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Showing posts with label Distance Learning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Distance Learning. Show all posts
How Google Classroom Can Make This Your Best School Year Ever

How Google Classroom Can Make This Your Best School Year Ever


Google Classroom is a learning management tool that teachers can use to connect with students both in the classroom and out. Let’s talk about the various aspects of Google Classroom that make it a solid choice for teachers looking for a classroom management tool.

Google Classroom is a learning management tool that teachers can use to connect with students both in the classroom and out. Let’s talk about the various aspects of Google Classroom that make it a solid choice for teachers looking for a classroom management tool. 


Hundreds of Apps Integrate With It

Your favorite websites integrate, like Khan Academy, BrainPop, Flipgrid, Newsela, Pear Deck and much more.  Check out the full list!


Resources Abound

Google Classroom is easy to use. Setting up a new classroom doesn’t take a ton of time or expertise. You can train for about an hour, and have a classroom set up and running by the end of the session.  However, since it is such a well established and prevalent platform, there are tons of guides and helpful tips out there to help make it work for you even better.   Upgrades and improvements are also constant.


Teacher Planning Made Easy

Google Classroom allows teachers to schedule assignments in the future.  Designated assignments could be scheduled to go live on a Monday and then close that Friday. If you have to be absent, you can schedule out the assignments and thereby avoid having to rely on a sub to manage it all. Classrooms can also be used from semester to semester or year to year, allowing you to save some time by having certain things already in place (class syllabus, grading expectations, etc.).


Differentiation Distribution

Through Classroom, teachers are able to target instruction for their different learners. Designating lessons for the whole class, individual students, or groups of students takes just a few simple steps when creating an assignment on the Classwork page.


Facilitate Collaboration

Students can share assignments and work from home together to complete them. Teachers can flip the classroom by sharing a video to go live in the evening, requiring students to view it that night to prepare for a quiz on it the next day.  You can allow students to comment and post on the main page, so students with questions about assignments can get help from other classmates.  You can facilitate online discussions between students and create group projects within Classroom. Teachers retain full control over student comments and posts. 


Communicate More Efficiently

Enter the email addresses of the students when you set up the class, and classroom communication is done. You have an email group, a discussion group, and a Google Calendar automatically created. It’s then easy to add and remove students from the class as necessary.  Teachers and students can both send emails, post to the stream, send private comments on assignments, and provide feedback on work.  You can also communicate with parents either through individual emails or through Classroom email summaries including things like class announcements and due dates.


Data Analysis

Data from assessments can be exported into Sheets for easy sorting and analysis.


One Wonderful Word: Paperless

Online learning management systems are designed to help teachers create and collect classwork paperlessly.  When you set up Google Classroom, it will create Google Drive folders for each assignment and for each student to help keep everyone organized.  Once students turn in an assignment in Google Classroom, they do not also have to share a Google Doc with you. Because it is all Cloud-based, there are no more “lost” assignments, rubrics or worksheets.  Students who are absent can access classroom materials from wherever they are, as well as can locate any other resources they may need to complete missed work. You can easily see who has turned in the assignment and who hasn’t.  As soon as they do turn in an assignment, you can grade it and send it straight back to them to review.


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Google Classroom is a learning management tool that teachers can use to connect with students both in the classroom and out. Let’s talk about the various aspects of Google Classroom that make it a solid choice for teachers looking for a classroom management tool.




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Brittany Washburn
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25 Virtual Teaching Tips from Teachers

25 Virtual Teaching Tips from Teachers


When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice.

When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice. 

