Is the future of teaching virtual? Here are 5 easy steps to efficiently teach online
We have seen the trend coming for some time. Learning, it seems, has made shifts towards digital. This has been heavily accelerated due to Covid, causing a frantic change of pace in the wake of school closures.
And while the world begins to re-open, many students, teachers, and parents have been wondering how technology will play a role in education moving forward. The gates have been flung wide open, and now we are all learning how to adapt.
Here are 5 easy steps to efficiently teach online, and to leverage technology in a shifting educational environment.
Attention spans are shorter online
Unfortunately online learning brings a host of challenges. Let’s call them out up front, and deal with managing one of the largest. Attention spans.
In a classroom setting we have a much better grasp on the attention of students. Of where their minds are wandering and when. Distractions are somewhat limited. And for those whose minds do wander, a quick and casual glance or question can bring attention back to focus.
Online things are different. Online we are another browser window. Another icon in the navigation bar of many apps. We must compete with the dings, dongs, notifications and sounds of many different applications and technology.
And a student’s setting or environment may not be conducive to long periods of focus.
Adjusting to the lack of control around a students environment takes a bit of work, but it can be done. Try scheduling shortened periods of focus during your lesson, allowing students to have the occasional quick break, question, or comment.
Applications such as Timezap can help with this. Allowing you to create virtual timers, schedule quick timed sessions, and build out agendas that your students can easily follow.
Some teachers have found that breaking sessions down into chunks between 2-15min works best. However you decide to structure your lesson is up to you, but you’ll want to consider keeping it short and entertaining if you’re going to maintain the focus of your students.
Edutainment is key
The digital world is jam packed with distractions and endless entertainment options. Netflix, movies, Amazon, Youtube, TikTock, Twitch, Twitter… the list goes on and on.
Billions of dollars (and millions of hours) have been spent trying to capture attention. Why not leverage some of this in your own lesson?
Edutainment (a combination of education and entertainment) has propelled the likes of many course creators on Udemy, Youtube, and beyond.
As we continue to move forward in this digital landscape of education, performers, entertainers, and those who can hold an audience with interesting content will continue to capture attention and push forward.
But you don’t have to be a Youtube star to keep your classroom captivated.
Try leveraging an interesting setting, music, pop-culture, and online trends that are already capturing the attention of your students – in your own lessons.
Remember, energy is contagious, and while you might have great energy in the classroom, sitting behind a video call often sucks that power away. Don’t be shy to amplify your personality, and make entertainment and education a regular part of your lesson.
Leverage the technology at your fingertips
If you’re teaching using technology, why not use technology to teach.
It’s a subtle difference that can make a world of difference.
Remember, online education means that your students have access to a computer. And that computer has a multitude of applications, programs, and the internet.
You’ve got access to video, audio, pictures, and the world’s knowledge.
Can you integrate some or all of these aspects into your virtual classroom?
Why not ask students to record something? Take a picture and send it to you? Or use a second screen (such as a phone, since let’s be honest, it’s likely nearby) to execute a calculation?
Can you get students to change sound settings to demonstrate physics? Shift color on their screen to illustrate artistic concepts? Or adjust time settings to illustrate geographical differences?
There are hundreds of possibilities. Consider how you can use technology to enhance your learning experience, drive that edutainment, and captivate your students – rather than just using it as a medium to deliver the same learning experience that you offer in the classroom.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work. A little integration here and there goes a long way. It’s likely a lot easier than you might think.
Leverage the internet at your fingertips
If you’re teaching virtually, you’re teaching on the internet.
Teachers who embrace it, and work it into the folds of their lessons will likely get far more engagement than those who fight the trend.
Yes, it is hard to make the shift. And yes, there are many many benefits to being in person. But so too are there benefits for having the internet at your fingertips.
You’ve got access to the world’s information. The world’s videos, sound, and picture databases a million times greater than the libraries of Alexandria. Why not leverage it where you can?
Can your students visit a Youtube video you’ve prepped in advance? Can they find a location on Google maps? Can they use online compounding calculators to illustrate math concepts? Or are there games that you can encourage them to play?
Leveraging tiny aspects of the internet at everyone’s fingertips can yield huge results. You’ll just need to be mindful of when and where to integrate this vast ocean of knowledge into your lesson plan.
Have a “dry-run” of your tech
This almost goes without saying, but it’s extremely important to practice using your technology beforehand.
We’ve all seen the hilarious video of a lawyer who couldn’t turn off his cat filter when joining a virtual court proceeding. For those who haven’t, you can click here to see the video. It’s a heartwarming laugh, as the situation is completely relatable. We’ve all been through some challenge with technology at a critical point when it matters.
But it does bring up the last tip as we continue to move forward with virtual classroom settings.
You’ll want to test your technology, before you start your class.
Sometimes microphones don’t work. Sometimes your camera won’t start. And while most of the time all it takes is a quick reset of Zoom or your computer, you probably don’t want to waste 5-minutes of your class time and start the lesson off on the wrong foot.
Technology, for all it’s wonders, often fails. Take a couple of minutes to test your tech and launch your virtual lesson the right way.
The future of education is bright
As we proceed into the future, and classrooms become more digitized we will all need to be more cognizant of how to leverage the situation to our advantage.
While no one knows if there will be further lockdowns or not, we can see a trend that clearly points towards more (not less) digital interaction.
You can turn it into a huge advantage if you:
- Build lessons to manage shorter attention spans online
- Incorporate edutainment (education and entertainment) into your lessons
- Leverage the technology you’re teaching on
- Leverage the internet at your fingertips
- Test your tech before you start your lesson
Let’s continue to inspire a bright future for students, regardless of how we need to deliver those lessons.
Cahill Camden is the Co-Founder and CEO of Timezap, a virtual timer that will help you save time, stay on track, and be more efficient. Timezap works with 1 or +100 people. Only the timer controller needs an account, unlimited guests can follow your timer free.