Why is Coding Important for School Students to Learn?

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. 

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

As a teacher or a parent, you’ll likely have an interest in the subjects that children are learning in school, especially newer subjects like computer literacy, robotics, coding, or even game development. And while some parents and teachers might be worried that children already spend too much time on tablets, mobile phones or laptop computers as it is, the good news is that all of these subjects are likely to enhance the learning of more traditional curriculum areas, such as mathematics and English.

Coding, in particular, is quickly becoming a key skill that school students must achieve basic competency in before they graduate. In August last year, for example, former President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the nationwide rollout of Kenya’s first ever coding curriculum in primary and secondary schools. This made Kenya the first African nation to create an official coding syllabus to be delivered in schools.

Today, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her thoughts on why coding is such an important subject for students to learn.

Kat Sarmiento

In this digital age, when technological advancement continues to transform our lives, learning coding is crucial, especially for school students. Because if you think about it, the apps and websites children use all run on code. Thus, it’s vital for them to learn and understand the basics of coding to make the most out of the apps and websites they visit and utilize.

Image source: Pexels

As you may be aware, in the current curriculum, students in classes 11 and 12 are taught fundamental programming languages, such as C, C++, Foxpro, and more, while sixth-grade students and up learn computer basics. And as online education came to light, more and more students eagerly took online tuition coding classes to test various programming languages.

Given this situation, education professionals must also understand that teaching coding is as important as teaching sustainability at school. It offers numerous benefits for your students – from academic excellence to better career opportunities. To explain it further, we’ve listed down the reasons why coding is essential for students. Let’s get started.

#1: Coding improves critical thinking skills 

One of the many reasons why learning coding is important is that it can help students improve their critical thinking skills. A 2014 study actually demonstrates that the five brain areas associated with language processing, working memory, and attention are activated when people work with source code. Because besides memorizing various programming languages, students will also need to understand how to use them correctly. But to do that, it will require them to think differently. 

Dealing with codes requires you to break down problems into smaller and more manageable pieces to understand what happens next. This strategic problem-solving technique is called computational thinking. Coders must examine the data, assess the situation, and decide which course of action will help them achieve their objectives.

In light of this, students who learn how to code can improve their problem-solving/critical-thinking skills by figuring out the best solution to a problem at hand.

#2: Coding boosts creativity

Aside from honing problem-solving skills, coding also fosters the creativity of students. It gives them the opportunity to express themselves, experiment, and be creative. They can design websites, apps, or games in a fun and exciting way.

“But how does coding help with creativity?“, you may ask.

Well, while you learn various programming languages and techniques to create various programs, you always need to start building from scratch. For instance, when students are tasked to make an animated object, they have to think about what it should look like and how it can be presented on the screen. This is when they need to use their creativity and problem-solving skills to achieve what they picture.

#3: Coding teaches patience and persistence

Learning how to code is similar to how we learn a language. The only difference is we use programming languages to communicate with the computer. So, typically, we start by memorizing the alphabet, some words, and phrases before we begin creating sentences for use in conversations. And, of course, we will inevitably make mistakes along the way. It’s the same scenario in coding.

As you might already know, coding is complex and can be frustrating. But it teaches us patience and perseverance. Because to be successful, one must be able to experience failure and bounce back from it. It will take some testing and troubleshooting before the codes work effectively.

Students can use this process of trial and error to their advantage as they go through life, helping them to understand that perseverance is often necessary to find solutions to many difficulties.

#4: Coding improves communication and teamwork

Coding also teaches two of the best things students can use when they enter the real world: communication and teamwork. Most of the time, teachers assign students to work in groups when developing projects. That requires them to communicate with one another and make collaborative efforts for a successful program. But, even if they’re working on individual projects, they can still seek feedback from their classmates. Thus, by teaching coding to students, they’ll develop their communication skills and learn the importance of teamwork.

#5: Coding creates career opportunities

Finally, learning to code opens up many career opportunities. Considering how technology continuously advances as time passes by, coding is an extremely useful skill to possess. Computer programmers, web developers, and other IT jobs are now in demand because of the increasing number of businesses relying on code. And it’s not just those in the technology sector, but also those in finance, retail, health, and other industries.

If people learn to code at a young age, they’ll have the advantage of having better career opportunities in the future. Not to mention that the salary can be at a high level for those qualified, talented, and experienced IT people. 

The bottom line

There are many reasons why coding is important for school students to learn. Besides learning how to build websites and apps, they also learn valuable skills and lessons they can use in the real world. Not to mention that you’re also bringing them numerous career opportunities in this ever-growing digital world. And if they grow interested in developing more advanced and amazing software, they also contribute to our future.

Kat Sarmiento

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The A.C.E. Method of Post-Pandemic Teaching

Written by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

How many of us are fully aware of the damage caused to learning by lockdowns and school closures?

For me personally, I was surprised to learn that K–12 student learning was significantly impacted by online teaching, with students being on-average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020/21 academic year (according to McKinsey Insights).

When we think about this in real-terms, for instance, many of our students experienced their last ‘normal’ academic year in 2018/2019. Many schools have seen their teaching disrupted for at least three academic years. This has hit some students harder than others – many Year 13 cohorts in British schools this year, for example, have never had an external examination during the whole of their high school education to-date. This is truly unprecedented.

Now that our students are, for the most part, back in school and should be learning on-site for the foreseeable future, it is important that we somehow ‘plug the holes’ in our learners’ incomplete knowledge and understanding. This extends to skills such as problem-solving, critical-thinking, metacognition and manual dexterity expressed through subjects like Design Technology, Science, Textiles, Electronics and Home Economics.

This brings me on to a pioneering strategy for facilitating the transition from online to hybrid to on-site learning which I believe should be aptly named the ‘ACE Method’: Action, Collaboration and Exploration.

Part One: Action

Our students have been stuck in front of computer screens for so long. Now it’s time to get them moving!

There a number of spatial learning strategies we can use to engage multiple areas of the brain. Activities such as the Human Graph and True or False Walls (please see the illustration below) are just two examples of simple things we can do in the classroom to turn everyday content into fun, interactive games that involve the students using their bodies in creative ways.

I wrote a separate blog post about spatial learning activities here. All of the activities described in that blog post can be applied to any subject area and require little-to-no resources and/or planning time.

In addition to spatial learning activities, think about interactive games which are not screen-based that you can implement. Such games are the tried-and-tested traditional teaching activities that have been around for decades. My personal favourite is ‘splat’, which is outlined in the illustration below:

You can watch a quick video of me playing splat with my students below:

There are many learning games we can play with our students that simply break the lesson down into fun, engaging ‘chunks’. These games combat boredom and act to improve knowledge retention.