  1. Test your activities ahead of class. And test them again on every device type you have access to.
  2. Give yourself a break as things will not always go as planned.
  3. Always have an alternative option for students to complete independently if they cannot see or hear your live lesson. 
  4. Have a backup plan and a second back up plan because you'll need both.
  5. Blue light glasses, a good chair, and 2 monitors.
  6. Self care! Make time for yourself every day.
  7. Quality microphone or headset.
  8. Be patient and slow down. You're learning a lot of new things!
  9. Good teaching is good teaching. Trust your teacher gut.
  10. Commercial breaks during video lessons - ask random silly questions to break it up.
  11. Relationships over rigor.
  12. Music while waiting for kids to join.
  13. Make friends with your tech contact via candy, flowers, etc. 
  14. Take attendance as students enter the video meeting.
  15. Keep it simple with a few apps and websites you use all the time. 
  16. Get comfortable with making screencasts.
  17. Lower your own expectations.
  18. Record your lessons ahead of time and play the video during your lessons. 
  19. Take a deep breath!
  20. Use unplugged activities just like you would in the classroom. Whiteboards and notebook paper activities are just as effective as digital and can save a lot of effort. 
  21. Cut your activities in HALF. 
  22. Turn off your computer when the school day is over.
  23. Spend at least 2 weeks on procedures before trying to teach anything new. 
  24. Get stronger WiFi if you can.
  25. Accept that it is different than teaching in person.
Would you add anything to this list? Leave it in the comments! 

Pin this blog post to get back to later:
When I asked my Facebook Group "If you're already teaching virtually, what is your best advice for those just getting started?" the post received 98 replies right away. There were a lot of common themes and I've compiled them into this concise list of advice.


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Brittany Washburn
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Tips and Tricks for Teaching Virtually

Tips and Tricks for Teaching Virtually


Teaching virtually might make you feel like a first year teacher all over again. My goal with putting this blog post together is to leave you feeling empowered! I want you to know that all of your teaching strategies can still be used, just in a new way. Hopefully these tips and tricks give you a place to focus your efforts and a vision of what is possible.

Teaching virtually might make you feel like a first year teacher all over again. My goal with putting this blog post together is to leave you feeling empowered! I want you to know that all of your teaching strategies can still be used, just in a new way. Hopefully these tips and tricks give you a place to focus your efforts and a vision of what is possible.   

5 Things I Wish I Knew from the Beginning

If I could go back in time and start over, these are the 5 things I wish I knew from the beginning of my virtual teaching experience.

Teaching virtually might make you feel like a first year teacher all over again. My goal with putting this blog post together is to leave you feeling empowered! I want you to know that all of your teaching strategies can still be used, just in a new way. Hopefully these tips and tricks give you a place to focus your efforts and a vision of what is possible.

1. Relationships are the MOST important thing.

Before the school year starts, take the time to call each of your new students and also talk to at least one of their parents. Your relationship with your students' parents is arguably more important than the relationship with the student when teaching virtually. The teacher and parent are a team! Of course you still want to get to know each student and learn about what motivates them, and a phone call is a great way to get that started. 
Use a tool like You Can Book Me to have families sign up for their call time. Use a tool like Google Voice so that you don't need to give out your actual phone number. Regular contact is really important when teaching virtually. 
*Do your best to treat the parent-teacher relationship like a work colleague, not a friend. You need to work together for the good of the student and it can get tricky if professional boundaries are crossed. My first year teaching virtually I had this one parent who wanted to chit chat for upwards of an hour before letting me talk to my student. I did not have time for that but I didn't know how to cut her off! #introvertproblems 

2. Start with Procedures, just like in the classroom.

Take the first few weeks to establish procedures before expecting anything academic to stick. Teach students where to go to find their lessons. Teach students how to complete a lesson virtually. Teach students how to turn in assignments. Teach students how to ask for help (how to send an email). Teach students every procedure they will need in order to be successful and then practice each one until it is mastered. 
The academics can be handled asynchronously at first. Take the live lesson time to establish procedures and build relationships. 

3. It isn’t about the technology

You're probably thinking "what?!" right now so hear me out. It doesn’t matter which program or platform you’re using. You can accomplish the same thing with whatever digital tools you are allowed to use. I see people on social media get so hung up on what the "best" digital tools are. It doesn't matter which tool you use as long as it works on your students' device type and it accomplishes your academic goals. 
Your teaching strategies will always be more important than the technology (tools) you use to accomplish them. 
Teaching virtually might make you feel like a first year teacher all over again. My goal with putting this blog post together is to leave you feeling empowered! I want you to know that all of your teaching strategies can still be used, just in a new way. Hopefully these tips and tricks give you a place to focus your efforts and a vision of what is possible.
Everything I share in this blog post is based on the digital tools I had access to but I promise you that there are several other tools that can accomplish the same thing. Just find the ones that work for you. 

