Virtual Classroom? 5 Best Practice Takeaways

Virtual Classroom? 5 Best Practice Takeaways

When the idea of a virtual classroom first became a very real possibility, teachers everywhere began to panic (I mean prepare)! Teachers are so resilient, determined and most of all reflective, so let's discuss the 5 best practice takeaways for virtual classrooms to be better prepared for an uncertain new school year in the fall.

1) Your Face Matters

First, traditional schooling has been ingrained in our students for years. Think of our seniors! The change that distance learning presented was radical. The first major takeaway is that students need to see and hear you! Normal conversations about life, laughing, and asking about a student’s day keeps scholars grounded. It gives an opportunity to build and maintain a human connection; something we have all learned is an absolute necessity after being thrown into an unexpected quarantine. When students are able to connect through that computer, their work ethic, their productivity, and most of all their desire to learn with you, increases tenfold. Who knew this would be such an essential takeaway? But, teachers matter, a lot, in our scholars’ lives.

2) Try Something Old, New, and Borrowed

The virtual classroom is, in a way, a new marriage that is the beginning of a whole new way of teaching, but don't forget to rely on good old Google Classroom, Canvas, or Schoology. They are great mainstays. Remember, virtual learning requires a new way of delivering instruction, so try something new. Start by taking PD on new technology. Check out a webinar, courses through school districts, and even join some Facebook groups about technology. Most importantly, borrow! Ask your colleagues what is working and of course read the blogs!

3) Explicitly Teach Real Life Skills

Ever receive a student email with the entire content of the email in the subject line? Students now need explicit instruction on communicating virtually! Students also have to learn how to be organized and utilize time management. Think about the last time you took six classes at once! Start by creating a schedule with them. In school students are told to be in certain classes at specific times, often with reminder bells! Use a planner or calendar. Google Calendar saves me with its alerts, but students need the explicit learning experience to be successful in the virtual classroom.

4) Less is More

Whoa. One of my very first realizations from digital learning was everyone was overwhelmed by the workload, teachers and students alike. Yes, we can fit it all in during a regular week of traditional school, but this is nothing like that! Less is definitely more. Want to save your sanity as well as the sanity of your students? Begin by taking a look at a normal (in school) unit and pare it down to just the essentials for virtual learning. Keep in mind the amount of time students are working on school work (all subjects) will not even be close to a whole school day. Become a minimalist. Think how collaboration may be different.The most loved project done in school, may not fit virtual learning. But, a version of that project will. Think differently and acknowledge the road blocks. What parts of the project are most vital to understanding the standard or content you were delivering? Virtual learning could be an exciting opportunity and challenge for all involved!

5) Share. Teamwork. Share Some More.

Getting through virtual learning should be no different than regular teaching. Keep in touch with colleagues. Share resources. Have conversations about what worked with students and ask for help when you are struggling! We are in this together as educators and we cannot go through it alone! Take a minute. Think about what are your best practice takeaways you learned from having a virtual classroom. It's time to make a plan! What takeaways are you going to prepare for in your next virtual classroom?

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