Image of two young people playing an online game

What Game Are They Playing?

If you surveyed our household today, you’d find that alongside watching short-form video content, games play an important part in my two boys’ education.  There is nothing different from any other 21st-century household there!Read More

Image showing a young student learning and engaging in online classes

How To Increase Student Learning & Engagement When Learning Goes Online

Motivating and engaging learners can be challenging in any learning environment. But understanding self-determination theory will give you a structure for helping you do this. Self Determination Theory represents a broad framework for the study of human motivation. It suggests that when people are motivated to grow and change, they become self-determined.Read More

Illustration of online learning in 2021

EdTech News – January 2021

2021 has started off with homeschooling in the UK. A webinar I attended earlier this week on Lessons Learned from Covid-19, made it clear the correct term is online learning and not remote learning as there is nothing remote about it. It certainly brings us closer together in that virtual way, but it also opens up new opportunities, such as amazing guest lectures from people who would have otherwise never traveled to give a lecture. You can watch Educate’s webinar here.Read More

Animated drawing of a video game. This includes a person holding a games console and a screen that shows a video game scene which includes a man & woman

EdTech News – November

I’ve tried to focus this month on finding some good news stories from the world of EdTech. Some of us might be in another lockdown, facing (more or continuous) school closures and other uncertainties, so we can all use some good news. I’m glad to say I’ve managed to find some. 

First up is a story from Estonia, a country which is excelling at digital learning. Turns out the key is in early adoption and routine, so we’ll all be experts soon enough.

With knowledge from the above, it’s no surprise that Estonia ranks very high again in the list of countries which are best preparing their children for the future of work. “The best education systems are those that encourage students to analyze and think for themselves and create the right learning environments” according to the report. Developing critical thinking skills is crucial in this. For those of us who are worried about our children spending too much time online gaming. Rest assured, those critical thinking skills can also be developed playing fun games online! 

For some educators and students, it’s been difficult to make the transition to an online virtual learning environment, especially when it comes to social-emotional learning. There are educators, however, who use EdTech to develop social-emotional skills such as collaboration. Some teachers are convinced using platforms like Microsoft Teams and Google Classrooms in a non-restrictive way teaches students flexible thinking and self-control. Have a read here.

The main thing though is that students are engaged in learning and we all know EdTech can achieve that!

Image of Tara Walsh and Eduardo Morlan in this episode of taking classes online

Episode 2: Taking Classes Online

Taking Classes Online is an interview and blog series where real educators share their experiences of teaching online. This month, I had the pleasure of talking to Eduardo Mórlan from Mexico. Eduardo has been teaching online since 2014, so it was great to hear his insights about teaching languages remotely.

My interview technique is improving slightly, but it’s clear there is still a long way to go. Despite that, Eduardo has shared some really great tips and tricks that can be implemented in any online class.

Check Out Teaching Online Masterclass

If you haven’t checked out Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM) yet, I suggest you get started.

You’ll be sure to find something of interest to help you navigate the online teaching and learning space.

If you’ve got a story to share or would like to write a blog, send me an email and I’ll be in touch.

Make sure to check out the first episode of Taking Classes Online where I spoke to UK educator Dr Heather McClue about the trials and tribulations of taking her law classes online.

Animated drawing of wifi symbol, books and laptop to show different methods of teaching

The Acceleration Of Online Teaching And Learning

The whole notion of online teaching and professional development is not an old one. In fact, I was surprised to learn that its history begins way back in 1981 when the Western Behavioural Sciences Inst in La Jolla, CA, started running distance education for business executives via computer conferencing. Since then, many multinational businesses have grown within the space and traditional businesses have metamorphosised through a move to online learning. 

Kids are turning up aged 5 at school now with a digital-savvy to rival the best. Teachers have access to whiteboards, laptops, internet connections, online resources from publishers, brands, non-profits, digital content, VLEs and it all works swimmingly. Right? Well judging by what I have seen of my son’s first one year and one month of primary school, there’s still room for improvement.  

When faced with a complete lockdown and need to provide proper online teaching, the local education system, appeared to creak at the seams. Maybe it is because it doesn’t seem as though there has been a concerted effort to couple the introduction of new technology in schools, with the introduction of blended learning methodology in teacher training. This would overall raise the bar in state education and without this approach, digital learning and digital content become ancillary to the ‘analogue’ classroom experience.

My first interaction with online digital learning was around 15 years ago in the professional space when a member of my team excitedly showed me Lynda.com, now of course Linked In Learning. Lynda was the gateway to the world of online learning for me – many of the experiments and projects we were attempting to do at that time as an early digital publishing team, were beyond our combined knowledge and capability, and being on tight budgets invariably we would learn software packages or web design techniques via the easy-to-use searchable interface that Lynda provided. I didn’t look back.

