How to collaborate, communicate and create online
It has been a very busy couple of weeks as schools and families adjust to remote learning and work. Most of the country is practicing social distancing and engaging in new ways to learn, work and connect.
However, we still need to have a social connection; it is important for all of us. Over the past week, “social” distancing as been referred to as “physical” distancing, implying that we still need to be social—not placed in isolation, but physically distant.
As we have made the shift to remote learning and work, there is a void because of a lack of social interactions. As educators, it is so important to find ways to maintain connections with our students, our colleagues and the school community.
Once we establish a consistent way to communicate—through email, messaging apps or a school website, or other options such as Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom or the ParentSquare network—we can then leverage other tools to facilitate social interactions.
There are many options available, but at this time, it is a good idea to select only a few and to set up a routine for your students and school community.
Following are tools for conducting meetings and classes, creating interactive lessons, and offering feedback and support that allow educators, students and families to collaborate, create, learn and grow together.
Conducting meetings and classes
For my own classes, I set up meetings throughout the week. I currently use Zoom, which is now offering free accounts to educators. I set up each meeting with specifics so that I provide a safe space for my students to interact. Other ways to connect with students: using Google Meet or posting on Facebook Live, a familiar space to many families.
Find a platform that enables you to share your screen, talk with students, and be available for questions. Also, offering a weekly check-in or setting up virtual office hours for students or colleagues can be a good way to connect during school closures.
Creating interactive lessons
When we make the shift from the traditional classroom to remote learning, we often want to combine all the methods and materials that we would typically use into one tool or presentation. There are a lot of good tools available for sharing multimedia content and creating interactive lessons for students. With any of these options, it simply takes creating an account and then exploring the libraries or sample lessons available.
There are a lot of tech options to choose from—which can be overwhelming—but simply remember what your purpose is.
In my own experience, I have selected some tools that have been consistently used in my classes over the years and that I know the students and families can also use and enjoy. For options that offer more possibilities for interactive learning and also promote collaboration, I recommend using tools such as Buncee, Flipgrid, Padlet or Wakelet. With them, teachers can create activities, share announcements, build lessons and more.
Providing feedback and support
Finding ways to deliver ongoing instruction and to provide support and feedback for our students is important. There are tools available for creating short instructional videos and tutorials that teachers can prerecord and share with students and also share with peers around the world. I have used several over the past few years. Some options include Loom, Screencastify and Screencast-o-matic. Flipgrid also has added a screen recording option to its platform.
If you are looking for a whiteboard space for instruction purposes, check out tools such as Educreations or ShowMe. With these options, you can use an interactive dry-erase board or add images to your lesson as you record. For making a quick video to use as a greeting or to explain a concept, a simple Google search can help you to find a webcam recorder that can be used to record and then download a video file to share on other platforms.
There are a lot of tech options to choose from—which can be overwhelming—but simply remember what your purpose is. Do you want to create a space for students to interact and have a virtual class? Do you want to record your own lessons for students to view and be able to connect in a more authentic way?
For more ideas, consider about joining the conversation on Twitter by following the hashtag #remotelearning or check out the Facebook groups that have formed to focus on school closures and remote learning.
Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker for FETC®.
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