In just a few days, we’ve seen schools closing their doors temporarily all around the world. The confusion that ensued is normal, given the uncertainty we’re all facing head-on.
However, there’s another side to this story. We’ve also seen teachers embrace edtech and make great progress in their efforts of offering quality distance learning. We’ve seen the lists of educational resources going around for all teachers to know just how many options they have. Mostly, we’ve seen educators turn to disaster-proof methods of teaching, proving that learning can and does continue.
5 Practical tips for online teaching in times of disasters
For Jen Padernal, an experienced instructor and founder of the Disaster-Proof Education movement, teaching in times of disrupted education was born out of necessity, but now it’s what she does best.
Her hands-on experience made her an advocate for the effective use of technology in order to safeguard education. In her practice, she has identified the most important lessons for disaster-proof educators. Here are five of them:
Adopt an asynchronous mindset
For many teachers, it’s tempting to replicate instructor-based learning activities with students. Given that normal schedules are off the table, daily web conferencing sessions aren’t a sustainable teaching method for many. Just ask any teacher who’s tried to do a video call with their first graders.
While it’s hard to offer synchronous education, asynchronous learning helps students learn at their own pace, independent of time and location. The latter are two things we can’t control right now, especially if you have students whose families are still coming to grips with school closures.
Asynchronous learning doesn’t mean that students don’t get to collaborate with their peers. On the contrary, they have to contribute to discussions, or be proactive in starting them — it’s just that everyone contributes when they can.
Don’t overwhelm your students
Once you start using your school’s LMS for distance teaching, you’ll want to take advantage of the many different assessment options. That’s understandable, but there’s a risk of overwhelming students with too many activities at once, considering that students can be enrolled in as much as eight to ten subjects per semester. The situation is already very difficult, and cognitive overload just adds more stress to their lives.
That’s why teachers should upload activities one at a time. For example, a new lesson is uploaded on Monday, a practice quiz is available on Wednesday, and a debate assignment can be added on Friday as homework for the weekend.
The previous tip applies to teachers as well. Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and for your classroom is detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. It’s OK if you haven’t figured everything out; you have enough time to upload your lessons, week by week.
Creating one item at a time means that you don’t end up with a virtual pile of hundreds of assignments to be graded at once. A good strategy is to work on lessons and assignments directly in the platform and only hit the publish button once you feel satisfied with your work. You can also schedule modules to be released at a certain time or on a weekly basis.
Sharing is caring
Sharing what you are creating for your own classes can have a big impact on the entire school community. Teachers can collaborate on lessons, assignments, and other activities to make this transition smoother.
Read more: Learning and growing as educators
All you need is a centralized library to store and manage different learning resources such as files, class templates, rubrics, and web content. These resources are then shared with other teachers, who can use them for their online classes.
Another good tip is to create the school’s question bank. A question bank allows all teachers to create questions that will be reused for practice quizzes or online exams. This saves a lot of time, which can be better spent interacting with students online.
Help each other
Asynchronous learning relies on good support and collaboration. Open lines of communication where teachers and students can reach out to each other if they encounter any issues or challenges. There are many ways to communicate, both synchronous (chat, web conferencing), and asynchronous (online forums, wikis).
Parents should also have access to the platform through parent accounts, and be able to easily contact teachers. If this is too much to handle now, set a timeframe in your day or week in which you can answer their questions. Most importantly, our patience and resilience are being put to the test — this is a stressful time for families and schools alike, so open and good communication is a must.
You are not alone. In these troubled times, teachers show how determined they are, as well as how vital it is to be an educator. Disaster-proof education helps you keep going on no matter what happens.
Just remember that you shouldn’t panic, try not to overwhelm yourself or your students, consider teaching asynchronous classes and most of all, have each other’s backs. You are not alone!
Ioana believes that education in action is the only way to change the world. When she is not writing about learning and ed tech, she can usually be seen reading a book and drinking lots of coffee.