be able to adjust during lessons on the fly.
4. Start with student engagement
Student engagement is an obvious goal for any teacher but the idea of planning expressly for student engagement from the beginning is less common. Easier said than done, of course–and a post of its own. To get started, see Remote Teaching Tips For Student Engagement.
5. Use planned and intentional ‘calls to action’ intermittently
To feel engaged and empowered, students also need to feel ‘accountable’–not behavior-wise but to the learning itself. If you embed specific calls to action for every student–an ongoing 3-2-1 (3 questions, 2 comments, and 1 epiphany, for example) strategy that they record on a Google Document and you check after class–students have a better chance to engage and demonstrate learning.
6. Know your screencasting, live streaming, and recording tools.
We like Loom, and (of course) Zoom and other platforms all have their niches. The idea is to have tools that allow you to record streams–tools that you are comfortable with, that work on your given hardware, and that make sense to improve learning outcomes for your students.
You may also need an easy way to share large files.
7. Strengthen the bond
Team-building may be even more important in remote teaching and learning than it is in-person. Of course, this requires alternatives to the kinds of team-building games you use in the classroom.
8. New formats and workflows for remote teaching
This thread is an excellent example:
9. Use OneTab
OneTab is a way to reduce the numbers of tabs you need to have at any one time by allowing you to save all open tabs with the press of a button.
10. Revise and adapt your ‘class rules’ and other policies
This includes rules, norms, grading policies, late-work policies, and other procedural elements of teaching and learning that have been turned upside down by the shift to remote teaching.
11. Humanize the digital spaces
As much as possible, humanize the digital spaces to make them feel more inviting to students and more ‘belonging to your classroom’ rather than your classroom merely using a digital space.
Use music and art and familiar videos and any other media form that helps emphasize the human and community elements of the remote teaching and learning process.
12. Have a central location to organize your digital classroom
In addition to Google Drive, Google Classroom, Microsoft OneDrive and Microsoft Teams, also consider Trello and Nifty.
You will undoubtedly use dozens of tools–tools for video, for messaging, for document sharing, for grading, and so on. Keep a ‘command center’ of what you use and need and value as a teacher will help keep you sane and reduce the ‘I feel like I’m forgetting something…’ or ‘I wonder if I should be doing more…’ feelings.
13. Digital meeting formats and/or norms
This is a problem: ‘quick meetings’ that drag on far longer than they should. When meeting with colleagues, set meeting norms and boundaries beforehand and ‘check-in’ with those norms periodically during the meeting.
As much as possible, share the workload–with students, for starters. Never work harder than they do. Also with colleagues: divide large tasks and conquer them together. Don’t reinvent the wheel; if what you need is already out there, use it.
Even involving your own family (where appropriate) to pitch in with routine tasks can make remote teaching less mundane and closer to what you signed up for when you decided to become a teacher: a way to change the lives of children.
15. Use new teaching and learning models
Whole class, direct instruction for 60 mins (or even 30) isn’t ideal for PhDs in a physical classroom and it’s nowhere near the best approach for 9 year-olds learning fractions.
Start with an entry ticket/slip to pre-assess. Use timed direct instruction for 12 minutes (with a timer they can see), transition to group work for 10 minutes, then assess with a digital exit ticket. Maybe mix in a few minutes of Genius Hour. Then use a team-building game that practices a skill or concept critical to your classroom.
Or use Sync Teaching. Self-Directed Learning. Whatever you do, adopt the tools (teaching strategies) to the function (facilitating learning in a remote teaching and learning environment).