Since then, there has been a massive increase in the amount of both office and classroom hardware and software being produced and sold all around the world along with all manner of different attendant courses on how to make everything work.  

In the classroom, the ubiquitous classroom whiteboard is supplemented with voting pads, laptops, iPads, and a whole host of other technology hardware and software products and services. As this has grown, the amount of video content has grown targeting teachers and giving them tips on how to use it.

This year the COVID crisis has highlighted both the need for increased interaction with online resources in any form of education for both teachers and learners.  Our own recently launched TOM – Teaching Online Masterclass is a free online professional development resource for teachers making the leap into remote teaching and learning. Teachers, who hold a crucial role within the education eco-system, are being rapidly upskilled in the methodology of teaching both in the classroom and online using a blend of different learning experiences. This is key to creating the community they create in the classroom, in the online space – a definite challenge. If they don’t, they risk being left out in the rain. Their pupils will become alienated and the process will become soggy and tired.

We have learned from my son’s school that at the flick of a switch, his year one teacher can take the classroom experience and re-create it online with individual 1:1 teacher Zoom time factored in for each and every child online too.  We now have a timetable for home-learning should the school be closed, and if it’s needed will give him 1:1 teacher Zoom time every two days – something which in its own right is no mean feat. 

Teaching and learning are going through an enforced change right now.  With little or no notice, thousands of schools up and down the country are having to adapt and change to home-schooling supported by the teacher online.  Whilst the last lockdown was pretty much a write-off educationally from the perspective of every fellow parent that I’ve spoken to, there seems to have been a huge technology uptick in our local school since. Systems have been geared up to make sure that everything can be run as if it were in the school, and a questionnaire sent before the term even started has made sure that every child has access to the technology needed in a home-schooling environment, if just via a smartphone.  

We are hoping that school stays open, but if not, then this time round, teachers and their pupils have better support.  Let us hope it will be a more fun and educational time.

Screengrab on Tara Walsh and Heather McClue discussing Taking Classes Online

Episode 1: Taking Classes Online

Have you checked out our new educator professional development resource: Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM)? TOM is a free online professional resource for educators to help teachers make the leap to remote teaching and learning.

It’s a cornucopia of resources to help you teach in online and blended learning environments and includes:

Taking Classes Online

Taking Classes Online is a series of interviews and blog articles, by educators for educators to share best practices in online and blended teaching.

In the series, educators share their wins, lessons learned and strategies that they are using successfully to engage and motivate those they teach.

Very little is known about effective online teaching in the K-12 in the educational space. This series aims to help fill this gap.

Blogs

Here are the two latest blogs we’ve published.

If you’re interested in writing a blog, send me an email and I’ll be in touch.

Interviews

Last month, I interviewed, UK educator Dr. Heather McClue about the trials and tribulations of taking her law classes online. Heather generously shared her wins, lessons learned, and strategies that worked when she made the leap to online learning earlier this year.

Be warned, there’s a lot of laughing in the episode. So it might be wise to have the volume down if you’re watching this one.

Do you want to share your story? Send me an email and I’ll be in touch.

What Are You Waiting For?

If you haven’t checked out Teaching Online Masterclass (TOM) yet, I suggest you get started.

You’ll be sure to find something of interest to help you navigate the online teaching and learning space.

Animated drawing of desktop showing books and illustrating classes online

Taking European Studies and Modern Foreign Languages Online

In her first blog for Makematic, Dublin based, European Studies and Modern Foreign Languages Teacher, Victoria Malcolm talks about how she successfully took her classes online.

March 12th, 2020 – We are sent home from school with hardly enough time to think about which books we might need for a period of lockdown. After all, none of us have done this before. Teach all their classes from home. Whilst simultaneously running primary school classes for our kids, queuing everywhere for everything, learning how to keep a safe distance and minding ourselves and others in this “new normal”. 

In the weeks running up to the lockdown in my school, a huge amount of work had gone on in the background to help us make the move to online learning. We had chosen Google Classroom as our means of communication and collaboration, as many colleagues were already using this. That said, having a class set up on Google Classroom and being relatively confident using it did not in any way prepare me for the demands of online teaching. In the space of a week, we went from never having heard of Zoom to black belt proficiency as we struggled to work out how we could best provide some sort of continuity of learning for our students. Add to this the ever-increasing saga that was Calculated Grades and the worry that kept you awake at night wondering had you done everything you could to make sure that your 6th Form students received a fair, reflective grade.

