Distance learning has been a challenging thing for me to wrap my head around. I have over a decade of experience teaching, and I honestly felt like a brand new teacher when I logged in to my first class. I had read the horror stories of unwanted guests saying inappropriate things, and I had played out a lot of nightmare scenarios in my head. Needless to say, I was very nervous when I saw the unfamiliar names of students I had never met pop up on my screen. I just wrapped up my first week, and it actually went a lot better than I thought it would. I’m sharing some tips that I learned along the way.
Practice Using the Tools
The links for the first meeting was set up by someone else at my school. Everyone who logged in automatically had presenter rights. I immediately changed this as soon as the students entered my class. I had read about a class where someone else muted the teacher and begin presenting inappropriate information, and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to me. Now that I know my students better, I doubt I would have had that problem, but it is still something I would suggest. I also became familiar with the mute all button. The mute button has been helpful because a lot of the students don’t realize how much background noise their devices can pick up. I make it clear to the students that they are welcome to speak or ask me questions.
I know, I know. That is the eternal motto of the teacher, but you will really need to be flexible now. I had intended to have kids use the raise hand function so that I could call on them to ask me a question, but that didn’t work for most kids on the first day and it still doesn’t work for many now. I also had planned on having kids ask me questions in the chat, but that wasn’t an option for a lot of my students on the first day. Students weren’t always able to see my screen. I got around that by sharing my files with them.
Use the Chat
I won’t get into the cameras off or on debate, but I will say that a lot of students are more comfortable communicating through the chat. I really haven’t had any off-topic conversations and I haven’t had anything inappropriate. I let my students know that their comments would be saved and administration could read them. I make sure to keep the chat open so that I can quickly answer questions and drop in any important links. Another perk is that I’ve had other students answer questions before I even saw them.
Make it Fun
Our school required us to review a lot of information to help students become more familiar with their learning tools. I still wanted to build in some ways to get to know my students and have fun. The first day we did an activity I called “Which one?”. I posted two emojis and had students guess what they represented. The first slide had a dog and cat emoji. I then told them which of the two I preferred and let some students share. I then had them complete a Google Form so the students who weren’t as comfortable speaking could still share that information with me. I loved reading their responses! Want to use this with your own students? Click here to access it for free!
Teaching in person is better in so many ways, but I intend to make the most of this virtual learning time. My students deserve to get the best education I can possibly provide to them right now. I am going to continue working on building relationships and troubleshooting tech issues until I can meet them in person.