Learning remotely

Four weeks have passed since I last posted and already it is May. May is generally an important month for me as I usually associate May the 1st as the date I launched TeachMeetNZ.  It has been a couple of years since I have run a Google Hangout for professional learning. However the skills I developed running online learning for teachers have been invaluable as I have supported our teachers during ‘Lockdown’ acclimatise to leading learning online with each other and with their own learners.

I have observed the thinking that teaching face to face can be shifted to online learning with little thought to the challenges that surface when teaching the upcoming ‘TikTok’ generation. Those of you who have explored TikTok will know the speed that media moves. Trying to replicate any of those skills is a challenge in itself to maintain the learner’s interest.  TikTok media snackers are used to swiping up when they are not interested in what we are trying to teach them. 

Personally the aspects that I struggle with with remote online learning is when video conferencing is used for face to face teaching via ZOOM as there are much more effective ways of ensuring learning happens. I observe our teachers undertaking the challenge and I wonder how many of them have been an online learner themselves? How many of them have sat in ZOOM classes or Google Meets themselves listening to an online teacher in real time? 

Some of the excellent online courses I have undertaken only use real time face to face to make connections or to celebrate with an end product. In one of the courses, I never met my teachers face to face in real time except the option was there if I needed personal support. 

I have never sat on a face to face virtual lesson to learn how to do something. That is what Youtube is for and more recently what Tiktok is for. At least in Youtube I can speed up the video when it starts to drag and in Tiktok I can swipe up when the content does not motivate me. I do feel for the learners having to sit and listen to their teachers ‘teach’ virtually and in real time. Our teachers need a strong understanding of cameras and of online tools for editing in order to do something like this effectively. 

With all the technology available to us, I continually search for ways of having the learner share what they can do. I am particularly interested in any tool that opens up for collaboration. Some of my favourites are FlipGrid, Book Creator, Wevideo, Seesaw and even good old google tools. If teachers need to teach, then create self help videos for the students. At least the learners can speed up the video or slow it down to suit or even revisit for clarification as a reference point. Even better they can choose to sit and watch if they are really that keen.

Probably my greatest challenge with using ZOOM for real time teaching is not recording when the children are on.Teaching in real time takes our teachers and our students into each other’s homes so it’s important to consider privacy. As teachers we must also remember that we are like a guest entering our students’ home. Student safety comes first and how many of our teachers have spent time teaching their students how to blur their backgrounds when in real time.  

When teaching in real time, I think, ‘Is this the best way that our students learn? How much would our students benefit from this type of delivery? Are we not supposed to be leading the balance in using screen time for learning?  Would it not be better to record a lesson using ZOOM, Youtube, Flipgrid, or Wevideo? Then at least there is a recording that can be repurposed across the team, with another class.’ Also teaching videos would cut down some of the instructions I have seen in text form, especially some of the long instructions I have read on Seesaw messages for families. There appears to be an expectation that families would then translate these instructions for their children.

I look at all these upcoming scheduled teaching sessions taking up parent devices and think surely these ‘small group lessons’ would be better prerecorded and the actual scheduled times used for full student social connections, just like we would at school at least once a week. Kind of like a team assembly. Also a great way of checking in with colleagues and ensuring staff well being.   Oh and have a colleague host the session. They can deal with muting mics and letting in any late comers. Then again offer a second opportunity for scheduled check in times and make use of real time chat boards, that can be locked down when not in use. I suggest Padlet. I was super excited when one of our young teachers agreed to trial a real time chat board with her students. I showed her how to lock it down when she was not online. Creating a real time chat board allows other students to see if their question had also been asked.

I would be really interested in hearing from schools using video as prerecorded lessons for learning. What have you noticed and are they successful for supporting learners? 

Leave a comment below.

NOTE: while searching for examples of teachers teaching in real time via video conferencing This very good article from ISTE popped up. 10 strategies for online learning during a coronavirus outbreak 

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