By Tim Phillips

06 April 2020 - 14:47

Paints and notebook on a wooden table
'When we go back to school, things will be different.' Photo ©

Tim Arterbury used under licence and adapted from the original.

Tim Phillips is Head of Teacher Development at the British Council. These are his tips for teachers who are navigating the digital classroom.

The primary school opposite my house has gone quiet. Pupils are getting used to lessons at home.

I work with teachers around the world, who are now using 21st century technology to teach lessons that used to be face to face.

Teachers on our Facebook page have said 'I really miss interaction with my students' and 'I really miss the spontaneous moments.'

But we're adapting. Another said 'Teachers are learning to use many different tools and all of us are trying to make it more fun for our students.' One teacher has noticed that some of her students are 'more productive than in the classroom.'

One teacher finds time-management of online lessons difficult. Another finds online interaction with students hard – how can she inject more humour into her online teaching?

Another wants to know how to check if students really understand the lesson content online. And one teacher worries that, after the novelty of online learning wears off, students will lose motivation.

Lots of free support, training and materials have quickly become available for teachers. But what should we choose?

Prioritise your teaching needs

First, decide on your five biggest immediate needs in order of importance. Then, find help online for those immediate needs.

Videos are great for technical issues. Education webinars focus on teaching issues and give you a chance to ask questions.

Find a trusted website that offers lesson ideas, videos for learning and other materials.

Be part of an online professional community beyond your school

Find a group with which you can share experiences, triumphs, worries, ideas, materials and questions. Your peers can be your best source of immediate solutions.

I recommend the Teaching English Facebook page and TES Community

Think short-term and long-term

You’ll have a lot of things to cope with right away. Managing new technology might be an additional issue.

But as time goes on, pedagogy will matter. What skills and knowledge will you need?

Decide what you need to learn in the longer term, and then try a MOOC or an online course over a few weeks.

The course Teaching for Success: Learning and Learners is one example of professional development that you can do online, over time. 

Involve your learners in their learning

Get students and parents to suggest new ways to learn, and get them involved in evaluating their success. 

Schedule one-to-ones with students to monitor their wellbeing. These may only last a few minutes, and you can have a simple template for the discussions. The template will make it easier to record information.

Learn to exploit what digital can offer. Using emojis, for example, can help with getting feedback on emotional states, learning and interest.

Anticipate the future of education

When we go back to school, things will be different. Weeks of working online will change behaviours; both yours and your students'.

Keep a record of what you’re doing now:

  • What works?
  • What doesn’t work?
  • What would work better if it happened face-to-face?
  • What works better online?

With that experience, you can refresh your teaching and be prepared for future challenges.

Use our Teaching English resources or join our community of teachers.

Sign up for one of our free online courses developed with FutureLearn.

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