Teaching and learning online doesn’t have to look like this

Another year of teaching online? It’s ok, we’ve got you covered!

2020-21 was perhaps the most challenging school year for many teachers around the world, with intermittent switching between lessons online and offline lessons. As the new school year embarks on us and the new variants causing further complications, teaching online will yet again feature heavily in 2021-22. If you are feeling anxious about the uncertainty already, check out this Q&A page from the WHO to get some clarity. Since there are just a few days (if you are lucky) left before the new school year starts, why not upskill yourself with a few tips and tricks that will make the transition to online teaching a little smoother?

As a former teacher myself who made that leap from offline to online teaching well before the pandemic, I had the luxury of time to be trained and make the switch a more gradual process. So here I have compiled five of my personal top tips with corresponding videos from our latest professional development series – Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM). It’s FREE, no signup required, no catch. Promise!

Teaching Online Masterclass logo with logos from Adobe, ClickView, iCivics, Makematic and Participate
Check out the TOM website to find out more

Tip 1 – Facilitate, Not Lecture

I have personally witnessed other teachers who unfortunately had to take the plunge into online teaching without much preparation. The knee-jerk reaction of “I have an online class to teach, so I better teach them something.” by … lecturing. Sure, lecturing is not all bad and it has its own use in certain contexts. The fear of many unprepared teachers though, is that “if I let them off to do an autonomous task, they will become disengaged or distracted, therefore I must keep speaking and keep checking that they are listening”. As any teacher knows, facilitating learning is much more effective than authoritative instructional teaching. ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. 

But how? Check out this video to find out.

Educator, Emma Humphries discusses the key facilitation skills and strategies, teachers need to develop to teach online.

Tip 2 – Avoid Cognitive Overload

When it comes to learning online, our students’ cognitive behavior differs significantly from that in a classroom. They have less chance of learning through social interaction (notice less but not none, I will get into that in the next point) and perhaps even less so through experiential learning. Their learning experience becomes by far dominated by cognitive learning, especially through our audio-visual senses. This means we need to seriously adapt the way we teach and present our information to our students.

Do you know Jared Cooney Horvath? If you don’t, where have you been hiding (make sure you check out his YouTube channel)? Jared is one of the presenters in our TOM series and he gives a great explanation of What Teachers Need to Know about Cognition when teaching online.

Neuroscientist, Jared Cooney Horvath, shares three things educators need to know about cognition in online and blended learning environments.

Do you like to use PowerPoint when you teach online? Be sure to check out this video:

How to Create Presentations to Reduce Cognitive Load

Already a Pro at online teaching? So much so that you make your own instructional videos? Well, this video might still help up your game:

How to Create Instructional Videos to Reduce Cognitive Load

Tip 3 – Foster Collaboration

As I already mentioned in the first tip, facilitating learning is way more effective than trying to drill ideas into your students’ skulls. The best way of facilitation is by setting an environment for collaborative peer-to-peer learning. I must admit, it’s not something for the faint-hearted and it does take plenty of trial and error, but unless you take that deep dive, your lessons will remain static and students will always think of your lessons as “the boring one”.

To get you started, watch this introductory video to collaboration in an online learning environment:

Educator, Steven Kolber discusses the importance of randomly grouping students and collaborating with one another in online learning environments.

Every teacher loves using Think Pair Share so here’s a quick explainer to consolidate your knowledge:

Educator, Steven Kolber discusses how facilitating think-pair-share in online and blended classes develops social skills.

Finally, you must have come across countless articles about the wonders of gamification and how it’s transforming learning in the digital era. Well, it’s not that difficult to implement if you start by injecting a dose of competition into your online lessons.

Educator, Michael Cohen discusses how peer competition and student facilitation of learning help develop social skills in online and blended learning environments.

Tip 4 – Harness The Power of Technology

If you’ve reached this far in the article, then you are unlikely a technophobe, or perhaps you are just open to learning and improving. It’s not easy to navigate around the labyrinth of educational technology out there. Not all technology is useful of course and some are just downright gimmicks. Here’s a quick introduction to Choosing the Right Technology for Online Teaching.

Educator and researcher, Kathleen Donohue talks about the possible technologies available to an online teacher and the ways in which they can support and influence teaching and learning. She poses questions for educators and schools to consider when they are choosing technology when learning goes online.

To dig a little deeper, you can even try to apply some of these frameworks into your selection of appropriate educational technology:

Educator and researcher, Kathleen Donohue talks about the frameworks available to help educators choose the right technology:
SAMR
Rigor/Relevance Framework
Triple E Framework

Tip 5 – Our Wellbeing Comes First

It is worth remembering that famous triangle from our friend Abraham Maslow, it is our physiological needs that need to be fulfilled first. When taking your lessons online, it’s forgetting this and lose track of the number of hours we have spent in front of the screen. Help yourself first by finding your own balance, then support your students to find theirs.

Educator, Shelina Warren gives practical strategies to help educators discover ways to unplug and find balance when teaching and learning goes online.

Speaker and coach, James Aidoo gives practical strategies to educators to help their students unplug and find balance when teaching and learning goes online.

I hope you have found some of these tips helpful. If so, please share this article or any of our videos with other teachers you know. Every teacher will have different levels of experience with online teaching but none of us can honestly say that we have completely mastered it. That is why we need to constantly improve and adapt to the ever-changing digital environment. 

 

In case you missed it, you may also want to check my other posts on 6 Ideas To Raise Intercultural Awareness With Your Students/Children or 21st Century Skills In ‘21, Where Are We At?

Finally, make sure you subscribe to one of our social media channels for more practical tips on teaching. We have hundreds of videos that you can use in the classroom, from history and civics to global citizenship and creative coding.

P.S. Feel free to even connect with me directly on LinkedIn or Twitter. I would love to hear from you and share ideas on making better educational media.