You might also be disappointed to find that this blog post doesn't have any technology tutorials. My goal is to empower you to use whatever you have available to you. There are zillions of tutorials out there for whatever tech tool(s) you choose to use. 

4. Communicating clearly is critical
Write out your directions, emails, etc. and then delete HALF of it. Make all communication as concise as possible. Use bullet points. Consider multiple learning styles. That's it. That's the tip. 

5. Everyone needs praise, including the parents
Give kudos (praise) early and often. Set the tone that you’re proud of your students and their parents for their efforts even before any academic work is done. You can use digital stickers, video messages, quick phone calls, emails, or a combination of all of these. 


If you're teaching online suddenly and have no idea where to start, check out this blog post: Tips for Teaching Online During Distance Learning

20 Things to Remember about Teaching Virtually

1. Consistency and simplicity are more important now than ever. Set consistent routines and procedures and stick to them, even when they get boring and repetitive. 
2. Be engaging and interactive. Put on your news anchor voice to make the screencasts and video sessions come to life. Use props, costumes, and backgrounds strategically. 
3. Set office hours and stick to them. Teach families early that you're available during specific times. 
4. Create a routine for yourself for your day. Always answer emails at the same time, grade at the same time, eat at the same time. This will help make the overwhelm seem more manageable. 

5. When recording videos, sit with the wall behind you. The last thing you want is someone to walk behind you and disrupt your whole flow. You have much more control when you sit up against a wall. I have this blog post about Setting Up Your Virtual Teaching Space for more info. 
6. Teach in small chunks and spread a lesson over multiple days. This mostly applies to live sessions. Keep it concise before you lose students' attention. 
7. Make a guide for the entire week on one page or in one place. Always format the guide the same way and always put it in the same place. 
8. Be patient and accept the learning curve. You're basically a first year teacher again!
9. Document everything. Every phone call, every attendee at live video sessions, every email (don't delete them). 
10. Call your homeroom students once a week. Use a tool like You Can Book Me or Sign Up Genius to schedule your calls. It is totally worth it. 
11. Make time for yourself to disconnect and unplug. Every day and for longer stretches on the weekends. 
12. Teach procedures first before you get into new content. You can use non-academic activities while teaching procedures so that students have practical practice for each step. Review the procedures even after students have mastered them. 
13. Lots of coffee helps but also pace yourself. It is overwhelming at first but it does get easier. 

14. Good humor is essential. You're going to make mistakes, you're going to say something awkward. Laugh it off. 
15. Don't expect perfection. Expect mistakes! Model to students how to make mistakes and how to react to them when you do. We are all human. 
16. Cut way back on the pace of learning. Really take a look at your curriculum map and decide what is essential. Try to use cross-curricular activities to get in as much learning as possible at a much slower pace of learning. 
17. Be flexible. 
18. Keep things in perspective. You know your population of students and the challenges they face at home. Don't ask for more than they are capable of giving and praise them for any effort they're able to give. 
19. Don't compare yourself with other teachers! You're going to see amazing things happening when you scroll through Instagram. These are highlights of the best content a teacher is sharing. Try to not compare because you don't know how long they've been teaching virtually or what skill set they went into it with. 
20. Take your work email off your phone (unless you school pays for your phone). You can check email a few times a day but it is very important to separate yourself from it during your off hours. Especially if this is how families are contacting you for tech support. Only reply during your office hours. 


10 Tech Skills to Teach Students RIGHT AWAY

1. How to log in to their device.
2. Where to find their assignments.
3. How to turn in their finished assignments. 
4. How to join a live video session. 
5. How to do a split-screen during video sessions so they can see you and another window at the same time.
6. How to ask for help. This usually turns into how to write an email.
7. Where to find their grades/feedback for assignments.
8. How to add and edit text boxes in whatever program you're using. And the undo button. 
9. How to bookmark a website and how to find saved sites. 
10. How to re-open a closed tab (ctrl+shift+T usually). 
Teaching virtually might make you feel like a first year teacher all over again. My goal with putting this blog post together is to leave you feeling empowered! I want you to know that all of your teaching strategies can still be used, just in a new way. Hopefully these tips and tricks give you a place to focus your efforts and a vision of what is possible.
If you're thinking right now "where is the tutorial for each of these?" then I'm probably going to disappoint you. It really should be your voice on a video walking students through how to do these things in your LMS or on your class website. I promise it is worth the time and it will be much more meaningful for your students if it is from you. 
That being said, feel free to hop on YouTube and watch tutorials for yourself to get comfortable with the technology. Then use that knowledge to customize it for your students. 

