Tag Archives: Online teaching

Preparing for Day 1 of Online Classes

No matter how much we worry about not knowing what to have and which one to prepare first and how much we wish for the government to keep on pushing the start of the new academic year, we would still face “Day 1” fair and square. While I was pondering on what to work on first, I thought I could share with you pages I found useful in organizing my virtual classroom.

I first reviewed pages about the best practices for teaching online. What Stanford University shared might be heavy text wise (not a very inviting page), but really helpful. Their Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online encapsulates the main ingredients every teacher should prepare to cook and serve a splendid Day 1 experience with learners who are also new to this type of learning. Takeaways from their list are

  • Our students should feel our ever present presence most importantly during scheduled synchronous sessions. Knowing that we are always there as expected during working hours extends a sense of belonging that they are not lost and that we are always there to give them feedback.
  • Online or onsite, setting clear expectations is a nonnegotiable. Whenever I write classroom expectations I always ask myself, “Would I want to stay in my class if I was the student?” If we cannot tolerate or make sense out of what we prepared, we should press delete.
  • Combining concept learning with personalized learning means that we have to know our students very well. We have to upgrade our glasses to see them more than the most advanced holograms. We have to be keen listeners to keep them interested and truly productive. This is the aspect where I always think of those Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings.

My next stop was on back to school activities. I needed to make sure I wrote “online” or “virtual” on the search bar to avoid those pages that are about to be forgotten. I got hooked with the name of the teacher running the blog. She is called Miss G which is very close to how my students call me. Back to School Activities for Virtual Distance Learning has fun and unique tasks that both teachers and students will surely enjoy. Takeaways from her list are

  • Instead of the “get to know the teacher” mantra, Miss G suggested that students “investigate the teacher.” We can imagine our students virtually scurrying on the web to find answers. We can incorporate a little bit of digital literacy as we guide their “stalking” task to refer to reliable sources.
  • I love running learning stations in my classes. It feels good to see how those stations can be converted into their online version. The idea is to present the lesson into yummier bite-sized chunks. Considering gender sensitivity, it works for everyone when instructions are laid out or questions are asked one by one.
  • Adding a venue where students can share their responses is a must. Remembering that communicating with students through our online classrooms is prone to more barriers, we cannot simply eat a 15, 30, or even a 60-minute synchronous session simply by rendering a one-way audiovisual lecture. Let us imagine running a one hour music playlist. What usually happens? It is either we stay until the end (like our very hardworking kids who would survive it); we switch to another list (the camera only shows what our students want to show, not the complete picture); or we simply doze off (more so when our voice and overall projection bring in some magical sleeping effects). Thus, venues where students can give us and their peer feedback must be utilized to the fullest.

My last stop was not as heavy as the first two pages. Holly Clark of Infused Classroom has a very straightforward info-graphic presentation on 8 Fun Activities for Virtual Learning Meetings. I could only hope that some of our “heads” read this post. Takeaways from her suggestions are

  • To have fun teaching and learning means careful and wise planning. No teacher could run any of the activities listed without prior knowledge of the class members and without preparing materials. Let us take for example the “Movie and Netflix Reviews.” Sections of one review should be divided and assigned to different groups. How to get groups working together in a virtual classroom can be a challenge at first. Thanks to fast-changing technology, we have now several options from fancy forum threads, Padlet, to simple shared Google Doc or Slide.
  • “Hot or Not” is an interesting activity. The most important part where students could showcase the depth of their understanding is their explanation. At least they hear and experience another way of answering the not-so-favorite “why.”
  • With the majority of the population relying on visual cues, the 8th activity can be simplified to present a photo that can be vague, but relevant enough to anchor an online discussion.

Did this post just help get us excited now knowing where to start or our list has just gotten longer yet we have a smile on our face because we know we are on the right track? The world has indeed taken one ugly somersault and it is still midway doing the action so no one could tell yet which side is up or down. We all need to find ways to keep our sanity and our bodies healthy. We have to carry on!

Why do we need an AUP?

I have been teaching in a blended learning format for several years. I still remember how some students called me as the “techie” English teacher. I have always made it a point to incorporate the use of information technology in my classes.

In terms of teaching through an online learning platform, I started with Moodle. I still remember all the conversations I had with Alfredo Papaseit (the school librarian at that time) who introduced it to the faculty. I remember long hours of setting all the rights and how the program sort of paused when no one in the IT department remembered to press the button to refresh the server after a power interruption that happened after school hours or over the weekend. Moodle has a lot of features that may be overwhelming if an educator is new to the online teaching club. It is a grand learning platform that is suitable for higher education and for big universities.

My second stop was Schoology and Course Director (the older brother of Google Classroom). I was happier using Schoology because it had a similar interface with Facebook. Then, the idea of flipped classroom came and teachers had too many different virtual classrooms and students needed to remember too many passwords and too many shortcuts. It was during this time when I tried Google Classroom, too. It did not have as many features as Schoology, but was only clicks away for a school using Google Suite. Soon after, a group of students proposed that the faculty chooses only one to avoid confusion and to be able to monitor their progress better. Few months later, it became a requirement for teachers to run Google Classroom side-by-side onsite classes. I still remember how we were made to stay outside our physical teaching areas, away from our students, to mimic an “online session.” That was the school’s online class rehearsal.

Early in March 2020, I got to apply my online teaching skills to respond to a real demand when schools were made to suspend classes. I came across new issues though. I came to wonder how my former experience was smooth and productive. I did not receive ridiculous alibis from students (e.g., cannot open PDF files because they are unsupported and cannot open any Google Form because the page says “This site cannot be reached”) and other rude and weird online learning scenarios. I asked myself What am I missing? The answer is a question which is the title of this post. Freaking out with the world when COVID-19 hit, I forgot to share with the school administration the need to have a clear and fair policy laid out. These expectations were presented when I had those online class rehearsals. These policies are absolutely essential.

Scholastic says that having a technology policy is valuable “to harness this [referring to the Internet] powerful tool so that it is effective and safe for student use.” I love how Scholastic listed the components every school IT policy should include. They also provided examples.

Kajeet in their article entitled Why Acceptable Use Policies are Critical for Education highlighted how an agreement supports students’ safety online. They have two main big ideas to stress the importance of an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) – “protecting students” and “providing students.” They mentioned a student-centered approach and shared links to other AUP materials.

School administrators may need to see the bigger picture though. Now that online teaching and learning has taken the front seat as the world continues to fight off an unprecedented health and economic pandemic, how to keep the whole school population safe must be a heavy load on their shoulders. The Internet Society in 2017 defined Key considerations for policy makers. They identified “five priorities for Internet and education.” These are infrastructure and access, vision and policy, content and devices, capacity, and inclusion.

Of course, there are institutions that have gone ahead of this game. No one needs to reinvent the wheel. From my online teaching experience, I am fully aware that these policies are imperative. Administrators and support teams must find time to collaborate and establish one for their community. Schools must continue to cater to their learners’ needs far beyond the sharing of class codes, modules, activities, and materials. Students must also learn, grow, and become responsible digital citizens.