Post by Dr. Eric D. Marvin, professor of education
A few short weeks ago, you probably never envisioned that you’d now be teaching without your classroom. Sure, you may have taken an online class, but you may have never taught one! In the wake of COVID-19, many K-12 teachers, like you, have been tasked with converting face-to-face lessons into online instruction.
At the surface, it’s OK if it seems a little daunting, or novel, to say the least. After all, feelings of uncertainty during times of change are natural, but deep down, you know you’ve got this! As an educator, “adaptable” is your middle name, but even so, a few tips never hurt. In the midst of the pandemic in which you find yourself, Union University is here to offer some support. Here are five tips that can guide you during this non-traditional time of instruction as you teach your students from a distance:
1. Good instruction is good instruction, regardless of the format. The good news is that you already understand the components of effective instruction. You know how to write objectives, create and facilitate strategies, and check for understanding with various means of assessment. Similarly, you already understand that your objectives, strategies and assessments must align. This doesn’t change as you move to an online format. So, don’t let the idea of online instruction misdirect you from what you already know and do. Rather, for each objective, ask yourself: what online tools will enable me to help students achieve this objective? Don’t consume your time with a blind search for online tools and technological solutions without first considering your objectives. Doing so puts the cart before the horse. Keep your attention on the components of effective instruction. Then, find specific tools to enable you to help your students achieve your specified objectives.
2. Use free resources. As a teacher, you are already likely a king or queen of finding free resources. Most of your freebies, however, have likely focused on content and not instructional tools. One tool that may be especially helpful as you aim to provide online instruction to your students is Screencast-O-Matic. This tool allows you to record, edit and share video content with students and parents, and best of all, it’s easy to use. Keep in mind that this tool can be used to record a mini-lecture, provide assignment instructions and communicate with parents. For older students, you could even ask them to record their own screencast with this powerful tool. Finally, if you are looking for some additional content-related freebies, check out: the live cameras at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, educator resources from the National Archives and the video archive from PBS Learning Media.
3. Online learning doesn’t require students to complete assignments online. In the absence of meeting in your traditional classroom, it may be easy to assume that online learning requires student work to occur online. Nothing could be further than the truth! What needs to be online is your communication with students and their submission of assignments to you. With social distancing, students can, however, be tasked with completing assignments with tangible objects in their home, around their yard or in their neighborhood. Similarly, they can call or Facetime grandparents to learn more about their lives. What a great time for such an interview project. After all, everyone is home and perhaps in need of some conversation. Your goal is to establish the guidelines and expectations. As always, be creative and see where you can take your students during this opportunity brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Relationships remain important, even when at a distance. More than anyone else, you know that relationships matter with your students. They know you care about them and want what is best for them. Now that you have been geographically separated from your students, it’s important for students to know you are continuing to think about them and their educational needs. Panorama Education offers a free online survey tool that can help your students learn about each other and build stronger classroom relationships. Additionally, sending a brief video message (see Screencast-O-Matic above) to students can help to bridge the gap. If you want to talk with them about COVID-19, the CDC offers some guidelines here.
5. Follow the guidelines provided by your district. Due to COVID-19, it is very probable that your district has a continuity of instruction plan and specific guidance in place related to your work and the legal parameters in which you can and should function as an educator in the online world. Now is not the time to press the limits or extend beyond such boundaries. Your school administrators are concerned about the situation at hand and need your prayers, support, cooperation and collaboration.
Union University’s School of Education is praying for and thinking about you as a K-12 educator. To learn more about the School of Education and its degree offerings, please visit uu.edu/education.