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Online Instruction Guide

Key tips to remember

Keep it simple
Learning new stuff is hard, especially when you’re trying to learn it from home with a million distractions and a potentially spotty internet connection. Now is not the time to be overly ambitious. Fostering self-direction in students is more important now than ever, so encourage that by letting them fill in more blanks. Keep plans, instructions, links, and resources as short and simple as possible. And remember, consistency is key. Once you choose a method, stick with it.

Organize a central communication hub
Giving everyone a home base is critical to monitor attendance, keep your students and yourself on task, and provide a single touchpoint for all assignments and resources. If your school uses a Learning Management System (LMS) - use it and use it consistently. If not, think about creating your own website or even a single shared Google doc. Another good option is LiveBinders, which is a great central way to organize your courses and have students submit their work.

Focus on community building first
The importance of social-emotional learning is even more critical in a digital environment. Remember to take time to really connect with your students before jumping right into the curriculum. Allowing them a gentle onramp to get comfortable - with you, the technology, and each other - will pay dividends. It’s all about building rapport. And it’s not just relationships with students. You also need to build peer-to-peer relationships. Look for online communities you can join to feel connected to a larger mission.

Make it personal
The most obvious thing missing from digital instruction is often the most important: human connection. Just as building community is critical, so is making space for one-on-one time. It’s critical to reach out to your students for personal touch points through email, phone or video calls, LMS comments, or any other method you can use to remind them that you’re there for them.

Set clear expectations for communication
You can’t be “on” all the time, which is easy to forget when work is just a button click away. Let students and parents know how and when you’ll be available and resist the temptation to respond outside of those times unless it’s absolutely essential.

Think asynchronous vs. synchronous communication
This is a simple distinction but guides a lot of how you communicate with your students. Asynchronous communication is available at all times to students (resource links, instructional videos, pdfs, documents, etc.), while synchronous means they’ll need to be available and “in attendance” during a particular time frame. It’s good to be mindful of keeping these two modes in balance. Too much of either can become alienating and counterproductive.

Focus on quality, not quantity
Online learning is not the place to cover “everything.” Now is the time to trim the excess fat from your lesson plans and think about what’s absolutely essential for students to know before moving on. Slow down and ensure everyone is really absorbing the material. This is another reminder to focus on making personal connections with each student.

Aim for creative, original projects
This one serves multiple purposes. In addition to being a more engaging way to work, creating something puts the onus of learning back onto the student. It’s also a sad fact that online learning makes cheating easier. One good solution is to encourage students to make things - art projects, videos, multimedia presentations, etc. - so they’re absorbing information in a stimulating way that automatically discourages “short cuts.”
Have your own suggestions for online teaching? Share them with us and your fellow educators on our social platforms.

Key websites - general
An organization founded by George Lucas in 1991 that provides innovative resources and training for K-12 students and educators.

Cult of Pedagogy
Headed by former middle school teacher turned teacher whisperer Jennifer Gonzalez, this site has an approachable, welcoming format with loads of great advice columns, resources, and opportunities to feel like you’re part of a larger teaching community.

Teach from Anywhere
A Google-led initiative that serves as your one-stop shop for all things virtual teaching, with an obvious focus on products in the Google universe.

Key websites - Learning Management Systems
Google Classroom
A juggernaut of an LMS, few people have escaped using some aspect of Google Classroom. PSEA’s Center for Professional Learning has five sessions recorded for beginner, intermediate, and advanced training on this platform.

If your district uses Schoology, you need no introduction. For those who do, we’ll be offering two training sessions (beginning and intermediate) on Schoology starting this fall on PSEA’s Center for Professional Learning

A popular LMS that prides itself on openness of platform design, integration, and applicability.

Seesaw is quickly becoming the dominant LMS for elementary school teachers. PSEA’s Center for Professional Learning has recorded sessions for beginner, intermediate, and advanced training for this platform that you can check out right now.

Key websites - website builders
A free way to create your own website that guides you through the process with an intuitive interface and lots of fun templates to get you started.

Another website builder that offers a free option as well as tiered pricing, Weebly is a bit more limited out of the box than Wix and is geared more toward larger sites. But it’s definitely worth checking out before committing to a host platform.

Google Sites
If you’re already using Google as a central hub it might be easiest to stick with their ecosystem.

Key websites - video conferencing
By now everyone and their grandma (literally) is familiar with Zoom. It’s probably where most of your collaborations, training, and possibly your instruction is taking place. If not, it’s never too late to get on the Zoom train.
Google Meet
Since the start of the pandemic, Google opened premium Hangouts Meet features to everyone with a G Suite account, so if you want to explore Google’s options, now is a good time.

Microsoft Teams
Microsoft offers Teams free to teachers and students, and it’s a seamless integration if your school systems are Windows-based.

Key training - all things virtual teaching
PSEA’s Center for Professional Learning
You’ll find recorded sessions and upcoming live webinars on how to become an expert on specific tools and concepts covered in this guide. From primers on Seesaw, Google Classroom, FlipGrid!, and more, to sessions on how to incorporate videos into your lessons and how to become a master online educator. And all our courses are eligible for Act 48/Chapter 14 credits.

“The Center for Professional Learning is perfect during these unpredictable times. While working from home this spring, I was able to continue earning Act 48 credits thanks to PSEA. The webinars fit easily into my busy schedule, and I was able to apply what I learned to immediately benefit my online classes.”
Devon Fisher, Northeastern York EA