Online teaching for the technophobe- Part 3

In his third article from the series “Online teaching for the technophobe” Gus Worth is sharing the next 3 tips for building your confidence as a virtual teacher. 

Don’t panic

So, what do you do when things go wrong in your conventional classroom? An experienced teacher has seen many things go wrong but you always somehow coped, didn’t you? Some things are axiomatic, keep plenty of materials, have a plan B, send an unruly child to the principal, etc., but sometimes you just have to make it up on the spot. Those are the times you remember. You call on your ability to deal with the unexpected and find a way. The great thing about online teaching with a dedicated system is that you don’t have to deal with problems on your own, there are support staff who have also seen many complications arise. And they also remember how to deal with them. So don’t be afraid to call on them and ask for help. Problems arise in two broad areas, technological and human issues. The support staff can help for sure with the tech. And also with the human. Unlike in a conventional classroom you have backup to call on.

What do I mean? Say, for example, a child is being disruptive. You can’t send them to the principal but you can silence them very easily in a system such as Vedamo were you can send them to a virtual private room where only you can access them. You can give an exercise to the other students while you deal with the difficult one, all the while keeping an eye on the others. It is a definite plus to teaching online. If you can’t remember how to create a private room, the support staff will tell you.

So, do the conventional things you would do in your normal classroom, have plenty of materials, and have a plan b, but know that you are no longer alone. Even if, online, the power goes and with it the internet, is that game over? No way, you continue with your laptop’s battery and your mobile phone internet as a hotspot, and you’re probably good for another couple of hours teaching.

A problem arises with a student’s connection? They will also have access to the support staff, direct them to the chat box in the corner and let the staff sort out the tech for them. This is the beauty of teaching online, you have help, right inside the classroom, and so do the students. Unlike in the physical world, you are never alone. You truly have far less need to panic online. It would have to be a real calamity to force you to take the ultimate action and reschedule.

Give online teaching a lot of respect

A good teacher knows that preparation is almost everything. If you have prepped well, far less problems arise. The good news is that dedicated teaching systems allow you to save templates of all the material you have used in a course for use the next time. So, like a regular class, the first time to teach something is the most difficult in terms of preparation. Still, all the rules for a conventional classroom apply. You need to be online before the students so when they log in they can see you. Have everything ready, all docs uploaded, all listenings, photos, videos ready at the touch of a button. You don’t want to be searching around for things or worse, uploading during a live class.

As mentioned before, have backup internet if possible, it gives great peace of mind. And choose the strongest place in your home for the internet.

Allow extra time for teaching every time. Do not schedule another class immediately after one is due to finish. If something goes wrong, power drops or the internet drops, and you have to put on backup internet, this can eat up minutes meaning you have to add time at the end, which can mean students trying to log on for the next class while the current one is unfinished. And of course, you have to load the materials necessary for the next class as well, so always give space between classes.

Think about your clothes, yes, you are at home, but that doesn’t mean you can be slovenly with your hair and clothes in a mess. Look as respectable as if you were in a physical classroom. What about the background, is it distracting in any way? I used to teach from my couch, which was cream coloured, until a student remarked that he thought I was teaching from bed. It did look like that. And while it is perfectly possible to teach from bed, I don’t think it projects a professional image. My solution? I threw a red throw over the couch and voila, it looked like a couch again.

Now, you might say what has this got to do with tips for the technophobe? It has everything to do with it. I am suggesting that until you are comfortable teaching online, make sure that where you teach is right, what you wear is right and teach right in the same place every time as much as possible. Not having to worry about simple things is crucial for the technophobe.

Think positive

Ok, it’s a cliché, but it truly works. If you apply all these tips I have given you should have more confidence, more belief in your ability to get through all glitches. And you do have a team behind you to catch you if you start to stumble. I found that giving myself affirmations is a great help in stoking my confidence, simply saying to myself, when I wake up in the morning and several times throughout the day, stuff like “I am a great teacher”, “I can cope well with technology” fools the brain into making these ideas reality. It has been proven many times over that those that think positive achieve far more than those that think negative. In your first weeks or months as a teacher did you really think you would be successful? Your confidence came from acquiring competence. You can give yourself a little shortcut to becoming competent by telling yourself you are already there. And you are, you are already a good teacher, it is simply a question of transferring those skills online.

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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.
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