Friday 11th September 2020
Raise your hand when teaching from a distance. I wish I could put my arms around you and give this to you greatest hug now. It’s not easy about that. I attended a google meetup this week to do a mini lesson on cyberbullying and I want to tell you that it has tested every tech teacher in my body! I was blown away by the amount of technical issues that were occurring. I had prepared myself for a few issues but got completely thrown into a loop when all the questions came up. It was pure chaos.
All of this is new to me too. I can’t tell you how many interviews I had to turn down and how great the speaking opportunities are because I don’t feel like the right person to give advice on distance learning. I think since I’m known as “The Techie Teacher®” people automatically assume I know how this online learning environment works. I mean i know something But I’ve never had to lead a class completely online. All of my experiences are in the classroom helping teachers and students.
It’s a whole new world.
I did some online lessons in the spring when the world of education was completely turned upside down. However, they were pretty simple. This cyberbullying lesson I tried recently took it even further and still blew me away😂. Because of this, I started thinking about some ways to solve some of the technical problems that the students were facing.
Ideas for alleviating technical problems in online learning
Enrich the glitch
A couple of years ago, Erin’s friend from Erintegration wrote a post entitled: Enrich the glitch in which it provides actionable steps to turn technology problems into teachable moments. She mentioned the importance of speaking your thinking process out loud and modeling the steps you take to troubleshoot it. Simple yet brilliant … right? This is something I would never have thought of, and boy, did I have plenty of opportunities to add students to the glitch! Such a thing could be achieved during real-time video conferencing sessions. We will all run into a technical problem at some point, if not several times a day! Why not talk through it while in front of the camera?
“Can’t see my presentation? Hum … maybe I’ll have to try hitting the Share Screen button at the bottom of the screen again. Let’s see if that works …”
Ask 3 in front of me
Another incredible idea I came across appeared in Edutopia’s post: Solve common problems between teachers and students. There is a section about technical issues that interfere with work. Michigan teacher Jessica Heckman had a twist on “Ask three in front of me“. For distance learning, they could:
- Google their problem.
- Ask a sibling or adult who is in their home.
- FaceTime / Chat with a friend
This would give students time to try other ways of troubleshooting while also alleviating so many questions that are asked of the teacher at the same time.
I know some districts have help desks enabled where parents / students can call or send messages for technical support. This would be very helpful, but I know that it is not generally available for all districts to do this. If your district can swing it Do it! The teachers would be forever grateful.
A common problem I see is that students are not familiar with universal symbols that help us all navigate the digital world. It is important to take the time in the beginning to review key icons like volume / mute, refresh, search, stop, play, etc. so students can take responsibility for troubleshooting if problems arise. I have created various resources to help students become familiar with these symbols that are in mine Technology icons activity pack. A really smart idea for those who teach virtually is to print out some of these important icons that you can quickly grab and hold against your screen when trying to help a student or directing your entire class:
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