GETTING STARTED WITH DISTANCE LEARNING
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Need to Haves vs. Nice to Haves
The first step in anything is understanding what you want to achieve. Online teaching is no different - do you want to maintain a daily classroom environment or are you providing 1:1 instruction?
“You don't have to be good to start. You just have to start to be good” ~Joe Sabah
Begin your online teaching journey with a growth mindset; you will improve every day.
Need to Haves
As an Education Technologist I love shiny new tech tools but you don't need the latest and greatest technology to effectively #teachonline. You do need a computer with a webcam and microphone, an internet connection, and a video conferencing platform. This is the bare minimum - the need to haves.
Test it with a friend or colleague before meeting with students. It's better to work through tech issues before you have students staring at eagerly waiting to learn.
The next need to have is a lesson plan. This is the easy part for most teachers because they've got lesson plans by the dozen. If your lesson plans are not digitized don't panic. In a pinch you can use a webcam and a white board to teach. This isn't my preferred method but I know effective online math teachers who began teaching online with handheld white boards. My preferred approach is to digitize my lessons using the Google for Education tools. My small group online classes follow this format:
1. Present a lesson concept using Google Slides. 2. Work through guided practice using Kahoot! or IXL Learning. 3. Assess knowledge using Edmentum's Study Island or MasteryConnect.
When I teach small group classes I use Zoom Communications videoconferencing and the duration is typically an hour for 3rd grade and up. Pre-K through 2nd grade classes are about 30 minutes, sometimes less depending on the attention span vibe the students are throwing.
Nice to Haves
Now that we've covered the basics, let's talk about some handy bells and whistles or as I like to call them nice to haves. Nice to haves make the experience better and the first one I recommend is a headset with microphone. The sound quality improves a lot and when you're trying to keep students focused on your lesson sound quality is important. You can pick this item up for less than $25.00 at Amazon or you might be able to commandeer your kid's gaming headset.
The next nice to have is write on technology so you can retire the handheld white board. Many teachers I know use Huion tablets that plug into their computers via a USB port. I have a five-year-old Bamboo tablet. These tablets range in price from $30 - $300+. Another option for write on tech is a document camera and the prices for these range widely as well. Today, the cheapest I found on Amazon was $90 but you can get a fancy one that also scans book chapters for $300 - $500.
That's it, those are all the things you need to set up for online teaching. Actually, those are the tech things you need. You also need great lessons! As you begin your online teaching journey remember that technology supplements pedagogy. An awesome teacher will be awesome in person and online. It's the caring that matters most.