I’ve written a separate blog post with descriptions of my top ten favorite games to play with students here. As with the spatial learning activities described earlier, these games can be applied to any subject area and require few-to-no resources and very little planning time (i.e. they’re awesome!).

One final thing to consider is ways to get your students gathering data and investigating things. Every subject can include some investigative work, even if it’s just carrying out surveys and interviews with other students. Such activities really do help to facilitate deep learning.

As a Science Teacher, I am used to guiding my students in the investigative design and data collection processes. Investigations in Science are basically a way to ‘test’ if the theory in the textbook is true, or false. Think of ways in which you can get your students to test the subject content you are teaching – you’ll often find that this is a very fun process. Better still – ask your students to come-up with ways in which they could test the central dogmas of your course.

Part 2: Collaboration

Whilst online systems like Google Meets did attempt to solve the student isolation problem during lockdown (e.g. via Breakout Rooms), no computerized system can fully replicate the experience of being physically in the classroom, working with your peers in a small group.

It’s important that we now start including even more groupwork activities in our lessons. Tons of research papers and top universities sing the praises of collaboration in the classroom, including the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University, who state that:

Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to: 

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills.
Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University, 2022, ‘What are the benefits of group work?’.

In fact, when students work together on a task/project that is well-planned and carefully executed, a large number of incredible things can happen:

It is very important to stress again, however, that group tasks must be very well-planned, otherwise they can “frustrate students and instructors and feel like a waste of time” [University of Waterloo].

I’ve written a separate blog post containing ten groupwork activities that can be applied to any subject area here. These activities have creativity at their core, and have all been field tested by me many times over (so I know that they work). However, as well as planning our group tasks/activities carefully, we must also consider a number of additional problems that may arise:

  • Most classes of students contain ‘cliques’/friendship groups, and it’s not uncommon to find that some children have few, if any, ‘friends’ within the classroom. This is one reason why I almost always choose the groups for the students – usually by lining the students up and numbering them in random ways in order to group them together, This removes the natural stress that comes when students are asked to create their own groups.
  • If you know your students really well, then you can group them by ability. If they need to present some slides at the end of their project, for example, then make sure that there is at least one good orator in the group. A tech-savvy student placed strategically in a group of students with weak IT skills may also be appropriate, for example.
  • Think about the classroom space and simple things like how your tables are arranged. You might need to push tables together to encourage students within groups to actually face each other and talk, for example. It might be appropriate to allow groups to work in different areas of the school (make sure you have permission!) if what they’re doing is very active/loud, for example.

Part 3: Exploration

One key message I want to get across in this article is that it’s not always necessary to know everything about your subject, especially if you’re new to teaching it. When I first came to Thailand in 2008, for example, I was much less knowledgeable about Chemistry than I am now (I was a Biology Teacher in the UK). The strategy I adopted back then was this – I will learn with the students

And that’s another key point that needs to be raised – it was difficult to encourage deep exploration when students were learning online – not least because the task outputs would often be handed in late, not handed in at all, be of varying quality and we could never be sure what kind of conditions the students were doing this work under at home.

So, get some fundamentals under your belt and think of ways to get your students to explore the topics they are learning. Get your students to use source material to:

  • Create Google Slides presentations (these are great, by the way, as multiple students can work on the slides in real-time)
  • Create a class quiz (e.g. a Kahoot!)
  • Create infographics (don’t go with ‘posters’ – they’ve been done to death)
  • Create a website or blog (Google Sites is brilliant for this, and is yet another reason why schools should take on Google Suite)
  • Create models of the concepts (simple materials are all that’s needed – bottle caps, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, etc)
  • Create a table display (e.g. for a Science Fair)

Try the I.E.S. Method for Exploration

Introduce the topic to the students via some kind of engaging starter activity (see my blog post on starter activities for some ideas to get you started). Use the three As (Assign, Analyse and Ask) where possible.

Give the students a ‘menu’ of different ways in which they can choose to explore the topic in a creative way (e.g. by creating a collaborative Google Slides presentation, making a Kahoot! quiz for the class to complete, designing an infographic, etc.)

Showcase the work to the class (or allow students to showcase their own work) so as to provide acknowledgement, a sense of accomplishment and a useful opportunity for class reflection. Do this important step the next lesson if time runs out, Do not skip this vital step. 

Conclusion

It’s vital that we do our best to make-up for the physical time at school that our students have missed so much of. Of course, we’re not miracle workers, but if we can keep just three little words in our minds when we are planning and delivering our lessons then we’re going to make a big difference in our students lives: action, collaboration and exploration.

Simple Marketing Strategies You Should Be Using to Make Your Education Business Grow

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

This article is your guide to implementing straightforward, tried-and-tested marketing strategies that are guaranteed to grow your education business. We will discuss both strategies that you can use personally to self-reflect and thus increase business growth, and more practical, digital-oriented approaches you can take.

Utilise Fast Resources

In business there will be short-term and long-term investments you will want to make in terms of marketing. Long-term will generally be bigger projects, perhaps a grand unveiling of a product. Short-term will more likely be simple strategies that you can do easily that don’t take a great deal of time. For the short-term, it is highly recommended that you utilise the fast online resources that are at your disposal. For example, a Facebook ad template already gives you the attractive basis for your advertisement – all you need to do is fill in the blanks. This is an affordable way to keep your business moving. 

Consider How You Are Learning

This isn’t so much a practical strategy, as a mental refresher course. Perhaps you feel you need to strip back down to the basics. You should really aim to properly soak in the information you are gathering for, for example, your market research. Surface level learning is where you should start on your journey, but to be able to be properly invested, engaged, and reflective with your business and its plan, you must dig a little deeper in order to forward think. Deep learning will have you constantly reviewing your business, in terms of what is going well and what can be improved.

Email Marketing

Because email marketing has been around for years, people may start to believe that it is not as relevant as it once was, and we should think forward to more modern ways of marketing. However, this is not the case. One reason for this is because of email automation tools. Email marketing, after the initial setup, is constantly generated and therefore constantly keeping the interaction with customers to a high level through newsletters, information on new products, etc. Email marketing also specifically reaches your target audience, meaning that your business is actually being promoted to those who are interested. Thus, the people who are more likely to purchase. 

Remain Focused

If you are feeling here, there, and everywhere, this hectic mindset can reflect on the way that you advertise your business. Have a clear-cut objective when you set out to market something; a simple approach with a touch of creativity is better than something that results in a chaotic, discernible mess. Maintaining a level of focus in your own mind means that you can concentrate solely on creating something for your business that speaks to you and the brand.

