Online teaching for the technophobe – Part 1

Would you like to be able to teach online but technology intimidates you? Here Gus Worth provides a solution for you, 12 top tips over 4 blog posts to get you over your fears and set you on the road to connecting with students online without stress.

Be yourself

Right, so you are seriously looking at teaching online but you don’t like technology, hey, join the crew. Despite it seeming that everyone is wired up, teched up and can handle everything with ease, it’s not the truth. In fact, many people are unsure when it comes to software. And a lot of them are good or even great teachers. The first thing you need to remember is what I call the Golden Rule of online teaching – online schools need you more than the technophile! Why? Because they will come to them anyway. But the technophobe won’t come so easily. The schools need the best teachers irrespective of their comfort with machines. If a technophobe comes, learns how to use their system, they will most likely remain loyal to the school that nurtured them. Smart schools are thus happy to train teachers who are daunted by computer based systems, support them, make them feel comfortable and therefore get top teachers unavailable to other schools.

So, I am going to make a couple of assumptions, that you are a good educator with plenty of experience who, for various reasons, would like to be able to get all, or part of your income from online teaching. Your problem is that you stumble over knowing how to do things on your computer. It takes you longer to learn and you don’t seem to have a flair for it. Don’t let that stop you. As a motivation, remember the successes you have had with technology. Things like Skype, mobile phones, even Microsoft Word back in the day, may have been intimidating, but after a while they become easier. Learning an online teaching system will be the same. It comes over time. A good school will help you, be patient with you, and allow you to grow and get comfortable. They want you to be you, the good teacher who is good with their system. Their support staff will learn your strengths and weaknesses, will quickly know the areas you struggle with and will solve your difficulties for you. The Golden Rule will work in your favour.

So your job will be to bring all that experience, the little tricks you have learned over the years, the you that students appreciate and make it work online. The good news is that many systems can replicate the true classroom experience and particularly the Vedamo system is exceptional in this regard. You want to be you and not a piece of technology, well hey, that’s exactly what the good schools want. Developing rapport with the students, achieving good grades, creating a family like feel where you keep in touch with students long after they are gone, is all not only possible, but easily accomplished.

Motivation

I accept that making the transition to online teaching is more difficult for those that don’t feel comfortable with tech. You do need motivation to overcome that. So let’s look at the bigger picture. Why do you want to work online? There could be many reasons, you may live in a rural area, you may have a condition that makes it difficult to travel, you may have young children, you may be retired, or you may wish to take advantage of bigger salaries offered in richer countries. The reasons are important. If online teaching is going to solve a big problem in your life or it seems the best solution then go for it. You can do it! Keep your eye on the prize.

And what a prize! No longer will you have to travel to work. No longer will you have to work nine to five. No longer will you have to worry about making enough money because it is difficult to get out of the house for long periods. Whether you just need a top-up to your monthly income or your complete salary online, it is all possible. There are several advantages. It is possible to work strange hours, a class here, a class there and no travelling in the middle. Saturday, Sunday, early in the morning, late at night. You can work outside or on holiday. You can work more hours than in a regular job because of this flexibility. And make more money. I have put motivation second on my list because you, the technophobe, need it more than the rest. With the right motivation, you can have the life that you want.

Different types of systems

There are many options for teaching out there. What you want, ideally, is a system that replicates the classroom experience. Dedicated teaching software like Vedamo is such a system. Many schools use Skype or Hangouts or similar and they allow you to see and hear the students, you can upload files, and use textbooks. Other systems, like Blackboard, are highly text based with quizzes and tests and have lots of menus and submenus requiring much tuition to get you up to speed. They allow quite a lot of learning to be remote and the teacher doesn’t need to be online at the same time as the student. I believe that systems that reproduce the classroom are best for you. Why? Because having direct interaction with students that you can see and hear live is what you are used to and requires less tech knowledge.

Try to find out how easy a system is to learn when you are negotiating with a school. If there is a long learning curve and a complicated structure to comprehend then it may not be the best for you. Find out how friendly and patient the support staff are. Ask them if they have other technophobes on their books and how they coped. Remember the Golden Rule, they need you more than other teachers because they know you are likely to stay.

Something that is like a much better version of Skype (and here I give a plug for Vedamo) with a live classroom feel will make you feel more at home.

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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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