Superb Curriculum Planning for the Remote Teacher
Switching your teaching from a brick and mortar classroom to an online setting can be daunting. But if you approach this task with an open mind there are some tools and tricks that can result in superb curriculum planning for the remote teacher and yield great results for your students.
Whatever your subject might be, there is no single perfect way to make this transition. You will need to adapt everything you find to the school district plan, to your student's abilities, as well as to your style. If you are comfortable and flexible you will be able to make educational and interesting classes without stressing too much.
No Plan Survives First Contact
Being a teacher is, in some ways, eerily similar to being deployed in the army. You usually go because you feel a duty toward the next generation. But, once you are out, you might realize that things aren't as you expected and are not exactly sure what to do from there.
That is why you need to stay flexible and adaptable. No plan should be set in stone because there is a myriad of factors that can influence it from all sides. If you are too rigid, your plans will just break beyond repair.
Use Every Tool at Your Disposal
There is no tool that you might use that would be ''beneath you'' as a teacher. It is okay to co-opt the platform already in use by your students. Depending on the demographics of your class, platforms such as Discord or social media might make sense. Who knows, you might even hold your classes in VR-chat if that will make them learn.
Also, there are a lot of resources made by other people, including videos, podcasts, and even lectures, that you can give to your students. Don’t feel like this is lowering your position as a teacher. You are there to be a guide, not to act as the ultimate authority.
The goal is always to have your students have results. Always start your curriculum planning as a remote teacher from the perspective of what you want your students to know in the end, and go from there.
What are the basics? What needs to go first? Are there some parts of the curriculum that are similar enough to place next to each other?
If you form your plan so that every step is meant to progress toward the goal, you will always have a guiding light for what you need to do.
Best Practice Curriculum Planning for the Remote Teacher
When it comes to remote teaching, the best outcome is to adequately adapt online tools - as well as the subject matter and style - to the needs of your students.
Take your comfort as the baseline, as that is the only thing you can always know. Don’t use any online tool that you don’t like or has too big a learning curve, regardless of the reason. This way, as you go through the steps, you will always know if something is a good idea or not. To put it shortly, trust your gut.
Built with Education Minecraft
#1 Start from a Central Hub
What will be the main meeting place for your students?
While most teachers use platforms like Zoom because it is popular with school districts, there might be better options depending on the age and the dominant cultural sub-group of your students.
The key might be to settle on what is popular amongst the age group of your students. We've mentioned Discord or social media before, but ultimately it boils down to whatever your students are most likely to adopt in an educational setting.
Finally, if you are daring enough to think outside of the box and make a place that every student will want to visit, you can really get elaborate by making a Minecraft World. You can download entire Hogwarts and keep your announcements there; in a form of Minecraft books.
These options might take a lot of work, but it would be making one school that none of your students will never want to miss.
#2 Work Inwards
If you try to write the whole plan with every little detail from start to finish, the chance of getting lost "in the weeds" is very high. But, if you start with just the largest points, and then increase the scope as you flesh those elements out, you can slowly fill everything in.
Outline the biggest learning blocks and the most important parts that you know you must touch upon. After that, add subtitles and notes in the middle. If you notice that some points are similar, you might want to move them closer together.
Only once you have all of your lectures named you can visualize the task for each one. This way you can know when to place group projects and where it would be better for everyone to work individually.
Ideally, every important point in the curriculum should have an individual project first, followed by a work project where you can join up students with different levels of understanding to promote cooperation.
The best course of action is that the tasks you give to your students are very short and manageable. When working online, it is very easy to misjudge how much time you have, especially for younger people. If you set a project that lasts a month you will just have a lot of people rushing them in the last few days.
So, make projects and assignments last a maximum of one week, and ideally two days. This way you know that your students will start right away.
But, don’t place assignments one after the other because they may clash with other subjects, making the deadline very hard on the students.
#3 Overarching Team Goals
For any good curriculum plan to work, you will need all of your students to progress at a similar speed. In traditional classrooms, this wasn't such an issue because they had their friends and classmates to pull them up if they stay behind.
But, for online teaching, a student might just drift away without you even noticing until it is too late.
That is why you must plan team goals that will be reviewed often, where you will employ other students on keeping tabs on their friends. This might be something like a collective grade, or only some benefits if everyone reaches a certain goal.
#4 Spice Everything Up
At this point you already have your curriculum planning done for the major part. The thing to consider now is to add media and materials that will keep the lectures interesting and memorable.
This can be done with videos, images, music, or voice-overs, or any mix of these mediums. The important thing is to have an anchor in your student’s memory about the class. Materials like this are easy to keep and organize when teaching online, so you should use that to your advantage.
This little dash of controlled chaos is what differentiates an acceptable curriculum planning venture and a superb one.
#5 Be Transparent
Because everything is done online, you should stay as transparent as possible to remove any doubt that you are ‘fixing the game’.
While we know that all teachers have favorites, good teachers don't discriminate in the classroom. But, even in brick and mortar classrooms, there are always talks that someone is having it easy because they are the favorite.
When online, this issue can worsen. That is why you might want to think about some method to making everyone's grades and/or points public, or at least a record to for groups and individuals to track and compare their progress.
Also, you might want to make classes, materials, and grades accessible to guardians and parents. They should have a separate account from their kids, so they can see how things are done in your class.
Allow Feedback from Students and Guardians
Online teaching is still a new field. And, while some best practices are becoming clear, feedback is always welcomed and we should try to improve on our system every year. As online lectures are easily edited and scalable, you can also connect with other teachers and share experiences. This is important when you might have gone too far out of the box and some kids might not be able to follow you. Or, even worse, your classes might be too monotonous.
The goal is to find the elusive Noble Eightfold Path, as our fellow teacher Buddha proposed. Some correct center that is simultaneously effective, and flexible.
To start some superb curriculum planning as a remote teacher you will need to access your tools and work from the outside in. It may be an arduous and time-consuming task at first, but once you have the basics it becomes really easy and completely scalable.
Find your main meeting place online with your students. Then, formulate the biggest steps and start filling in the details until you have a plan for every daily lecture. Finally, find all sorts of medial, videos, and even memes that might help illustrate your point.
If you do all this and stay transparent in front of your students and their guardians, you will have memorable classes that everyone just can’t wait to log in to.