Search Engine Optimisation

Having knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO) is the top rated strategy in order to increase website traffic. Through strategically chosen keywords and phrases, your website can rank higher on a search engine results page. This means the customers who are interested in the goods that you sell will find your online business due to their internet search matching up with what you are offering.

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3 Ways to Keep a High School Student Motivated

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback)

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Accompanying podcast episode:

As your children’s high school career nears its end, achieving good grades becomes ever-more important. There’s a lot at stake, in particular, the range of colleges from which they can choose after graduation. And with the cost of a college education being so high, excellent grades could be worth money in the form of bursaries and sponsorships. Even kids that don’t want to study further need to work hard. If a high school diploma is to be their highest educational achievement, it will be with them for the rest of their working careers.

While being a pushy parent can be counter-productive, keeping your children motivated in their final years of high school can be a challenge. Try the following strategies to improve their chances. 

#1: Get Help From a Private Educational Counsellor

Can you offer the right guidance for your child to get into top colleges? Chances are, you need an inside edge. Going Ivy College Consulting works with your children to help them map out their future for themselves, choosing the right courses and the right elite colleges to set them up for success. 

If going ivy isn’t on the cards, career counselling can still be enormously beneficial. Having an impartial third party to talk to about their future helps your children to feel more in control of their future learning and career paths. With a future they decided for themselves to look forward to, the chances of giving their final years at school their best effort becomes more likely.

#2: Be Supportive

Parents want to see their children embarking on a secure career. Sadly, this can lead to conflict and a lack of motivation at school.  For example, your daughter says she wants to study drama. You’re horrified and suggest accounting instead. With your support for what she really wants to do being absent, how motivated will she be as her final high school year draws to a close? Will your support for her exam preparation make a difference?

If you think your child is making a risky career choice, tell them about your concerns by all means, but never withdraw your support. Your aspiring drama student will open several career paths through her studies. For example, if she isn’t able to become a movie star, she can still apply her skills to teaching theatrical skills to kids. Whatever happens, remember that it’s up to your children to choose their careers, and not up to you

#3: Give Them Time

Although you feel that choosing a future career is an urgent matter, your high schooler may not feel ready to commit. Let’s be fair. A school student has no experience of the working world, and may not have found his or her passion yet. Some kids need to spend a year or two in the working world before they discover what they really want from a career. Push too hard, and your children might end up studying something they committed to on a whim only to find that it isn’t really for them. 

By all means, provide opportunities for them to explore possible careers, but make it clear that you aren’t pushing for a big decision just yet. When they find a career they can fall in love with, you’ll be ready to support them. Until they find their path, you’ll still be there for them whenever they need you. Apply too much pressure, leave your child with the impression that it’s about you and not about them, and they might decide the whole thing is a nasty business and start underperforming at school. 

Strike the Balance

We all have ambitions for our children, but ultimately, their future is up to them. Although you may not be sure that your children are making the right decisions, your role is that of wise counsellor and ardent supporter. It can be difficult, but the decision maker in this instance is your child. Opposing their wishes or pushing too hard will be counter-productive. Help your child to build a vision of his or her future that’s all their own. 

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How to Manage a Hybrid Classroom Effectively

Hybrid teaching is here to stay – at least for the time-being (and probably long into the future). It is therefore crucial for educators everywhere to keep their hybrid-teaching skills in tip top shape.  Today, I’ve invited Kiara Miller from The Speakingnerd to share her excellent suggestions on how teachers can effectively manage their hybrid classrooms.

Kiara Miller

The pandemic, coupled with technological advancements, have set new terms for the education landscape (whether we like it or not). A lot of educational institutions worldwide are now switching to remote or hybrid teaching models in conjunction with face-to-face methods . With all the changes being embraced in the education sector, it is blatantly apparent that educators are trying to create an all-inclusive learning culture.

Through virtual, synchronous, or hybrid models, students who can’t afford to join an in-person class due to unavoidable circumstances can be accommodated. It’s also an attractive model for learners who wish to physically come to school for only a few days per week. Research shows that up to 82% of students opt for a hybrid learning environment over a traditional one. The research further goes on to indicate that 94% of teachers are in support of hybrid learning as long as they have proper resources and a suitable curriculum to follow.

The hybrid model is becoming common in both the education and workplace environments, but when it comes to education, it manifests a unique set of challenges. Teachers must manage students (in-person and remotely) in a way that ensures that they actively participate in class.

Teachers must also ensure that students stay engaged and get the proper support whenever needed. With all this to consider, it is essential for teachers to find ways of managing hybrid classrooms effectively to optimize student participation and academic performance. What follows are some of the approaches to look into.

#1: Use the right technology

First and foremost for an effective online class to take place, both teachers and students must have the right technology in place. Teachers may have no influence on what type of technology or software students can use, but they can guide them when it comes to choosing the right learning software. Having the same or similar learning devices allows effective collaboration. The teacher will not struggle to connect with the remote students or assign tasks to them when suitable hardware and software being used universally and consistently.

As a teacher, the aim is to connect the remote students to the in-person classroom. Here you will need a range of things in place such as cameras, screens, monitors, projectors, smartboards, and microphones, among others. In most cases, it’s essential for the remote students to turn on their cameras to help you monitor them or allow effective interaction. Remember to teach your students how to participate in-class using video conferencing tools since this may be new to them.

Please note that it is important to continue operating as per the traditional classroom management principles. This means that the teacher will only look out for add-ons that can help in the proper management of a hybrid classroom. If you require your students to be in class at the same time as with the synchronous learning model, it’s essential for them to be on time, participate and submit assignments like other students.

#2: Plan and organize every lesson thoroughly

We all know how teaching is a challenging profession and now that it’s going virtual, teachers are expected to handle more duties and responsibilities. As a teacher, you must know that there will be moments when you have to spare time helping the remote students to connect or use any tool. You will have possibly have to intervene in a student wrangle that may break out in physical class among others, or deal with other behavior management challenges (such as low-level disruption).

Richard’s bestselling book for teachers.

Similarly, you must ensure that your teaching devices are in a good condition before a lesson and that they are connected. Also, ensure that your teaching resources and materials are in place. You may have to plan effectively by prioritizing topics and deciding those that you would handle in-person or remotely. This will help you create a perfect balance between remote learning and in-person instruction.    

Consider talking to the remote students about how to create an ideal learning environment that is free of noise and other distractions. A disorganized classroom will divert students’ attention and affect their engagement in the various activities. It is essential to know that managing a hybrid classroom will always require more time as you have to focus on both in-person and remote students.

