Online teaching for the technophobe - Part 4

Read the last 3 tips provided by Gus Worth for technophobes, get over your fears and enjoy teaching online.

Don’t allow chaos

This is probably one of the areas in which a technophobe is worried about, can you keep order when you are not actually in the room with students and all you can see is a postage stamp sized video of them? The good thing is yes you can, but it is different. You do need to create ground rules exactly as you would in a physical space. If something goes wrong though, and a student is causing problems you may need to take specific action. In a conventional classroom you can give a student a stern look and that may be enough of a warning. Online, if you have say 8-10 students they are normally grouped together and they cannot see if you are specifically looking at them. So what do you do? First, a voice warning may be enough. Second, pulling them into a virtual private room where they cannot see or hear the other students and talking to them is an option.

However, let’s forget about bad behavior or troublesome students for a moment and talk about a normal class which can also descend into disorder. First, your organization has to be good. Normally, students put up their hands if they have a question or know an answer. Online, with dedicated software such as Vedamo, they can ring a bell to indicate that they wish to speak. Once students accept that they cannot just speak but must indicate first a lot of your problems are solved.

Also, let’s say you have 10 students. Doing things in rounds is a good way. Explain that you will start with student number one and continue through to number 10. This provides a structure. You can also do live correction of writings or homework and again a round structure works best. You can mix it up, starting with 10 and working your way back to one and vice versa to stop the first person feeling they always have to answer first. Just be strict with your system, and once students get used to it you should be fine.

Teaching kids

First off, you cannot teach young kids remotely if they are in a room by themselves. They need an adult in there with them to make sure they do what they are supposed to. For example, if the kid is in a hospital, a nurse or similar will be there to make sure they learn and behave. So, you don’t need to worry about that. When kids are older, and can go online by themselves, you have to teach them by your own skills. The good news is that online you can access many areas to stimulate them, Youtube or other videos, Ted lessons, interactive teaching, colours, photos, drawing, etc. You can teach them about space by showing them videos of the planets. In a physical classroom you may not be able to afford fancy electronic whiteboards but online you have them with all the wonders of the Web.

Once you get over your nervousness with technology, this is the exciting part. Most kids love playing with computers and for them this is normal. Use that. No more boring concentration on black and white text. Make the lessons come alive. Let them see and do. What makes a good teacher with kids is that they stimulate them to use their imagination, they make the lessons enjoyable and I definitely feel that online teaching can make that part easier.

Grading, tests, forums and logins

Now we are in the part where you do have to do things in the style of whatever teaching system you are using. This part only applies to dedicated teaching software as Skype and other instant messengers popular for teaching do not have this capability. If you have got through this far, I hope what I have to say now will get you through this final hurdle. The bad news is, you will have to learn and remember how to do grading, create tests, supervise and participate in forums, and manage logins. The good news is that there are staff to help you if you forget something. At some point, though, you will have to fly solo and be able to do it all by yourself.

Let’s go through them one by one. University or high school grading is normally the most complicated as they will have many ways to assess. You will have to create the assignments, give them a grading weight (normally to a total of 100%), enter the results for each student and the software calculates the grades. In the old days you may have had to calculate these by yourself, now it is done for you. You will need to do the training to master this but with a bit of luck, after a few goes, it will become straightforward.

Creating tests are a great boon of online teaching. For example, you put together a multiple choice exam. You simply enter the answers into the system and it calculates the results for you. Believe me, I love this aspect and you will too, once you learn how to do it. Even short writing tests can be done automatically if you enter key words to be searched for in the answers.

Forums are also a great way of putting in the teaching hours without being tied to time. You put up discussion questions and the students debate them with you simply interacting and moderating.

For all of these logins will be important but the good thing is that the students will normally be taught how to do everything by the staff. You will not have to teach them how to interact with the system. You only need to learn how to do your own things.

There is a learning curve here but it is the final step. Using the backend of the software as opposed to the frontend, direct contact with students, can also be rewarding and crucially is not as tied to time as they can generally be done at a time that suits you. Of course, there will be deadlines but all teachers know they have to deal with end of term grading rushes. The automatic aspect online should save you time with this.

Good luck with your new adventure of online teaching and keep in touch with us here for new articles of interest!

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Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
VEDAMO Virtual Classroom
For the past nine years we have been providing a platform purpose-built for education.
VEDAMO Virtual Classroom
For the past nine years we have been providing a platform purpose-built for education.