In the past, technology in the classroom was often a distraction, a hindrance, or something you needed to put away until after the bell.
In the days of remote teaching, however, technology has become your best friend. Lectures, assignments, quizzes, goofy learning break dance videos—everything has to be delivered over the internet now through different applications and services.
All across the country, lesson plans were thrown out the window and teachers were forced to learn new and innovative ways to connect with students. Not just school teachers either: Instructors, tutors, coaches, and personal trainers all became stuck in the same boat of needing to quickly and effectively take their businesses remote.
Whichever kind of teacher you are, chances are that you’re still somewhat overwhelmed by all the changes you needed to make in such a short amount of time.
Fret not, we here at FluentStream are experts at helping even the least tech-savvy of educators navigate the complicated waters of communication. To help those of you who try to help others, we put together this list of the 5 most essential tools you need so you can make the most of your remote teaching. Oh, and it’ll make your teaching even more awesome than it was before!
1. Choose a Remote Teaching Platform
Remote teaching platforms are websites and apps built specifically for teachers to manage all of their different lectures, assignments, grades, announcements, group work, et cetera, right from home.
If you work for a school district, chances are this choice has already been made for you. However, if you do have the option to select your own remote teaching platform, check out our deep dive into which one is perfect for your teaching style.
Now some of you are probably saying, “I’m just an instructor, not a school teacher. That means I don’t need a whole fancy platform, right?”
Well, that depends. If your teaching business is more informal or exclusively done through pre-made videos and assignments, you can probably skip right down this list. But if you prefer a structured curriculum with multiple communication channels and a convenient document database… definitely consider the investment.
No matter which remote teaching platform you go with, they should include a few key features:
During remote teaching, in-person interaction is obviously (and regretfully) not an option. Luckily, video classes offer the next best thing by keeping the visual and personal components of learning as intact as possible.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room early. Chances are, you already have Zoom to host video lessons with your students. Whether you work for a school district or run your own personal instruction empire, Zoom is easy to set up and even easier to use.
However, some remote teaching platforms come with their own video meeting tools pre-packaged. If yours does, try it out and see if you can save yourself some money by not paying for a Zoom license on top of everything else.
No matter which video tool you pick, it should allow you both host live classes and pre-record lectures for students to view whenever they can. Always try to have a mix of both live and pre-recorded lessons to keep students engaged.
Live chat is an essential tool for remote teaching that allows students to interact with you and each other without disrupting your video lectures. It also allows you to host informal “virtual office hours” for your students to ask questions and get immediate responses.
Plans change. It’s unavoidable, especially in the world of teaching. And especially in the (brand new to most of us) work of remote teaching. As time goes on, you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. That’s why you need a digital calendar that can be shuffled and adjusted as often as necessary to make sure classes stay on track.
Yes, it can be annoying for students when projects or due dates change, but at least with a virtual calendar, they will always be able to see what those new dates are and plan accordingly.
2. Virtual Whiteboard
Just like you’d imagine, a virtual whiteboard is a blank space where both teachers and their students can write, share, and interact with each other in real-time without needing to be in the same physical location. Whether you teach K-12, give cooking lessons, or train sales teams, virtual whiteboards are a key remote teaching tool that will add some much-needed interactivity to your classes.
Every project or assignment starts with good, old-fashioned brainstorming. And no other tool is more effective for remote brainstorming than virtual whiteboards. Even if you’re in a different timezone from your students, you can work together to jot down ideas and make plans together.
Studies show that at least 65% of people are visual learners. It makes sense then that the lack of visible instruction is the most frustrating part of remote teaching for students. With a virtual whiteboard, you can provide as many examples as your students need and guide them to solutions step by step.
Perhaps the strongest application of a virtual whiteboard is how it allows your students to collaborate together no matter how far away they are. They can share ideas, sketch outlines, write samples — all without a need for your direct supervision.
3. Softphone Applications
Quite simply, softphones are software applications that use your computer or personal cell phone to make and receive calls from your work extension. They run on most devices, ranging from Mac and Windows computers, Linux devices, desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Okay, you’re probably thinking. So what? How does that help me be a better remote teacher?
Well, when your students start being able to learn and ask questions from anywhere, that means you need to be equipped to teach and provide answers from anywhere.
Sure, if you’re a school teacher you can always just bring your classroom phone home with you, but softphones will still add tons of functionality and mobility to help you balance work and home life.
If you’re an instructor, coach, or personal trainer, softphones make it easy to stay constantly available while also keeping work communications separate.
- Call clients from your cell phone, but using your business number
- Discreetly answer texts from one student while on a video call with another
- Conveniently view all your conversations and missed calls in one
4. Text Messaging
Text messaging is a fantastic way to stay connected with both students and parents when everyone is learning remotely.
Especially with how much has changed this year, teachers want to stay up to date on what’s going on with their students. Is a student absent from a remote class due to a simple mistake, their internet being out, a doctor appointment? With a simple text, you can check in with parents without disrupting the rest of your class. Alternatively, parents can alert you to surprise situations immediately so you can plan ahead.
Text messages are also convenient for sending out group reminders or curriculum updates. Pre-recorded phone messages are at best informal and will at worst be ignored as soon as the recipient realizes there isn’t a real person on the phone. Sending texts will ensure you get more eyes on important info.
Another aspect to consider is that whether you teach kids or other busy professionals, texting is already the main way most of us communicate. With so much else drastically changed about the learning experience, the simple normality of a text can be surprisingly reassuring.
Voicemail-to-Email may just sound like fancy business jargon, but in practice it’s a lifesaver when it comes to teaching remotely.
Basically, voicemail-to-email sends you a notification email whenever a new voicemail is left in your inbox. Depending on your preferences, you can even attach the voicemail recording or have the message transcribed right into the email.
That means, no matter where you are, you can instantly look at voicemails and prioritize which messages need a response. If you’re an instructor, it also allows you to sift through your voicemails at a glance to see if you have any potential new students waiting to hear back from you.
Trust us, especially after a long day of dealing with noisy kids or frustrated adults, quickly scrolling through your email is infinitely more enjoyable than hearing “Hi, [Your Name]” over and over and over again as you attempt to clear out your voicemail messages.
Another benefit of voicemail-to-email is how much it liberates you to handle personal business even during work hours. When you’re out of your home classroom, you can still feel pressured to answer every call just in case it’s for work. What if a student needs help with an assignment right away? What if it’s a potential new client who wants to learn to play the piano? What if it’s an exasperated parent at their wit’s end trying to handle their child?
With voicemail-to-email, you can safely let calls ring to voicemail without worrying you’ll leave something critical until you get back home. Just check your email, and if the transcribed message looks important, step away for a minute to return the call.
For more recommendations and tips on how to take your teaching remote, give us a call at 303-GO-CLOUD or ask our communications experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.