#3: Create a sense of community

Although you will have to teach two groups of students (in-person and remote) it is very essential to create a sense of community. Do not let physical boundaries create a gap between students. Creating a sense of community will help you promote an ideal learning environment. Even though studying remotely, let them know that they are part of the class. Create time and allow students to interact in order to build their social skills or bond. Turn your camera around to the physical students to show their faces in the virtual classroom, for example. Get the students who are learning online to way hello and goodbye to the in-class students, and vica-versa, if you have time.

You can also bring up a topic and ask for everyone’s participation for students to learn beyond the already-set curriculum. You can also model the ideal code of conduct that you want your students to follow. All these engagement tactics will bring students closer, increase morale and it will help them feel psychologically safe.

#4: Ask questions to keep students engaged

Instead of rushing through the syllabus, it is important to weigh the engagement level of your students. Ensuring that your students (both in-person and remote) are engaged will require paying extra attention to them. In the case of remote students, it’s so easy for them to get distracted from the class due to technical issues or other emergencies. Some students may also be passively attentive (hence the earlier suggestion of asking them to keep their cameras on).

Experiment with ways of keeping your students engaged. Engaged students tend to be actively involved in classroom activities and show more interest in every idea brought forward. For that matter, ask questions frequently to know whether your students are attentive or not. Assign teamwork to increase collaboration and sharing of knowledge. Use live-quiz apps, hybrid-teaching apps and play learning games

All this will help students set common SMART Goals and will also teach them how collaborative efforts can bring dreams to reality. Avoid assigning different topics to students simply because they study remotely or because they might find it hard to access the material or resources.  

#5: Manage your time wisely

Proper time management is associated with a range of benefits when it comes to hybrid classes. As a teacher, you must remember that you will have to race with time whether it’s about completing the syllabus, creating extra time for your students, or when it comes to your mental health.

First and foremost, the synchronous model where students are in class at the same time, although in different locations, ensures that you and your students are on the same page. It also helps students obtain the same experiences since classes are conducted in real-time. All these offer assurance that your efforts for students are fully optimized for their academic excellence.

Whether it’s conducting a lesson, monitoring an examination, or switching between classes, managing the available time is key to getting things done smoothly and effectively. There is a range of time tracking tools that teachers can utilize to track time and students’ performance.

On the other hand, you can also provide learning materials (online and offline), use past exam papers, or encourage learner-to-learner interactions and discussions to speed up classroom tasks. Through this, you will have provided all-round assistance to your students and will help you create time for yourself to reduce burnout chances. 

Conclusion

Summing up, more education institutions are embracing the hybrid teaching culture since it is all-inclusive, flexible, and seen as a reliable approach to extending education to millions of students. However, with it comes, a range of concerns that educators and instructors must look into if they are to provide constructive lessons.    

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5 Ways Teachers Can Prevent Burnout While Teaching Online

It is no hidden fact that teaching is a stressful profession. From managing students to maintaining multiple records, teachers have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. Moreover, if stress remains unmanaged and unnoticed for a long time, it can even lead to serious burnout. Today, I’ve invited Jessica Robinson, educational writer at The Speaking Polymath, to share her insights and tips for maintaining a stress-free life as an online educator.

Accompanying podcast episode:

In modern times, where digitalization was supposed to take the burden off the shoulders, more stress was somehow added on to teachers. Moreover, it even led to serious burnout situations for some. If you think that these are just random verdicts of ours, let’s have a look at some of the statistics to back up these claims:

  • The world’s largest teacher burnout survey concluded that almost 65% of teachers are facing burnout in their jobs. Additionally, 85% were recognized as working “unsustainably” which led to a significant impact on their mental and physical health. 
  • As per the survey of March 2021, 42% of educators have considered retiring or quitting their current position last year, and they say it happened because of their shift to virtual learning or COVID19.
  • Almost 40% of the teachers believe that they are less productive when they are under stress.

These statistics are evidence enough that some teachers are still not comfortable with the virtual model of learning. Moreover, they are finding it hard to cope with the burnout occurring while teaching online. If you are a teacher, then there are chances you could have related to one of or all of the above-given statistics. Moreover, we understand how difficult it can be sometimes for you to handle so much pressure and still have a smile on your face while delivering the lectures.

That being the case, this blog will effectively highlight the top 7 strategies that can be utilized by you to prevent or deal with burnout while teaching online. 

5 Strategies For Preventing Burnout While Teaching Online

#1: Take the 4A’s approach

One of the most effective and efficient forms of preventing burnout is using the approach of 4A’s of stress management given by Mayo Clinic. To elaborate, 4A’s stand for Adapt, Alter, Accept and Avoid. A detailed elaboration of all the 4 A’s with respect to the teaching profession is presented below

  • Adapt – During online teaching, you may have to deal with different kinds of students and various situations regularly. Adoption of new things and changing your standards of dealing with things according to the virtual environment can lead to eliminating the scope of stress and burnout in different situations. 
  • Alter – When in a stressful situation that cannot be avoided, try altering your behavioral traits and communicating better. It is no hidden fact that during teaching we have to deal with a lot of stress associated with various types of work. Moreover, the link of physical communication is often broken in online classes. In such situations, try communicating openly with higher authorities about the problems you are facing. 
  • Accept – We often find it difficult to deal with situations when we are not ready to accept them. We can not deny the fact that virtual learning is the new normal. In order to accept the situation, first, you need to identify the stressors and then react accordingly. 

Identification and acceptance of stressors is the most important strategy in stress and burnout management. For instance, some people get stressed about teaching in front of a screen, while some feel burned out when it comes to grading papers. When you know and accept what you are stressed about, it becomes easier for you to respond to the situation.

  • Avoid – Believe it or not but there are situations where you can simply avoid the situation to reduce the risk of stress. You might have different tasks to perform within two days and the ideal way to deal with a situation is to plan the important things accordingly. 

#2: Set firm boundaries

One of the biggest issues teachers come across while teaching online is the lack of maintenance of work-life balance. Lack of work-life balance not only impacts your mental health but if continued for a long time, it can lead to serious burnout. Hence, it is really essential for you to set firm boundaries between your professional and personal life.

That is the reason many prominent people have explained why it is important to learn how to say ‘No’. This not only simplifies your life but also gives you enough time to relax and start your new day with a positive attitude again. 

In the scenario of online teaching, you can decide not to work after the classes which will give you enough time to plug out from the hectic schedule of virtual classes. This will assist you in maintaining your mental peace and will assist in regaining your energy back.

In order to effectively manage your time and set boundaries, you can use the Pareto principle to meticulously manage your time and get positive results.