Five Months Later …

Fast forward to August 2020 and we are once again consumed by thoughts of school. Are those same classrooms that we longed for in the dark days of April really safe for us to go back to? How will lockdown have affected our colleagues and our students? Will we have everyone back at school? What happens if there is an outbreak of the virus in our school? It is this last question that causes me to look back at my experience of online learning and ask myself what worked, remember – with blushing cheeks – what didn’t and think about how to incorporate this into a plan of action for the new term where online learning may, once again, play a key role in our classrooms.

Zoom Actually Works

What worked? Zoom, surprisingly. Thankfully, all the internet horror stories of suddenly finding yourself in Johnny’s bedroom, watching him eat breakfast in bed at 11am and go through his German homework at the same time weren’t borne out – in my classes at least. An online code of behaviour is, however, non-negotiable

Set basic rules of engagement for your students: 

  • Behave as you would in class, 
  • Dress appropriately, 
  • Have all the class materials you need for the lesson, 
  • Be patient and respect others. 

Webcam On or Off?

Decide from the outset whether you want cameras on or off, your own included – 

often a quick check-in at the start of the class and a quick round-up at the end is enough with cameras on but it depends on the activity. 

Here are some ways I navigated this:

  • For my Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) classes, we were building towards an online oral exam as part of the end of year assessment, so being able to see one another was important. 
  • If I was working on a grammar point, however, the cameras would be off. No need for us to see the pain etched on one another’s faces. 

Private Chats and Breakout Rooms

But it’s not just the webcam, it’s the private chat function and the breakout rooms that were a game changer and is something I would love to be able to do in my real-life classroom! Here’s how:

  • At the start of class, I use the private chat function on Zoom to check-in privately on individual students. I found that a number of students who are normally very quiet in class really embraced the chat function as they felt they were able to ask questions without fear of intimidation from students who work at a faster pace. 
  • At the start of online teaching, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the 30-minute class online. It was very demanding. However, giving students a task and putting them in breakout rooms to work on something for a timed period allowed me space to breathe and also to think about how the remainder of the class would progress once we were back together as a group. I made sure to drop in on each breakout group at least once to make sure that they were on task – they always were and I think they enjoyed the break from me as much as I did from them! I always chose the random allocation function for the breakout room, as that way, students who might not ordinarily work together in class, got the chance to do so.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom worked well, especially since not all students were able to attend live online classes or simply found them overwhelming. Here are some things I would recommend:

  • It is important to give clear, concise instructions. Don’t write essays. 
  • I got into the habit of writing a quick summary of what we had covered in class that day plus noting any work I had assigned for homework. 
  • Following feedback from my classes, I tried to put up a scheme of work for the week, including any homework exercises, on a Monday morning. That way, if anyone missed a class, the work was there for them. It also had the advantage of keeping me on top of everything and it is a written record of what we covered, including any notes posted, for when the new school year starts. 
  • In the beginning, I was frustrated when students were uploading handwritten work and I was trying to encourage them to type it. Then you realise just how much longer an assignment takes when you are doing it online. Very few of them are graduates of the Mavis Beacon School of Typing and so found that typing assignments made the whole process even longer. You can annotate a photograph of a handwritten page easily in Google Classroom so don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • As an aside, I believe that Microsoft OneNote was the absolute bomb for those schools using Microsoft Teams as their online forum. You can do all sorts of lovely things like recording verbal feedback for pieces of work, which cuts down on your workload considerably. That said, it is possible to upload audio files to Google Classroom so if you want to record yourself explaining the complexities of German word order and send it on to your students, you can! 

Keep It Simple

Overall, I kept it to these two main tools – Google Classroom and Zoom. I dipped into Quizlet once or twice for new vocab but found making new quizzes time-consuming to be honest. Colleagues had good success with pre-recorded material – voicing over PowerPoint presentations, showing worked examples via Screencastify – but I found that Google Classroom and Zoom suited my MFL classroom and, importantly, what I was comfortable and confident using.

Check This Out

Finally, I found a great visual from Online Teaching @ KIS; Do This, Not That by Alison Yang with some very simple, but very important advice...

the online classroom is not the same as the real life classroom and you cannot simply transfer your teaching from one to the other


Top Tips

  • Don’t take on too much – whether this is using new technology or taking up work to correct and, most importantly, give yourself some time off. 
  • Be available during the school day but don’t answer emails from students or parents outside of office hours unless you wish to. 
  • Don’t beat yourself up if your lesson doesn’t go as planned. Learn to laugh at yourself. Your students will find the whole experience much easier if there is not an air of palpable tension in each lesson. 

And finally, use the first few weeks back at school to show your students how to use the technology you would plan to use if we need to go back to working from home. Second time around has to be easier, right?

Image of blog author Victoria Malcolm along with her bio description
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