Remote learning ushered in new issues for teachers to help students navigate, like time management. Natasha Allred, who has been teaching online for six years, says she keeps her students focused and motivated in two ways: screenshots and short instructional videos.
Accessibility is a big part of Tasha’s curriculum — she says if students don’t see it, they won’t do it. That’s why each item in her daily agendas for students hyperlink directly to assignments or necessary resources.
Think beyond the classroom and connect to your student’s lives to support them. “We have an opportunity to provide some stability in their lives through their schooling,” says Tasha.
Although the rough edges are getting a little smoother, the transition to remote learning from in-person instruction has been a choppy one.
Between technical difficulties and little structure around how to navigate the switch to virtual learning, teachers have had to brave the nuances of remote teaching by finding creative ways to provide engaging instruction that students can grasp in a new learning environment…
…All while dealing with a pandemic.
For teachers teaching remotely for the first time, or even revisiting it, it likely feels intimidating — the good news is teachers like Natasha Allred (Tasha) of Burlington Central High School in Burlington, Ill. have a range of wisdom you can rely on.
With six years of experience in remote teaching, Tasha currently teaches personal finance, web design, introduction to business and Python programming. Tasha joined us for the 13th episode of the “High School Business and Personal Finance Teachers” podcast to share her tips and tricks for remote learning.
3 ways to overcome the hurdles of remote teaching and learning
Here’s how Tasha uses tools and resources to successfully navigate remote teaching.
1. Provide resources that help students help themselves
Online learning environments provide unique challenges to both teachers and students — but while the brunt of the stress is on teachers to lead the adoption of remote learning, remember students are also blindly wobbling their way through uncharted territory.
Plus, remote learning introduces a new problem that guided and organized in-person school schedules helped curb: time management.
It’s a common issue for many people, but high schoolers learning remotely for the first time (and during a pandemic) may especially struggle because they might lack “the executive functioning skills to be really successful yet,” points out Tasha.
And with unlimited access to distractions like YouTube, social media or video games competing for their attention, it’s up to teachers to help students manage their time successfully.
Tasha’s recommends: Keep students focused and motivated with screenshots and straight-to-the-point instructional videos.
Besides screenshots of teachings or tutorials, Tasha creates screencasts for nearly every assignment, which is where you digitally record your screen and any accompanying internal or external sounds. (More on how she actually creates them below.)
“If students don’t see visually what they need to do, they will not do it,” she warns. That’s why they’re super handy to lean on when multiple questions arise for a particular assignment. She just makes a screencast video, then shares it with the whole class.
However, here’s her caveat: Keep videos short and no longer than three minutes — if you want students to watch it, that is.
2. Make your classroom accessible and inclusive
Despite the difficulty of the transition to remote learning, Tasha believes it’s a great opportunity for teachers to think outside the box and ask, how can I recreate this primarily face-to-face activity for an online class?
To keep students engaged in an online environment, Tasha’s curriculum is inclusive of these three elements:
Accessible resources. In her learning management system (LMS), Canvas, Tasha created an FAQ-like page that houses her screencasts — when a student needs a speedy tutorial, they can easily find a video on the topic. She also records and posts live classes or activities for absent students or those who want to review the lecture.
Connect to their personal lives. Google is everything to students — including a cheat sheet. Break the cycle of “knowledge regurgitation” (where they just Google answers): build a connection to your students and apply teachings to their personal lives. The next time you assign an assessment, they won’t be able to find the answers online.
Daily agendas. Tasha provides daily agendas in Canvas of what needs to get done. Because it’s important to clearly map things out for students, she also hyperlinks each agenda item to the assignment or resources needed to complete it.
Quality > quantity. In an online setting, less is more. Rather than aim to fill your students’ time with tons of readings, focus on having less content that is more meaningful to further engage them.
Tasha also offers office hours in a Zoom Room three times per week to make herself available to students.
Tasha says she designs much of her curriculumi herself.
“I like to take [the] resources available and really make it my own.”
3. Keep the tech simple
Tasha mainly uses Canvas to oversee her remote learning classes, but she also leverages these tools and websites to provide the best instruction and make learning easy for her students:
A private YouTube channel to upload videos
Google Drive to store video files
ScreenFlow on her Mac computer to make screencasts (PC folks, try the free Google Chrome extension Screencastify!)
Padlet for class discussions
When it comes to communication, Tasha keeps it simple there, too: she mostly sticks to emails and videos.
As you can see, there’s no need to overcomplicate the tech setup of your virtual class — just keep it simple. (Your students will thank you for it.)
Make an impact through online learning
Tasha urges teachers not to overlook the needs of students — especially high schoolers who often seem more mature than they are. In spite of their seeming adulthood, they’re just as nervous and scared as everyone else.
“We have an opportunity to provide some stability in their lives through their schooling,” she reminds. After all, “the more positive we can be with them, the more positive they are.”
One way to spread positivity? Send your students one uplifting message daily or a few times a week.
This articles was based on an episode of the High School Business & Personal Finance Teachers Podcast hosted by Knowledge Matters. If you want to learn from teachers about how to teach business, marketing and personal finance to high school students, subscribe wherever you prefer to listen.