#3: Try different stress-releasing activities

In online classes, teachers often feel burnout because the link to the physical world is broken and they get less time to focus on themselves. However, we need to always remember that self-care is not selfish. On the contrary, it’s about knowing the correct time to take some time off. This break will assist you in giving the time you deserve to maintain that mental peace.

While teaching online, you can just adjust your lectures with frequent short breaks which will give you enough time to regain your energy and relieve yourself from stress. In such situations below mentioned are some of the stress-relieving activities that you can try:

  1. Get away from your screens and relax your eyes
  2. Try meditation
  3. Drink your favorite tea or coffee on your balcony 

Moreover, did you know that taking a 30 minute walk can help in dropping your stress levels?  It’s not important to take a 30-minute walk at once, just divide your time and complete different sessions at times. This will assist in lowering your stress levels and can prevent burnout in a long run. Along with this, these activities will also contribute to your self-improvement.

#4: Give positive affirmations to yourself

Saying a mantra, such as “I know how to do it and I will do it” is an example of a positive affirmation that you can say daily. Positive affirmations will not only help you to reduce stress but also help in maintaining calmness in handling all of the challenging situations that arise throughout the day.

As per the article by Cohen and Sherman, affirmations are related to one’s identity, efficiency, and productivity. Psychological studies say that there are many changes that occur in the brain with self-affirmations.

For instance, when you are in an online class dealing with disruptions and you feel students are not under control – at that point various positive affirmations can help you. It will assist in calming you and release you from the stress of handling chaos in classrooms. This will also contribute to making you a happy teacher

#5: Delegate classroom responsibilities

In virtual classrooms, there are many responsibilities that need to be taken care of but can be performed without your supervision. In such scenarios, you can delegate the responsibility to your sincere students. Examples of such responsibilities may include:

  • Verbally reporting about the progress of the group they are working in
  • Creating, sharing and monitoring the creation of project work (e.g. Google Slides, Sites, Docs, Sheets, etc.)
  • Uploading project work to the relevant place (e.g. Google Classroom)

Conclusion

To encapsulate, nobody is denying the fact that teaching is not an easy profession. Moreover, virtual learning even made it tougher for teachers to cope with their stress. In that situation, the need is to effectively manage your mental health and try the above-given strategies to prevent burnout and embrace the changes that are happening in the education sector in the form of virtual learning. 

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

How Students Can Help Reduce Single-Use Plastic

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in our Earth’s oceans every year. Campaigns such as Keep Britain Tidy and the Project Learning Tree aim to inform young people about the environment and the harm that single-use plastics can cause. However, despite these excellent projects, much, much more still needs to be done to bring this critical issue to our students’ attention. Today, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her tips on how to educate children about the dangers of single-use plastics, along with advice on how to utilise sustainable alternatives.

Single-use plastics are a modern convenience, but how much is that convenience costing the environment? The manufacture, spread, and waste of single-use plastic are a major environmental issue that has been talked about yet remain unsolved.

People still openly burn plastic waste and use single-use plastics even when they can not use such things excessively. It has been the great efforts of dozens of organizations to phase out single-use plastics in the industry and replace them with more sustainable options.

Decarbonization always starts on an individual level. The individuals most affected by a toxic environment are the youth who have to grow up in it. But now the question is, where can the youth start on the mission to reduce plastic waste in the environment?

Why Is It So Difficult To Enact Change?

One of the most deceptively simple tasks you can do is actually the hardest. Most people don’t even realize how much plastic and paper they waste. On an individual level, think of how many water bottles you have thrown away in your life.

Whatever the number is, it is most likely too much. Now multiply that number by the population of the globe. This is why it’s so difficult to reduce plastic waste. Most people aren’t even aware of the fact that they are wasting plastic.

Although big strides are being made in reducing the use of single-use plastics in many developed countries, it’s a different story in less fortunate places. Many people fail to consider the necessity of single-use plastics in these areas because of how cheap they are to produce.

Not to mention, the lack of education on the negative effects of pollution is still a real issue. More efforts should be made by local governments to teach their citizens about the effects of excessive waste. Eco-friendly practices, especially the ones discussed in this article, should be commonplace and enforced.

How To Reduce The Impact of Single-Use Plastics

Truth be told, the efforts of the individual do very little in the grand scheme of things. However, it’s important to uphold these practices and share them with as many people as possible.

The more people learn from your example, the better your chances of making a difference. Here are some of the practices you should follow:

#1: Start Reusing More Often

While you cannot stop the production of single-use plastics on an individual basis, you are still capable of going against its intended purpose. Single-use is just a suggestion, not a feature. Things such as plastic bags, cups, bottles, utensils, and food packaging should be repurposed in some form.

The concern with single-use plastic is less about the material itself than the excessive use of it. Plastic wouldn’t be such an issue if there wasn’t so much of it all around the world. However, many supposed single-use plastics are quite handy as use for containers and makeshift tools.

Just make sure the types of plastic you are reusing don’t start leaking the chemicals used in their creation.

#2: Replace Single-Use Plastics With Sustainable Options

That being said, switching to more sustainable materials is not a bad idea. Whenever possible, look for cost-effective alternatives to the usual functions you use single-purpose plastics for:

  • Instead of having them bag your groceries, ask if you can have them put in cardboard boxes instead. Cardboard boxes are much less impactful on the environment and offer far more utility in a home.
  • Alternatively, bring your own cardboard boxes and eco-bags. Eco-bags are one of the handiest grocery things you can have.
  • Instead of buying plastic cups, just shoulder the admittedly less enticing washing of extra glasses. There are several cheap reusable cups in the market that you can look around for.
  • Store your lunch in jars or bento boxes instead of Ziploc bags.

#3: Push Organizations To Value Eco-Friendliness

For a more significant dent in the use of single-use plastics, the best thing students can do is make their voice known. Kids, teens, and young adults are huge demographics for many companies.

If enough of them start caring and demanding products that maximize recyclability and reusability, companies will have to listen. The businesses to start with should always be on a local level because the transport of plastic goods is just as intensive as using it.

Also, push for businesses to consider the impact that end-of-use products have. They should have professional recycling or disposal plants on call for their waste.

Schools are also subject to this. Encourage your school to go green by doing all of the above in their daily routines. Schools often go through a lot of single-use plastics, especially in cafeterias.

Another great way to reduce both environmental impact and printing costs is to print only what’s necessary. For example, some events hand out paper cups with custom-printed logos that won’t last the day. Instead of doing that, just encourage students to bring their own thermos or tumblers.

