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Teaching and engaging with students online has been occurring in the higher education sector for a number of years now, however it’s a new challenge for secondary schools across Australia.
“The goal of online communications is the same as the goal in face-to-face communications: to bond; to share information; to be heard; to be understood.” – Sandra Mitchell-Holder
Fostering the same sense of community virtually as you would’ve done in your classroom may work differently but it’s still at the essence of an effective classroom. Here are some tips to keep your students feeling engaged.
Teach over multiple formats
Keeping things new and exciting is important in a normal environment, however given the current situation it‘s more important to keep students engaged. One way to accomplish this is by using all the tools at your fingertips. Here are just a couple of tools that can help you change up your lessons:
- Video conferencing on a web app like Zoom is a must have for workplaces, classrooms and even dinner with the family. It gives you the ability to share your screen, share links and files and chat either with everyone or with individuals.
- Kahoot brings the fun to the classroom with interactive quizzes. Students can play against each other in a live gameshow. You just prepare the questions and off you go.
- Google Classroom is popular for schools using the G Suite. The cloud platform allows you to distribute and grade assignments and communicate with your students.
- Videos on sites like YouTube related to a topic your teaching can be a different way to share information on a subject. It gives you a break and gets students more excited than a PowerPoint.
Need some inspiration on how to get creative? Here’s a video of La Trobe Outdoor Ed lecturer Scott taking his class on a canoe during their lesson.
Be clear in your communication
When you want to communicate something online to your students, it needs to be timely and relevant. What do you want to achieve from this communication?
For example, you want to send a notice to your students to let them know they have extra time to complete their homework. Face-to-face you might right a notice on the board – but now, you need to make a post in your online classroom.
- When you’re speaking with students online, less is more. Use as few words as possible to get your message across. Your students are much more likely to read it!
- Make sure it’s clear and leaves no room for confusion on the student’s part.
- Choose the right method of communication – you might even use multiple methods. If it’s urgent, you could SMS, email or post to your class.
Spread the load
Interacting with students online is new and it’s going to probably be uncomfortable for a lot of teachers, students and their families. Finding a quiet place in your house presents the first challenge.
Here are some ways to spread the load and give yourself a moment or two in the day:
- Improvise and utilise online resources that can replace lessons or excursions. Like the NGV virtual excursions or this geography series from NSW Government.
- Keep students thinking about universities, like La Trobe, via virtual presentations.
- Make the times that you’re available to students and their families very clear.
- Create group assignments and allocate time in the day for students to work together virtually – problem solving and socialising.
In New York, teachers have shared their stories of working from home. This article from the New York Times illustrates perfectly the struggles and triumphs teachers are experiencing in a difficult environment.
For many teachers, this might be their first time using more than just their email to communicate. So, it’s okay if there’s a learning curve – your teaching ability, creativity and relationship still exists with your students and that’s a great starting point.