Back to school – but with a difference! Although the idea of teaching online may seem as if it is no real substitute for the interactions of a physical classroom, it’s worth retraining the brain to perceive that ‘disadvantage’ as a positive, and turn it into an advantage. Online teaching and learning may not be the absolute ideal – but it offers a great opportunity for teachers to do things in a slightly different way. A way that uses imagination and can appeal greatly to your pupils, who are all part of the ‘education tech savvy’ generation.
The online lesson planning ideas we’ll go into in this article will help you prepare successfully. You’ll meet the needs of your pupils, while also engaging with them in interesting and productive ways.
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Tech for smooth running
Before you begin the lesson itself, it is probably worth checking things over. It may seem unlikely that there would be any technical issues during your lesson – but you never know.
So spend a few minutes checking that (for example) your laptop has its power cable plugged in. There’d be nothing worse than finding out that your laptop had been running on battery power alone, and the battery running down to zero right in the middle of some amazing teaching! Also check that you have the ‘peripheral’ things you will need: That USB stick, for example, with the videos you’ll be playing during the lesson, or the handouts that you’ll be sending out.
If your lesson has a tech element (perhaps you are playing a video or an audio file), it might be worth spending a moment just checking that runs correctly. Also, check that you are correctly ‘logged in’ to the teaching portal so that you are there, ready and waiting, at the start of the lesson rather than ‘arriving’ after your pupils.
Also, check things like: Internet connection. Is it stable? Do you have the right coverage in the room you are teaching from? If not, have you thought about investing in powerline adapters or a whole-home mesh system? Is the camera on your laptop switched on?
Do you have a headset with built in microphone (for superior audio)? If you are working on a laptop, do you have a laptop stand so that the device is positioned appropriately for you to be comfortable? There are several ‘little things’ to check with regards to your tech, which can make a big difference to the smooth running of your lesson.
Set an objective for the lesson
It’s worth pointing out to the pupils at the very start of the lesson that there is a clear objective and it’s important for them to concentrate and stay focused throughout. When you’re planning what it is you will be teaching, it’s advisable to be realistic. Think about what your students will be able to achieve by the end of the time they will have available during the lesson.
For example, the aim of your lesson could be to help develop a new skill or learn a particular new piece of information. Once you have that clear objective in mind, it’s much easier to plan the lesson and plot the course of your teaching through it. You can ‘bullet point’ certain targets you want to hit at specific times during the lesson.
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It’s a well known fact that pupils remember what they see more than what they read or are told. So it’s important to take advantage of the capabilities of your education tech and ‘be visual’ in your teaching. After all, no-one really wants to sit staring at just their teacher’s face on a computer monitor for an hour!
You could replace written information with videos. You can add captions to videos which could offer supporting information and / or links off to further reading or viewing. If creating a video from scratch is going to be too difficult for you, there are plenty already out there on the internet. Check out BBC Bitesize, National Geographic Education and YouTube Learning for starters. You’ll probably find something appropriate to what you are teaching, and it’s sure to be something which will keep your online lesson seeming fresh for your pupils.
Be aware, be flexible
Obviously you will have specific goals in mind. Things you want to have achieved by the end of the allotted lesson time. But bear in mind that this is still quite a strange set up, a novelty, for not just yourself but your pupils too. You should probably expect a little disruption to the smooth running, here and there, or be mindful of the fact that things can ‘go sideways’ a bit. A couple of your pupils might have internet problems, or audio / visual issues. When you are planning your lesson in advance, it might be worth keeping back (or factoring in) ‘a buffer’ amount of time for these sorts of moments.
Ensure that you have set the ‘ground rules’ for your classes. This means no pets, no eating during class, no talking to siblings and so on. Having these rules in place will save you lots of time. Also, ensure that your pupils know what to do if they wish to ask a question. If you aren’t prepared for these things, your lesson will quickly appear to unplanned and will not be the smooth success you hope for.
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To round up…
There are many ways you can make online learning much more imaginative than you might think. There’s no real need for your online lessons to be boring old ‘talking heads’ – the digital-era equivalent of ‘chalk ‘n’ talk’. You should think carefully – and smartly – about how you can make things interesting or even exciting.
You can incorporate all sorts of different media into the process. As we mentioned before, videos are a great way to engage pupils. But, as we said at the start, it’s crucial to have a clear plan for the time allotted, so that you can keep guiding your pupils towards the goal of the lesson. And make sure you have the right education tech – check out Ebuyer for a consistent stock of education tech.
Happy teaching, from everyone at Ebuyer!