Kat Sarmiento

Kat is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back. She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

Common Challenges Teachers Face in The Era of Online Learning

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

The past two years or so have been interesting for teachers to say the least! Most of us have dealt with sudden school closures, the challenges associated with remote-teaching and the complications that come along with delivering a blended learning/hybrid teaching programme of study. This week, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her thoughts and tips on the challenges teachers face when delivering lessons remotely, and how those challenges can be overcome.

Kat Sarmiento

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has become a necessity for many schools and colleges across the world. While some institutions have been able to quickly adapt to this shift, others are still grappling with how to best deliver content to students while maintaining safe social distancing guidelines. Many teachers face certain challenges given the shift from traditional classroom settings to virtual ones. What follows are some common challenges they may encounter.

#1: Students’ lack of motivation during distance learning

One of the biggest challenges is that most students do not seem motivated to study in an online environment. This can be attributed to several factors, including:

  • Lack of interest due to boredom or frustration;
  • Poor internet connection quality;
  • COVID fatigue;
  • Difficulty understanding what is expected of them in terms of studying and responding to assignments;
  • Feeling like they are alone when they need help.

To encourage engagement among your students, you should consider implementing specific strategies such as providing additional support through emails or live chats, organizing class discussions via video calls, or using digital storytelling tools. You could also create a dedicated Facebook group where students can share their work and ask questions about assignments.

#2: Teachers’ inability to monitor student progress

The other major challenge faced by teachers is the inability to track individual student performance on their assignments. When working remotely, it becomes difficult to keep tabs on student progress because there is no way to physically observe them. As a result, it becomes challenging to provide feedback on assignments and ensure that students are meeting course requirements.

As an instructor, a good way to address these issues would be to set up a private discussion forum where you can communicate directly with students while keeping all communication confidential. Students can use this platform to get answers to any questions they might have regarding assignments. The teacher can then respond to each question individually and make sure that every student understands his/her assignment correctly.

#3: Lack of technology skills

While many educators find themselves comfortable teaching in a virtual environment, they often struggle to teach effectively without proper training. For example, if you don’t know how to properly use Zoom, you will likely experience difficulties with audio and visual quality. If you are unfamiliar with Google Docs, you will probably feel lost trying to collaborate with your peers. And even though you are familiar with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., you may find yourself struggling to effectively engage your students using those channels.

If you want to avoid these problems, consider taking advantage of free online courses offered by reputable organizations such as Coursera, edX, and Udemy. These platforms offer high-quality education resources at low costs. You can also take advantage of YouTube videos created by experts in various fields.

#4: Difficulty staying organized

In a typical classroom setting, teachers typically spend more time preparing for lessons than actually delivering them. However, in an online environment, you will need to devote more time to planning and preparation than ever before. To stay organized during this process, try creating a lesson plan template and assigning to keep up with your remote learning sessions. This will help you organize your thoughts and better prepare for upcoming classes. It can also be a part of your self-care ritual to ensure that you remain productive throughout the day.

#5: Inability to connect with all students

Another common problem faced by teachers who choose to teach remotely is the inability to establish meaningful relationships with students. Since you cannot see them face-to-face, you won’t be able to gauge whether they are engaged or not. As a result, you may end up spending too much time communicating with students who are simply checking off boxes on their syllabus rather than engaging in real conversations.

In addition, there are also some students who face internet or connectivity issues. This makes it nearly impossible for them to participate in class discussions online. As a result, they may miss out on important information. To prevent this from happening, consider providing an alternative method of communication so that students can still interact with one another.

#6: Difficulty in enforcing discipline

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching remotely is maintaining order in the classroom. When you are physically present in the same room, you can easily monitor what students do. But when you are working virtually, you will no longer be able to observe everything that goes on. As a result, it becomes difficult to enforce discipline and maintain order.

You can try to keep things under control by making sure that students have access to a quiet space where they can work independently. Or you could assign each student a specific task that requires them to focus on completing it. This way, you can make sure that everyone stays focused and on track. Try establishing ground rules early on so that you can clearly communicate expectations to your students.

Kat Sarmiento

Kat is a Molecular Biology Scientist turned Growth Marketing Scientist. During her free time, she loves to write articles that will bring delight, empower women, and spark the business mind. She loves to bake but unfortunately, baking doesn’t love her back. She has many things in her arsenal and writing is one of her passion projects.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news. 

Cognitive Challenges of Language Learners in the Digital Age

We must keep in-mind the unique challenges that new technologies create for all of our learners: especially those who are learning a new language, or who are attempting to access a mainstream curriculum via a second or additional language. Today, I’ve invited Tatyana Cheprasova (Senior Lecturer and EFL/TEFL instructor at Voronezh State University, Russia) to give her expert analysis of the situation, along with many excellent suggestions that we can all take on-board going forward.

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

With digital technologies rapidly taking over various spheres of our lives, a new pedagogical environment for acquisition, processing and transferability of knowledge and skills has been created. These digital shifts will inevitably affect the educational sector as one of the aims of any educational paradigm is to prepare learners to face the challenges of the real world which now cannot be conceived without digital imprints and influence. This article aims to explore the cognitive challenges this new educational reality places before language learners in the Digital Age. It also attempts to provide EFL teachers with insights into how their teaching procedures can be altered in order to meet the cognitive needs of ‘digital native’ learners.

In order to develop the right understanding of the factors affecting cognitive processes (such as perception, learning communications, associations, and reasoning) and the behavioural consequences for digitally native learners, it is deemed essential to explore the new educational environment within which they operate and develop.

The new pedagogical reality which integrates digital language learning (DLL), as with any educational paradigm or teaching tool, can have its own advantages and deficiencies which become visible and apparent when the context which coined a new pedagogical phenomenon is carefully scrutinised. The pedagogical settings we now operate within and which incorporate DLL need to be viewed as the natural evolutionary result of the educational development we have witnessed in the last few decades. According to Warschauer (2004:10), at the early stage, within the language learning domain of the final decades of the 20th century, computer-assisted language learning (CALL) or Structural CALL was strongly influenced by the behaviourist paradigm which shaped this type of DLL as merely stimulus-response, drill-based programmes which enhanced the learning of new vocabulary items or grammar under rigid teacher supervision. The ensuing transfer from a behaviourist to a communicative approach to language learning where meaningful interactions were given the priority also affected the whole nature of CALL design, giving rise to Communicative CALL which implied the use of computers to engage language learners in communicative activities (Warschauer, 2004:11). Finally, with the onset of integrative ICT, the technologies within the new educational paradigm have moved into the era of Integrative CALL which relies on agency and interactive communications (both of teachers and students) as an effective pedagogical tool to solve real-life tasks and problems in a community of peers on the internet (Warschauer, 2004:11).

