Three top tips to teaching remotely

Due to the impact of Coronavirus, teachers now find themselves having to update their skills to address student needs in a remote learning environment. The almost overnight transition to ‘at home schooling’ has found schools in different states of readiness!

As a supply teacher during the current COVID-19 pandemic, you might find yourself working with a range of different remote teaching platforms and styles.

While some schools are simply sending pre-printed materials to pupils’ homes, others are ensuring students have devices, assisting with access to Wi-Fi, and issuing coherent online timetables. Online teaching platforms also vary significantly between schools. Some might have their own learning management system, others have added students to a Google Chat room, issued and collected work by email, or adapted to newer tools, such as Class for Zoom.

As you get started with online teaching, remember that the first and last thing you need to do is to keep your students engaged. If you are new to teaching remotely, here is a collection of top tips from experienced teaching professionals, who have adapted to the ‘new normal’.

How do I teach remotely?

1. Keep it simple, stupid (KISS)

The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, simplicity should be a key goal in design, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided. This lends itself really well to online teaching.

Don’t try to do the same learning online as you would do face-to-face. Instead, think about what you are trying to achieve, what tools and resources are available, and how you can get pupils to engage with them as simply as possible. If a task was challenging for you to set up, it will likely be difficult for students to complete.

With so much new technology out there, avoid using too many different apps, platforms or Google Docs. Teachers also need to concentrate on reinforcing what students have already learned, as well as delivering new content.

Simple, clear directions and expectations are always important in teaching, but never more so than in a virtual classroom, where teachers can’t easily tell when students are confused. Simplify what you teach and how you deliver it, and consider how students will show you what they’ve learned. Prioritising skills and concepts from your curriculum is more necessary now than ever before.

Finally, make goals and expectations crystal clear. Teachers should specify when students should log on to classes, and clarify exactly which tasks they need to complete – both before the class and after.

2. Be inclusive and go ‘low-tech’

Go low-tech wherever possible, and allow alternative ways of working for pupils when not connected. Don’t assume all students will have stable Internet connectivity, access to good quality or large screen devices, or even a quiet environment in which to learn. Currently, many students will be sharing devices with family members – perhaps siblings who are also home-learning, and parents who are working from home. There is extra load on broadband connections and access to devices. There are also additional challenges for students in low-income households, who may not have adequate access to technology or the Internet.

Depending on the needs of your students, short workbooks, which support the completion of an assignment and that can be downloaded and printed, or sent out / collected from school, could be of value, and will reduce screen time for students.

3. Make online learning as interactive as possible

Learners need opportunities not just to listen or read but also to actively process the information being presented. Some platforms allow teachers to run short quizzes and get immediate results. Even if that option isn’t a possibility, providing a short quiz or questions about when, what, where, or why helps students to absorb and remember the material. Don’t miss the opportunity to leverage the beginning and end of each remote learning session. Icebreakers could be used to kick off a remote class.

A number of education providers are also making free online materials available that can supplement your online teaching. Moreover, as the UK entered the third national lockdown, the BBC started broadcasting daily content covering primary and secondary curriculum to help with home schooling.

Remember - to be successful, remote instruction requires a lot of the same aspects that normal teaching does: clarity, review, checking for understanding, and prompt feedback.

Even if it’s impossible to implement some of these tips, keeping them in mind can help. It is important to realise that even the most experienced teachers are continuing to learn more about how remote learning works. Many of our teachers are enjoying this new area of classroom delivery, and realise that it is an important skill to develop. Even after the current crisis is over and staff and pupils return to the classroom, educators may need to do it again. With the increasingly widespread use of online learning, those much welcomed ‘snow days’ could soon be a thing of the past!

If you are a supply teacher, or looking for a short-term teaching role, we have a number of positions available. Search our latest teaching vacancies online:

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