As schools closed with little notice around the world, teachers have had to make rapid changes to their pedagogy for remote learning. Many have been pressured to recreate typical lessons, live online. But many have been left asking if this is the best strategy?
The Struggle Is Real
Any teacher who’s tried will tell you about the practical difficulties of live online teaching. Whether it’s privacy issues – students learning too much about you based on your background, partners and children walking into frame and calling you ‘babe’ in front of your class, or accidentally being caught with a work shirt and pyjama bottoms on, live lessons are fraught with risk for teachers. No matter how carefully you prepare, things can go wrong! These can be a real source of anxiety for teachers, who want to maintain appropriate professional boundaries.
That’s to say nothing of all the parents and carers at home, juggling these responsibilities alongside teaching duties!
— MANS NOT HOT (@mans_not_hott) March 22, 2020
Equally, the technology is far from perfect! Even if everyone’s connection is up to speed (which it never seems to be!), software can crash, links can stop working, and time lags are inevitable. Just like students need to learn how to manage speaking, listening, looking and turn-taking inside the classroom, all of these behaviours need to be established online for successful remote learning. Tricky at the best of times! There’s also the stress of managing students turning their microphones on and off, distracting sounds and sights in students’ windows, and relatives popping in to interrupt.
Though ‘synchronous’ online teaching is better than posting home a work booklet, it’s not a panacea for long-term school closure.
Getting Out of Sync
Some colleagues have eschewed live teaching for pre-recorded videos (mostly featuring screen recordings of PowerPoint presentations, animations or other imagery). These take work! Most teachers are well versed in preparing and organising visuals for their classes, and you can use existing resources as a basis. Adding verbal explanation to the video personalises the materials and makes sure students can absorb the key ideas without ‘text overload’. There’s nothing to say teachers need to prepare everything from scratch either – why would you, when there’s so much excellent content already available?
Effective Remote Teaching
The key here is the follow-up. Use pre-recorded or prepared resources so that students can learn information in their own time. Then you can have a much more focused live online teaching session if you’d like; rather than ‘teaching’, you can question, discuss and follow up on the key concepts and errors. This means any live sessions you do have can be shorter and more focused on helpful two-way communications. Your students are used to scrubbing through long videos, watching them at double speed, and skipping through to the most relevant parts. They’ll appreciate being able to do all of that individually, be more focused and better prepared to tackle the challenging concepts when they do see you.
If you’re still reluctant to have live video sessions, you can always have email or (moderated) forum discussions instead.
Remember: you can’t control everything, and remote learning is never going to be the same as school-based learning. Do your best with what you have, and be kind to yourself!