What to do the First Day of Virtual School:

If you don't have a class website yet then it may be hard to visualize how all of this is going to work. You NEED a place to host your assignments. Every assignment can be on its own page that way students can find any assignment at any time quickly and easily. Once the routine is established of how to get to their lessons, all you have to do is put the name of the assignment on your weekly guide and students will know where to look for it. Check out this blog post - Class Website 101 for more information.

Best case scenario is that you've already talked to each student on the phone once and they know how to access their assignments, so you're just tech support that first day. 
If that didn't happen because you weren't given enough time, make sure to send students a video walkthrough of where to find their assignments and the other 9 things from above. You can review these procedures once you get students into a live video. 

It may seem totally counter-intuitive, but the first day isn't about you (the teacher) when teaching virtually. Students will be so busy at home logging in and checking out their first assignment(s) that you won't really need to be involved right away. You can use this time to call a few students in your homeroom, answer emails, and prepare more asynchronous assignments. Most of the work when teaching virtually is behind the scenes. I actually find it much less exhausting (after the beginning of the year overwhelm is done). 

Your first live video session will be mostly establishing norms for video sessions. Depending on the age of your students you could do a get to know you scavenger hunt or read a picture book to students, or play a game of I spy. Anything that will take about 10-15 minutes and establish a routine for students of how to attend a live lesson. I recommend not making it academic. You can still give them tasks to complete in another tab or a file to work on, but have it all be "fun" stuff that won't be graded. 

In Conclusion:

Good Teaching is Good Teaching

75% of the job is good teaching. Use best practices for introducing lessons with an engagement piece, support students where they are skill-wise, and track your data to make informed curriculum decisions. You've got this! The 25% tech will come with time and practice, but isn't the most important thing. 

Don't Reinvent the Wheel

Seek out prepared lessons and curriculum so that you can focus your energy on facilitating your students' learning. This will enable you to spend your time making custom materials for individual student differentiation, calling families, grading assignments, and preparing for video sessions. 

Bonus Tip: Find your Professional Learning Community

I have a digital one because I was the only one at my school teaching tech. Learning from and with other teachers will be a huge shortcut for you. Join my Technology Teacher Talk Facebook Group!


Teaching virtually might make you feel like a first year teacher all over again. My goal with putting this blog post together is to leave you feeling empowered! I want you to know that all of your teaching strategies can still be used, just in a new way. Hopefully these tips and tricks give you a place to focus your efforts and a vision of what is possible.



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Brittany Washburn
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Set Up Your Virtual Teaching Space Like a Pro

Set Up Your Virtual Teaching Space Like a Pro



Back in March when schools closed suddenly and we went to distance learning, it was fine to whip up a teaching space at home. The couch, dining room table, or even bed became a makeshift virtual classroom. Well, now we have an opportunity to set up a legit virtual teaching space for the beginning of the next school year.
Back in March when schools closed suddenly and we went to distance learning, it was fine to whip up a teaching space at home. The couch, dining room table, or even bed became a makeshift virtual classroom. Well, now we have an opportunity to set up a legit virtual teaching space for the beginning of the next school year. 

Desk or Table for Virtual Teaching
Probably the first thing to think about is where you want to set up. You'll need a desk or table to work on that has enough space for all of your stuff. 
Tips and tricks for setting up a virtual teaching space this school year. Everything you need from the tech setup to backdrop ideas.
I'll get into it more in the Tech Setup section, but I like to have a separate keyboard and mouse when working with a laptop because I put my laptop up on a stand. It it way better for our necks, shoulders, eyes, hands, etc. to set it up this way plus having them separate means you won't accidentally shake the laptop during video recordings. 