The widespread implemetation of Integrative CALL which has soared in the field of ELT in the last two decades has been seen by many researchers as a mainly positive trend which has a lot to offer ELT practitioners in various educational contexts (Li and Lan, 2021). Thus, as argued by Grosjean (2019) and Al-Ahdal, (2020), the incorporation of AI and Big Data used in various language applications can facilitate ELT in that it provides learners with real-life language use settings as well as helping to trace down their language progress via the analysis of learners’ errors in L2 writing procedures. Additionally, the use of AI can lead to a more individualised, rather than one-size-fits-all, approach to language teaching where the pedagogical strategies and procedures are designed to meet learners’ requirements and profiles at its best (Li and Lan, 2021). Finally, mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) and game-based language-learning (GBLL) have been regarded by many scholars as possessing high teaching potential in terms of EFL outcomes as they provide students with language learning opportunities at their fingertips, anytime and anywhere, stretching beyond learning a language as limited to only traditional classroom settings (Shadiev, Zhang, Wu & Huang, 2020; Li and Lan, 2021).

Notwithstanding all of the above-mentioned advantageous implications DLL can offer as the new pedagogical dimension, both ELT practitioners and researchers have started to question its overall positive effects on learners’ cognition,  psychological and speech development, and their flux of consciousness, thus approaching the issue from both cognitive and social perspectives (Warschauer, 2004; Komlósi, 2016, Voulchanova et al., 2017; Chernigovskaya et al., 2020). The impacts these DLL-driven pedagogical settings can have on language learners are going to be discussed below.

At this point it is worth mentioning that the whole nature of the concept of ‘knowledge’ seems to have radically changed as the Cognitivism learning model has given way to the Constructivism Paradigm. Apparently, when learning occurs within a particular teaching model, the nature of knowledge evolves on the basis of how new data is generated and pedagogical assumptions about which strategies comprise the educational process, as the following comparison illustrates (see the table below):

As it is illustrated above, knowledge is no longer approached as a monolithic unit transmitted from a teacher to their students but rather as a dynamic heterogeneous construct characterised by boundless hypertextual structure where the reader (or a knowledge receiver) acts out as the author (or knowledge co-constructor) (Warschauer, 2004; Chernigovskaya, 2020).

This innovative type of knowledge might inevitably affect learners’ main cognitive processes. Indeed, as argued by the famous Russian neurolinguist Tatyana Chernigovskaya, the hypertextual nature of knowledge leads to the formation of an innovative learning environment, which she refers to as “shared consciousness”, where learners have to rely not on their memory capacity to recall various information quanta but rather on their ability to remember the source of the particular data storage, which, in turn, can seriously weaken working memory, especially that of young learners. Additionally, the hypertextual characteristics of the new type of knowledge  are believed to affect the development of learners’ reading skills as this process now implies the inclusion of critical literacy at the very early stages of their cognitive development. This represents a challenging task for young learners whose abilities to compare, contrast and analyse, as well as to make inferences, are not so well-formed as those of adult learners (Warschauer, 2004; Chernigovskaya et al., 2020). These factors might lead to the formation of new and superficially scrutinised skills of digital knowledge management which will need to be specially addressed when teaching L2 reading comprehension.

More importantly, according to Zou and Xie’s (2018) research on the integration of MALL in language learning, this new format of learning, although enhancing personal learning processes, can seriously impede learners’ attention: shortening their attention spans for learning, and therefore, affecting learners’ ability to concentrate and control their attention. In the same vein, as argued by Hsu et al. (2019), adolescent excessive use of mobile devices might have adverse effects on their abilities to integrate scientific knowledge and to make inferences, thus leaving them with a rather distorted, disintegrated and mosaic-like scientific worldview.

Furthermore, as stated by Komlosi (2016:167), the onset of DLL will urge researchers to reconsider and revisit the essence of communication as the new digital teaching paradigm has introduced radical changes in social cognition and communication in the new form of digital culture, which implies that its members operate in connected networks constituted by several types of ‘cognitive identities’. This newly coined term refers both to human and non-human social actors that function smartly and are expected to operate within a highly interlocked framework of multifaceted information flow and exchange. The agents of info-communications in the digital world are related to each other not by commonly shared cultural narratives, as negotiated within the traditional cognitive cultural anthropology, but by fragmented narratives revealed through spontaneous and rather unstable shared interests in networking, information construction and exchange, thus facilitating non-linear, multidimensional communicative interaction which can seriously impede the traditional vertical, authoritative and declarative patterns of cultural knowledge transmission (Komlosi, 2016:167). This change in the social cognition and behaviour paradigm might have adverse effects on learners’ cognitive skills as the long evolutionary process of linear information processing typical for any culturally coherent human community is now challenged by parallel and connected network-based information processing: making use of fragmented, encapsulated information chunks provided by a plethora of information sources, which, in turn, forces learners and educators to seek new strategies of information management and info-communications in novel contexts (Komlosi, 2016:168).

Conclusion

At this point, an important conclusion which can be drawn is that the wide incorporation of DLL we are witnessing now needs to be approached as an irreversible process offering a new perspective on information processing and knowledge management of language learners in various contexts.  Notwithstanding its obvious advantageous effects, DLL has already signposted certain cognitive, behavioural and communicative challenges for learners. More research providing evidence of direct comparison between learning from others and learning from digital tools is required to develop a better understanding of the standard modes and channels of language transmission in in the digital age and to conceive the cognitive and behavioral consequences of learning in digital ecosystems.

