In a recent conversation I had with an educator, she was exasperated about trying to teach students in live class sessions. This would involve students being at their computers at set times, while the teacher works through the lesson over videoconferencing. She said it’s challenging enough supporting students who are at home and learning virtually due to COVID-19 (or a variety of other reasons) in these unprecedented times.
Sound familiar? Educators across the country are faced with this exact situation each day. Not only are they using various learning platforms and digital tools, but they are also looking for ways to effectively teach remotely.
To do so, many teachers want to help students learn on live platforms. They need to truly engage students online, offer ways to move content from short- to long-term memory, and build relationships through a screen.
Tips for Live Teaching Online
As we reflect on our first nine months of learning in a digital environment, let’s consider a reset for 2021. Here are five tips for teaching online classes in a live format.
1. Build Norms
When we suddenly jumped into remote learning in March, few had a picture of what the virtual classroom would look like. In fact, many were unsure where to start. Somehow, we managed, and some folks even excelled. In speaking with those educators, I discovered that they were always clear with students about their expectations for synchronous whole-group and small-group digital learning.
For example, you might share the expectation that all students respond to the question you post in the chat. You also might ask each student to log in a few minutes before class officially begins, or that students have their cameras on at the beginning of class—unless a student or their caregiver has shared a specific reason why this is not possible. Another norm could be that students participate fully when they are divided into breakout groups.
Don’t assume students know what learning is supposed to look like. We have to clarify what is expected of them in remote learning—how they should participate, collaborate, and engage with learning.
2. Live Doesn’t Mean Everyone
One of the biggest missteps is making the assumption that live learning can only happen when all students are online at the same time. We need to be judicious in how we utilize our minutes of live instruction. If we want to provide direct instruction to all students at once, we need to keep these sessions to no more than 10–12 minutes. Then, if you move into guided practice, you can divide students between live, small groups and independent, asynchronous work.
Live learning doesn’t have to be in front of the computer with the video on for the entire 85-minute block. It can also include moments of independent work, small-group work, and of course, small chunks of direct instruction.
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