It has already been quite the year with the spread of Covid-19 and its impact into our lives, the economy, and education.  With many teachers having to rapidly adapt and prepare for new teaching norms, the pressure to ensure quality and equitable education for today’s students is a current challenge that many educators were not prepared to dive into. Here are some valuable tips to help you as you are settling into teaching virtually.

Tip 1: “Rome was not Built in a Day”

Whether you are new to using technology for instruction, not completely comfortable with technology,  or have been leveraging the use of technology for quite some time,  it is important to understand that this is an unprecedented time in which many of us had to rapidly shift instructional modes. With that said, just remember “Rome was not built in a day”.  Therefore, it is okay if you are not an expert in using a particular tool or may need more support. Jump into new instructional modalities, in which you may not be comfortable, can almost feel like the first year of teaching all over again.  Take this opportunity to learn and develop as a stronger 21st century educator. It may take some time and practice. 

Tip 2: Get Your Tech Together 

Setup a Home Workspace: Choose and organize a space in your home that you can dedicate as a workspace area.  If you are planning to use a video tool,  be mindful of your background. Ensure you have technology you may need to teach and stay in contact with your campus as you are working remotely.  This includes access to the internet and a technological device such as a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. If you are able, get items from your classroom that you can bring home to support your setup. Think about how you facilitated instruction before school  was shut down and the technology you used to help support  your implementation such as a document camera, docking station, and maybe an extra monitor, if possible.  If you’re limited on access to technology you may have had before, you may have to be creative and think outside the box on ideas that would support your needs.

Digital Learning Space – Create a home base for your instruction. Whether it’s the learning management system your school has adopted or an available online resource such as itsLearning, Google Classroom, Schoology, or Canvas, set up a virtual classroom space where you communicate with your students,  deliver content, receive student work, and share resources while students are learning from a home. Having a central location to host multiple modalities of instruction helps students in building a new normalcy of learning while at  home, streamlining communication with all your students and parents, and provides students with consistency.

Video Conferencing Tool – With various options to connect virtually, leverage a video conferencing tool to connect with your students. Check with your school if they are supporting a specific application for live conferencing. Many teachers are leveraging tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet to communicate, provide live instruction, and connect with their students for further support. No matter which tool you are using, it is 

Tip 3: Set Expectations & Norms 

  • Classroom Management: It is important to understand that learning virtually is a practice and skill set your students may not have been exposed to or ever had to practice before.  Much like your face-to-face classroom environment, it is important to think through and implement systems and routines for virtual classroom environments. Therefore, classroom management is just as important in a virtual space as much as it is in your face-to-face classroom. 
  • Clear & Explicit Expectations:  Since students are working from home, we do not have control
  • Build a Positive Virtual Community:  Encourage students to engage in positive online interactions and digital citizenship.  

Tip 4: Be Present, Flexible, & Available for Students –

Although you may not be able to support your students as you would have in your classroom, you can still create a supporting presence from a distance using various technology tools.  

  1. Create Office Hours using Live Video Conferencing:  Plan out time in your workday to make yourself available for your students and parents everyday at a specific time or at least multiple times.  Use video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.  With each of these tools you can create and schedule meetings to share with your students. You could also use a live video conferencing tool to schedule personalized support as well.
  2. Discussion Board Interaction: Leverage chat features of technology platforms to engage students in fluid discussions. If your LMS has a discussion board feature built into its platform, set up a thread for students to respond to each other. You can also use announcement and chat features in other platforms such as Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Microsoft Teams .
  3.  Create Multiple Opportunities for Interaction: Although you may not be able to be with them directly,  provide opportunities for you to engage with your students.  This can be done by scheduling specific office hours, tutorials, small group instruction, and interactive live lessons.

Tip 5: Design Engaging & Interactive Lessons

This is the perfect time to sharpen the saw in leveraging technology to design engaging lessons. Sometimes what’s easy for teachers is not always best for students.  For example, the infamous packet of work is often given to students to complete and is often found to entail worksheets that are just busy work. With that said, integrate engaging content and activities that will capture your students attention and make learning fun.

  1. Interesting Content or Topics: Find interesting and relevant content, or topics, to implement into your lesson design that may be appealing to your students. 
  2. Interactive Tools & Gamification: Use Interactive tools in conjunction with your lesson such as FlipGridEdPuzzle,  and Nearpod. Gamify activities or use online web tools to support student learning like Kahoot, Quizlet, Quizziz, Peardeck, and Gimkit.
  3. Creation: Let student’s showcase their learning by creating and designing content like presentations, story telling, videos, posters, narrated screencasts, and webpages. There are a plethora of tools that are easily accessible like: Adobe Spark, Google Drawings, Google Sites, Google Slide, Powtoons, StoryboardThat, Book Creator, and Loom.
  4. Virtual Field Trips: Virtual field trips are great ways to expand student knowledge outside of standard instructions.  Students are able to virtually visit places they are most likely unable to attend and still capture the essence of the  trip. There are many sites that have virtual field trips such as Discovery Education and  Skype in the Classroom.  However, you can also find many virtual field trips on YouTube  provided by organizations and educational affiliations, like the Zoo.

These tips will help you in getting acclimated to teaching from home while continuing to virtually provide instructional support for your students. Remember, it is okay if you are not an expert in using technology. As you continue to develop, you will began to notice growth in your instruction.

One thought on “The New Normal of 2020 Teaching: K-12 tips for Teaching Virtually

  1. Comprehensive, relevant and well organized information for easy implementation! Excellent tool for virtual instruction.
    Thanks Dr. McDonald for your expertise and commitment to effective instruction.


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