Teacher Tools for Virtual Education: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Even for experienced teachers, the problems with teaching remotely are something completely new. The sets of teacher tools that we are used to having are now changed to working online with programs and applications we might not be as accustomed to.
But, where some see a problem, you should see an opportunity. Switching to online teaching can give you more control and allow you to transmit ideas that were too hard to organize in a physical classroom. By using slides, images, videos, and even memes, you can make your classroom more dynamic than ever.
Finally, the teacher tools used for virtual education are meant to be easy to use and to allow you as much freedom or control in your class as you want. It is more than just having a collective chat with your students, it is harnessing the power of the virtual world for education.
A syntagma often used to depict something that should be done by others, but now it falls to the teachers to become students yet again. Thankfully, it is much easier and more entertaining to learn how to organize a class virtually than it was trying to maintain control in a brick and mortar school.
Every person who has been in even a month's worth of classes has dreamed of how they can have a mute button to silence a student; now they have it. But, you need to know where all the buttons are, and never stay uninformed in front of your pupils.
Also, regardless of the program you use, you will need to figure out how to present pictures, videos, or slides. This does sound like a lot of work, and it is, but the main benefit of technology is that it is scalable. Once you have prepared a lecture for a single class, you can simply copy it and play it for the next.
Finally, you can even record a whole lecture or at least parts of it. Then, if you want to invest time, you can edit your audio and video, or insert pictures and clips where you think they are needed. This way your workload can be sliced in half and you can share your notes with the class if they have any questions.
Pick out a Platform
While most schools have opted to use Zoom as their platform, that is neither the only option nor the definitively superior one.
Generally, opting for something like Discord will present you as someone more in line with today’s trends. Discord is usually used for video game discussions and chats about movies and music, but can perfectly serve as a classroom. You can even designate roles if you know that someone will be presenting and give options for your students to pose text questions without disturbing the flow of the class.
There are also programs like Skype or Google Hangouts, but unless you are comfortable with staying on your webcam for the entire class, these are not preferable.
Prepare Your Teacher Tools and Materials
This is the 101 of virtual teaching. While you can have a naturalistic approach where you just talk to the microphone and expect your students not to be playing Fortnite on their other screen or mess with their phone, that is a huge leap of faith.
But, if you have your lecture prepared both visually, technically, and with what you want to say, you can exert more control over what your students learn.
Your goal is to use your vast knowledge as a teacher to make something akin to a YouTube video; something that will be interesting and educational for your students. And who knows, maybe your carrier changes to something like CrashCourse, but with more focus on the actual curriculum required by the school.
#1 MS Office & Google Docs
These two sets of programs are often disregarded because they are so common, which is a paradox. Familiarizing yourself deeply with applications that you have probably been using for decades will make all of your online classes easier to do.
First of all, making a lecture in MS PowerPoint might seem basic, and it is, but it can also be the best way to make a good plan and organize everything without learning how to edit videos or keep all of the images somewhere on your desktop.
Also, having a list of people you want to send links to your Zoom or Discord server will mean that you can renew your invite code for every class. This will prevent unwanted guests from attending your lecture.
#2 Visual Assistance
There is probably an image for everything on Google. And, because you are using them for educational purposes, you can take them for free and use them for your class as much as you want.
But, if you want to go really deep, you can use images and paintings from DeviantArt or other marketplaces to add to the appeal of your class.
By using these images and talking over them, it will be much easier for your students to visualize what you are talking about. And there are some amazing illustrations of even obscure parts of the curriculum.
#3 Clips and Videos
It is very hard to time clips and videos just right when you are holding a traditional lecture. Usually, this needs to be a whole block of information where everyone will doze off. There are teacher tools that completely change these dynamics.
But, with an online classroom, you can use excerpts from YouTube, Brilliant, or Nebula. Also, you can use clips from places like Reddit to prove your point or shake things up a bit.
Not to mention that this can include memes, and by using correct and current memes you can ensure that all of your class attendees will be focused. They are also an excellent way to discipline your students digitally, without banning them from the class.
Practice Cyber Hygiene
It becomes much harder to separate your home life and your work life if you are doing both from the same place. Also, while there are a lot of teacher tools to help you improve how you conduct your lecture, there are few designated to protect your private life from prying eyes of your students.
The only way to do this is to practice impeccable cyber hygiene. Make a fresh email address for your school projects, and even a new Facebook account that will only have the information you want to be published.
Also, clear your desktop from anything that is not work-related. Just a glimpse can start students snooping, and they will always find something if they start. Just keep everything clean and don’t give out more data than you must.
After all, they are there to learn about the subject matter, and not about the life of their teacher.