What I’ve learnt about teaching online this year. Draft
Moving online in March was no mean feat. A Russian teacher described it to me as “being a shocked tourist in a digital native’s world.” I have to be honest, I was more than a little apprehensive, I heard the word zoom for the first time exactly 5 days before it became my daily existence! However, as the weeks passed I realised that online teaching offers both teachers and students a wealth of opportunities for engaging learning.
- Being online doesn’t change the fact that learners are at the heart of every lesson
Materials and resources help but students remain the most valuable and most important asset to any class. By using breakout rooms, chat boxes lessons remained interactive and students could actively participate.
Joining an online class can feel impersonal to learners so it has been vital to get to know them and then use that knowledge of learners and their lives to make classes relevant. For example, in the unit on music I was able to play clips from songs they liked. I knew this by asking what they were listening to when they were sat waiting for the class with headphones on in previous weeks. In the lesson on ways to express likes and dislikes I was able to build a context using the hobbies and interests of the class. That’s far more engaging than reading about the hobbies of someone you don’t know / doesn’t really exist in a book. It made the impersonal online room personal and it gives learners a sense of belonging and having an identity in class. I know most teachers do this anyway, but in the online world I have found it to be really important.
- The online world has supported collaborative and communicative learning
Learning at home can be isolating for your students. For some students the few hours online was the only opportunity to communicate they got outside of the home all day. By making use of great tools like Google slide share where students can create presentations together, they were able to work on collaborative projects outside of class time. It was easy to set up and everyone could contribute and it provided a reason to continue to communicate after class, when social meetings were not possible.
- Praise & positivity
In class we can often use body language to show we have heard our learner or we recognise their effort; this is harder to do online in a class and they may miss your praising smile or nod of encouragement. In a zoom room or equivalent, positive acknowledgements to the class but most importantly individual learners have been really important to support their motivation. It requires conscious effort, but is easily done. Using reaction buttons or sending a private chat of congratulations or encouragement through the lesson helps everyone know they are being heard and seen.
- A new world of resources
It is easy to get stuck in a rut and use your favourite course books and favourite supplementary materials. Moving online, suddenly finding myself at home with my lovely staffroom full of glorious books no longer available, I had no choice but to start searching online. I couldn’t possibly list every resource I have used, but I am inspired by the dedication of global ELT professionals in creating such a wealth of amazing and engaging resources.
A few of my favourites are:
A tough year, but we are all still smiling!
Would love to know how you’ve found the move online; please feel free to add a comment!