This means I need space for all of these components on the top of my desk or table. 

While we are on the topic of desks, please invest in a good computer chair for the time spent at your desk. It makes a massive difference! 

Tech Setup for Virtual Teaching
*This section has affiliate links for Amazon. 
Laptop lifter is a game changer when you're sitting in front of a computer all day long. You can use pretty much anything to get the job done. I went with a canvas cube flipped upside down. Sometimes I'll use a box from a game. Basically anything that lifts the laptop about a foot and can support its weight. 
If you can, also get a second monitor! It make a big difference in productivity. If you do go with a second monitor setup, make sure both screens are about the same height. 

Lighting is so important when you're recording videos of yourself teaching. If you can sit near a window then the natural lighting will go a long way. You can also invest in a large or small ring light. 
You can grab a mini ring light that clamps right onto your laptop case to brighten your face. It doesn't do as well to light up your backdrop so keep that in mind. 

Microphone quality is important, but microphones don't have to be expensive. The one I use is $20 and can be found here on Amazon. You can also choose to use a headphone with microphone attached. This setup is really helpful if you want the audio to go through headphones (like if your significant other is working at home and doesn't need to hear your students reading to you). The headphone/mic combo is going to be more expensive and it is worth the investment to get a good one. 
Tips and tricks for setting up a virtual teaching space this school year. Everything you need from the tech setup to backdrop ideas.

Keyboard & Mouse are more important than you'd think. Sure you could use the one on the laptop, but if you use a laptop stand like I suggest then your shoulders will be very sore by the end of day 1. It also wiggles the laptop to need to touch it during a recording, which makes it harder for your students to focus on you. So I recommend a separate keyboard and mouse that sits right on the desk or table. 

A Tripod is important if you're making videos using your phone or iPad. I like a tripod kit like this one.  

Document Cameras are amazing for math instruction. There is only so much you can do with screencasting software. If you can't take yours home from school, then consider investing in one for home. You can also use an iPad or iPhone like a document camera as long as you have a way to connect it to your computer. 

The Backdrop for Teaching Virtually
I'm not trying to be dramatic, but the backdrop during video calls is super important. Now that you are going to set up your teaching space like a pro, your background needs to match your other efforts. 
Tips and tricks for setting up a virtual teaching space this school year. Everything you need from the tech setup to backdrop ideas.
For general classroom teachers I recommend a bulletin board or bulletin-board-like space using paper and borders, just like in the classroom. You can see that I have the keyboard as the backdrop, which is purposeful for teaching tech lessons so that I can quickly point out keys. 
A kit like this one is great for multiple purposes. I like the combo of the dry erase side and the cork board side for teaching virtually because then you can put up notes, posters, and teaching materials. 
Since you're working from home, this might now be the perfect time to use die-cut bulletin board letters to spell out your messages. It will save your precious printer ink! 

You'll likely switch out the content on the bulletin board way more often than you would in the classroom because you only have one of them. You can change it for different subject areas or teaching topics as needed and reference it during your videos. 

Something to keep in mind is glare on your bulletin board. In the classroom students can just move their head a little to see a poster better, but during a video they can't. If you have laminated materials, consider spraying them with a mattifying spray. 


Props for Virtual Teaching
Make sure everything you need is within reach. You'll lose your students' attention if you need to get up to grab something during a live video, and you'll waste time needing to edit out the part of a pre-recorded video. In the photos above you can see that I have my color-coded keyboards at arms reach ready to grab. 
I like to keep the current lesson's props right on my desk and then have a separate storage area for other materials including props I use regularly. 
I have started a curated list of Virtual Teaching Amazon Recommendations, which may be helpful to look through. Is there anything else I should add to the list? You can leave a comment on this blog post. 

I hope this post gave you some things to think about! I'd love to see what your virtual teaching space looks like. 

You might also like to read my Tips and Tricks for Distance Learning blog post. 
Tips and tricks for setting up a virtual teaching space this school year. Everything you need from the tech setup to backdrop ideas.



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Brittany Washburn
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