Ten Days Teaching Online: What I’ve Learnt So Far – Part 1

Part 1 of 2

Teaching my Grade 11 class who have had no issues taking to this online learning stuff!

Schools were shut down and everybody started scrambling to find the best way to continue, online. Our school fortunately, already had some experience in using online tools for the management of classes and work. It was a matter of teacher training and preparedness. Two days were definitely not enough for me to train up everyone to full competency but we had to make do with the time we had. My personal philosophy of learning proved true: "You jump in the deep end and learn to swim".

This is my experience thus far of our online schooling journey. It is far from perfect and we still have much to learn. But we learn, every day. It has been a fantastic, frustrating, stressful, enlightening and knowledge-gaining journey which I am sure many teachers and students will not soon forget. But the skills we are gaining far exceed any frustrations experienced and will stand us in good stead for the uncertain future.

Chosen tool : Microsoft Teams

Integration

Our school has been using Microsoft Teams for some time. All our classes are set up and subjects assigned to students. Teams supports the integration of all MS office apps such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Sway, MS Forms (self-marking quizzes, register). A super cool feature is also the integration of external apps such as Flipgrid and Wakelet (my favourites so far). An added advantage is the Wiki facility to allow for notes and collaboration on topics.

Communication

The chat features are exceptionally beneficial for constant communication. Chat enables real-time communication between staff members, between teacher and student/s and has the added feature of group chats and video calls. Being able to record class chats and live lessons helps a lot, especially for those students who are unable to make the lesson at that time. The recorded video is automatically placed in the channel that the chat/meeting took place for everyone to watch.

File sharing

Sharing of files is super easy in the Files section of every channel.  I like the fact that even private chats have a File area for teacher and student to share content, eg. student work for teacher comments etc. The only thing we battled with is the fact that files uploaded to the Files section can be edited and/or removed by anyone in the team. For files not needing editing, I suggest PDF versions. For a better solution, go into Sharepoint and make the Files section Read Only.

There is a section called Class Materials which is made for placing any files into and the folder is automatically Read Only. However, we found that anyone on a mobile device is unable to see or access  the Class Materials folder. I think Microsoft are aware of this and working on a fix.

Assessment

Distribution and collection of tasks via the Assignments feature....awesome! The best way of handing out work (apart from using OneNote) is using the Assignments section. This works exceptionally well! It helps us keep track of work coming in from the students, assessments, projects, tasks and more. I really do like using this part. You can mark work and provide feedback right there without even leaving Teams!

My approach

How we decided to use Teams

- Created a ‘School Shutdown’ team
-- All teachers members of the Team
-- Channels created
--- General channel
      ------ For general communication among staff
--- Staff Feedback channel
      ------ Editable Word document for teachers to document feedback on student issues, technical issues, what we are learning as we go
--- Teacher support channel
------ Wakelet collection added with information on teaching remotely
------ Onenote  created with Teams teaching and video tutorials -- added as a Tab
------ How do I…? Wiki - FAQ's basically with links to online assistance to help staff with the basic issues eg. How do I record my screen etc.

We also have a Students Team

- All students are in this team
-- Channels
--- General channel for general communication from teachers to the students
------ Each grade has their own private channel for grade-specific material, announcements and communication
--- Student Support Channel for all students to ask questions, obtain assistance etc.
--- Flipgrid “Your Voice” Tab created
------ Students, using Flipgrid, can leave video feedback

Subject/Class teams

- Register tab
-- Online MS Forms registration created to keep a register of class attendance for each video/chat lesson
-- Channel created for each week
--- Lessons and materials are placed in that channel only, to minimise distractions and "information overload" in the General channel

Lesson recording

Live video chats and/or lessons recorded and are automatically available in Microsoft Stream. BUT the best part is that, when a lesson is over - that has been recorded - it is automatically made available in the channel that the lesson took place. So students can then watch it again.

In my next post you can read about my thoughts on what we learnt from this experience after the first 10 days with regards to the practicalities of teaching and learning online.

Here is part 1 on my thoughts and experiences on this topic

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