Teaching Online

Online learning is often perceived as being a lonely and isolating experience, but it most definitely doesn’t have to be this way. Teachers now have so many online platforms and tools to engage and inspire students and it is us teachers who have the power to change these outdated views into ones that make students feel excited, not worried, about learning online.

Checking Understanding

a speech bubble

Mentimeter is a real-time response system whereby I can pose any question to the class and get whole class responses in seconds. This free tool is fantastic for face to face, blended and online student feedback. With social distancing it is difficult to view students work and this can make it difficult to truly assess whether everyone understands. With Mentimeter, they can all answer the questions and I can either view the responses privately or show them on the whiteboard and we can talk through their ideas as a class. To use Mentimeter, students just need a code, so there’s no lengthy registration process or the requirement for student’s to remember passwords etc.

I’ll often use Mentimeter when teaching on Teams because students can just type their answers into their phones, meaning no one has to leave the Teams page to take part. This reduces time wasted from people struggling to navigate around Teams and thus avoids losing the momentum of the lesson.

Socrative logo consists of 4 joined blue hexagons followed by the word socrative.

Socrative is my tool of choice if I want to run quizzes. Students can access the quizzes in under a minute and they don’t have to register, so that saves plenty of time. Additionally, I can ask for names (if I want to assess who is understanding what) or I can run a question and answer activity anonymously, if I want more honest feedback (maybe for a lesson reflection). I can see their results real-time and amazingly it is also free to use.

I sometimes get asked why I don’t use Microsoft Forms to run a quiz if I am teaching on Teams. Well, there are two reasons I prefer Socrative over Forms.

Firstly, students can easily access it on their phone without the need to remember any passwords. I know they can access Forms through Teams but this requires them moving off the main page and I prefer to keep things as simple as possible with minimal navigation to other sites.

The second reason is that often I’ll teach a group using blended methods, so half online and half in the classroom. Socrative is much quicker and easier to use face to face than Microsoft Forms, so again it makes sense to get students used to this platform as it is quicker to access when not using Teams. Here are some help sheets to get you started with Socrative.

Questioning techniques

When posing a question, make sure you provide a wait time of approximately 8 seconds to enable students to give a more considered response. Wait times of 20 seconds are even better but these are difficult when teaching online as the extended silence can become uncomfortable in comparison to when the waiting technique is used in a face to face environment.

Silouette of a head with a question mark in the centre

To overcome this, try including a timer on the PowerPoints, which can be activated at any time. This shows the student you are expecting them to reflect on their response and that the silence is deliberate and not due to the microphone breaking!

I have created an example of a timer for anyone to download below. Just copy the slide onto your PowerPoint, placing it at the key strategic point that you plan to ask a tricky question to the students. When in slideshow mode, the dial will automatically turn to give a wait time of 30 seconds. You can also add in clues which will appear at 10-second intervals (or just delete the clue text boxes if not required).

The word Quizlet written in blue

Quizlet can be added directly as an app into Microsoft Teams and it is perfect for running quick recall activities at the start of class. Quizlet has a bank of thousands of flashcards across many different disciplines and these are great to use as revision prompts because the question is on one side of the card and the answer is on the back (just click and the card flips over on the screen).

I’ll sometimes use a set of pre-made cards which have been kindly shared by others, or time permitting, I’ll have a go at making a few of my own to get the lesson started. I just find using this app adds a bit of variety into the lesson, rather than students always staring at the standard PowerPoint interface.

Increase confidence and become an expert in teaching online

There are multiple courses on how to use Microsoft Teams, but what about how to teach with Teams? Knowledge of learning theories, strategies, activities, engagement, and safeguarding all need careful consideration when adapting Teams from its original use as a business platform and applying it in an educational environment.

Do you want to know how to set up your class and keep your Teams page private from students until you are ready to share? Do you want to know the pros and cons of different PowerPoint delivery methods? Do you want to know how to set up Class Notebook and get some suggestions on how to set up activities for students using the collaboration area and teacher only space?

emoji with a thinking expression on face

How about some ideas on how to differentiate using the files tab, or using some free tech tools to vary your delivery? Are you worried about the lack of privacy when using Microsoft Forms and want to know a quick and easy solution to hide results from students? If you want to know any of this then why not register on my latest course – Teaching with Microsoft Teams: Quick start guide

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