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Online Teaching: The Creative Approach By @EBGtech

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Guest Post by Erin Kiger

I started the year in a school building as an instructional coach.  Over the summer and as the school year started I was determined to support my teachers and remind leadership that what the teachers had to do this year was unlike anything we had ever experienced when we were in the classroom.  Due to both personal and professional reasons, I left my school to begin working for an edtech company.  In my new role I am able to continue supporting teachers, but I can also care for my son while working from home.  Recently, I’ve been working with a teacher and we’ve been discussing some of her concerns about what teaching online should look like, especially after many successful years in the classroom.  During our conversations, I have tried to use my “outside looking in” perspective to reassure her.  I think it helped, and I hope it will help you, as well!

Face to Face in a Virtual Setting

This year has seen so many variations of the traditional classroom.  One of the new key pieces is that there are some students who are online.  This is a big shift for so many teachers and there has not been a lot of guidance because it’s new for everyone.  So we are trying to make virtual instruction look exactly like it does in a physical classroom space, but it just doesn’t work like that.  But, there are some creative approaches that can used to help adjust for the shift to virtual or hybrid.  

Assignments/Feedback

In face to face instruction that are a variety of strategies that we used on a daily basis to evaluate student understanding and provide quality feedback.  We walk around the classroom and can see students who are struggling or excelling while they work.  We can have easy conversations while at their desks, we can pull the students into small groups, we can even pull everyone back together to do a mini lesson if the whole class needs something retaught.  In the classroom we are able to pick up on physical cues from our students in their facial expressions and body language.  In the virtual environment, we are not able to utilize a number of those strategies simply because we are not in the same physical space as our students.  

Try to focus on being more intentional and selective when assigning tasks for your students to do and being fully transparent with them and their families about the purpose.  “This assignment is to practice this skill, you will be graded on it, but make sure to check for feedback in case you need to retry or if I ask you to join a small group.”  This will allow your students to be more focused and you do not have to review 2-5 assignments for a single subject and leave feedback on every single one of them.

Be intentional about your assignment and be intentional about your feedback.  Allow students to grow from your feedback, not just know how they did.  

Assessments

One of the biggest concerns I’m hearing is parent “help” during assessments for online students.  For something like this, we have to be more creative.  Ultimately, we want to make sure that our students are mastering the content.  We know a traditional test is not the only option, and it seems like it may not be the best option right now either.  

One possible solution is to use your tasks as assessment grades.  As you have been providing tasks, you were also providing real-time feedback and gaining a solid understanding of what your students have mastered and what they haven’t.  If they have mastered the content, whether it was with or without your coaching, you could select one of the assignments that they worked on throughout the week and designate that as the assessment. 

This approach is beneficial to everyone.  1) Students are getting feedback and working on their skills without the “pressure” of a test.  2) Parents do not feel guilty if they are not “helping” their child.  3) Teachers do not need to worry about parent “help” because they have already appropriately helped their students.  BONUS You do not have to grade the test!   

Depending on your school or district, this particular strategy may not work.  So instead, consider applying a gamification method using web-based games like Quizizz, Kahoot, and Gimkit can give you scores, immediate feedback and the parents are less likely to try to “help” since it’s just a fun activity.  Creation based tools are another creative approach to assessments.  Use a rubric with tools like Synth, Flipgrid, or Anchor where students can share their answers and their thought process with audio and/or video messages.  BONUS There doesn’t need to be as many questions if you have a clear understanding of any flaws in the students’ understanding of the concepts.  

Skills

There are certain skills that are more challenging to teach when your students are online, for example, handwriting and/or cursive.  You can have students practice and take pictures to submit to you.  But if you need to help them, you can’t hold their hand and help them feel the shape of the letter as the pencil drags across the paper.  This is a skill that will need to be focused on when we are back in the classroom.  For right now, if you can’t focus on it, don’t focus on it.  Focus on what you can.  What new skills are they learning because of this situation?  Focus on those skills and celebrate those successes. 

For right now, if you can’t focus on it, don’t focus on it.  Focus on what you can.  What new skills are they learning because of this situation?  Focus on those skills and celebrate those successes. 

Erin Kiger

You Are Amazing!

Like the teacher I was talking with, I hope this post provides some reassurance that you’re doing all the right things.  Do not be hard on yourself and try to scale back if you can.  We need you, our kids need you.  You are SO appreciated and even though it feels like it, this isn’t forever.

What are some ideas and strategies that have helped you this year?  Which ideas and strategies do you want to bring back into the classroom with you when we are all together again?

About The Author

Erin Kiger has been in education for over 15 year.  She has worked as an elementary teacher, a technology teacher, and an edtech coach.  Currently, she is a Training and Implementation Specialist with Swivl.  She is passionate about educational technology, supporting, and connecting with educators.  Erin’s current project is her soon to be published book, Balancing the EDU Life, a collection of stories from educators who share their experiences as they #jugglethestruggle of work life balance in education.

When she’s not working, Erin likes long walks on the beach…no, just kidding.  Erin is writing this herself and laughing at herself.  Really though, she has a 2 year old that keeps her on her toes and a husband she loves dearly.  They moved to Central FL about a year ago from Las Vegas, NV.  Life is an adventure and she’s ready for the next one.  

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