References

  • Al-Ahdal, A. (2020). Using computer software as a tool of error analysis: Giving EFL teachers and learners a much-needed impetus. International Journal of Innovation, Creativity and Change , 12(2), 418–437.
  • Chernigovskaya, Tatiana & Allakhverdov, Viktor & Korotkov, Alexander & Gershkovich, Valeria & Kireev, Maxim & Prokopenya, Veronika. (2020). Human brain and ambiguity of cognitive information: A convergent approach. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Philosophy and Conflict Studies. 36. 675-686. 10.21638/spbu17.2020.406.
  • Grosjean, F. (2019). A journey in languages and cultures: The life of a bicultural bilingual. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Hsu, C.T., Clariana, R., Schloss, B., & Li, P. (2019). Neurocognitive signatures of naturalistic reading of scientific texts: a fixation-related fMRI study. Scientific Reports,9(1), 1–16.
  • Komlósi, L. (2016). 13. Digital Literacy and the Challenges in Digital Technologies for Learning. In D. Dejica, G. Hansen, P. Sandrini & I. Para (Ed.), Language in the Digital Era. Challenges and Perspectives (pp. 162-171). Warsaw, Poland: De Gruyter Open Poland. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110472059-015
  • Li, P., & Lan, Y. (2021). Digital Language Learning (DLL): Insights from Behavior, Cognition, and the Brain. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1-18. doi:10.1017/S1366728921000353
  • Shadiev, R., & Yang, M. (2020). Review of studies on technology-enhanced language learning and teaching. Sustainability, 12(2), 524.
  • Sidorova, I. (2019). Learning Via Visualization at the Present Stage of Teaching a Foreign Language. Astra Salvensis, 6 (1), 601-607.
  • Vulchanova, M., Baggio, G., Cangelosi, A., & Smith, L. (2017). Editorial: Language development in the digital age. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, Article 447. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00447
  • Warschauer, M. (2004). Technological change and the future of CALL. In Fotos, S & Brown, C (eds.), New perspectives on CALL for second language classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 15–25.
  • Zou, D., & Xie, H. (2018). Personalized word-learning based on technique feature analysis and learning analytics. Educational Technology & Society ,21 (2), 233–244.

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Hybrid Teaching Apps, Ideas and Strategies

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Many schools are now facing an unprecedented challenge as the world learns tolive with‘ COVID-19: the need to teach students who are in-school physically and online at the same time. This is called ‘hybrid’ teaching.

I was surprised to discover during my research for this blog post that hybrid teaching has been around for quite some time – decades before the novel coronavirus even surfaced, in fact. In addition, the practice was initiated in a sector outside of education – business. As far back as 1993, astonishingly, companies around the world were holding seminars, workshops, meetings and training for employees who were both on-site and online at the same time.

In today’s blog post I’ll be drawing upon some of the hard-earned expertise that has come from the business sector when discussing some practical strategies for making hybrid teaching clear and effective. In addition, I’ll be describing a number of apps that I am currently using to great effect to keep my online and on-site students focused and stimulated. And the best part – all of the apps I will describe can be used at high functionality for free!

Hybrid teaching apps

  • Nearpod: This is one of my all-time favourite hybrid teaching apps. Nearpod is basically a very interactive slideshow application in which the teacher can add various activities, such as drawing tasks, multiple choice questions, fill-in the blanks questions, picture/word matching, a noticeboard and so much more. Moreover, it takes a matter of minutes to upload a slideshow to Nearpod (multiple file formats are accepted) and add the various activities. Once your lesson is ready, students simply go to join.nearpod.com and type in a code that you have shared with them. As a bonus – when the teacher moves from one slide to another, all of the students’ devices will show the slide transition too! It really is an awesome app, and one of the most popular among teachers who I deliver workshops to. Check it out!
  • Classkick: One of the most irritating things I find with using Google Docs/Slides with students is that the teacher cannot see all of the students’ work in real-time, in one place – you have to go into each student’s work separately to see what progress is being made. Well, some good news – Classkick solves this problem. Students log in to a classroom with a simple code and within seconds they are given a blank sheet in which they can add pictures, text, drawings and even voice clips! Additionally, as a teacher, you can see every piece of work in one place, in real-time, and can therefore easily see which students are not doing the work, or are working too slowly. It’s a great app for any kind of creative project that you would like your students to do, such as infographic creation, cartoon storyboarding, revision summaries or anything else that comes to mind.
  • Whiteboard.fi: Another legendary app that’s very simple to explain – it’s a virtual mini-whiteboarding app in which the teacher can see all of the students’ mini whiteboards in one place. It’s super cool, and again – students are able to log in within seconds by typing in a simple code.
  • Kami: This app turns static documents (e.g. pdfs) into interactive documents. Again, this app is super simple to use – the teacher uploads a static document, such as a revision booklet, and students can log in with a simple code and write all over the document. One amazing feature of Kami is its text-to-speech function – students can highlight any words within the document you’ve uploaded and the app will turn those words into an audible computer-generated voice. This is great for students who are learning how to verbalise key vocabulary.
  • Padlet: This is a very well-known and respected app for a reason – it’s simple to use and very customizable. Padlet is basically a noticeboard in which students can quickly log in (again, with a simple code) and post answers to a question, a summary of what they’ve learned that lesson, or anything the teacher chooses. Students can even post comments on each other’s posts (if that functionality is activated by the teacher). Filters for profanity can be activated and teacher-approval can be set up so that all posts can be checked before publishing. Check out the little-known ‘Shelf’ function on Padlet – this allows the teacher to post a sequence of questions or activities that students can complete at their own pace during a lesson. Here’s a screenshot of a very recent Padlet I created for my Year 11 Physics’ class – in this case I asked students to post a summary of what they had learned that lesson:
A recent Padlet I used with my Year 11 Physics class

Practical hybrid learning tips (from the corporate sector)

This great, free pdf book outlines some logistical enhancements that can be made to hybrid learning classrooms:

  • Remove background noise: Be aware that if your system isn’t on mute then eveyone can hear you rustling through papers, typing on your keyboard, drinking/slurping coffee, coughing, tapping on your desk and a variety of other noises. Some video-conferencing apps do have noise-reduction features built-in, so definitely activate those features if available.
  • Prepare: Do a test-run before the lesson begins. Make sure you know how to use the technology/apps you want to implement. Do you have a back-up plan in case something doesn’t work?
  • Consider lighting: Avoid bright background light (which can make you look like a silhouette on-screen). Test the camera to make sure that your students can clearly see your face.
  • Default to mute: Keep your microphone on mute, and unmute just before speaking, to avoid unwanted audio feedback.
  • Think about your location: Your desk space, background and location may be on display when you are video-conferencing, A messy space can reflect badly on you, so consider using a custom background image or moving the camera to a more favorable location.
  • Adjust your position accordingly: Make sure your head isn’t ‘cut off’ in the camera frame – position the equipment so that your face, neck and shoulders appear in the middle of the frame (if at all possible).

Your questions answered

Question about Nearpod from Mirian (via Facebook):

Sorry to ask but Nearpod seems to be really useful. Is it an app I have to download or a webpage? Because I logged in but then I couldn’t create my lessons or it didn’t generate a code for my students. Probably I didn’t do things properly 

Answer:

It’s a website. You’ll need to create an account, upload a slide presentation (as a pdf – just click ‘save as’ on your ppt and convert to a pdf.). Once your slide show is uploaded and saved (Nearpod will ask you to choose the subject and age level), you then need to click on ‘Live Lesson’. This will generate a code. Share the code with your students and you are good to go.

I have made a video describing how to create an awesome, free Nearpod lesson here:

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