Volume 1: Reimagining Remote Teaching, Issue 2 | GCTC

Volume 1: Reimagining Remote Teaching, Issue 2

by Dr. Kerri McKenna - July 30, 2020

After teaching the same course, semester after semester, you begin to build an elaborate toolbox for your classroom of lectures, activities, discussion points, and assignments. Your tools are so well used and perfected that it allows us to sometimes walk into our classrooms with 5 minutes of preparation and pull off an amazing 75 minutes which leave our students asking for more.

And then, this once in a lifetime pandemic arrived and left 2020 reeling. Now that we are 8 months into a world forcing us to adjust our thinking in all aspects of our lives, we are also having to adjust the way we work with our students.

It does not matter if you have been teaching for 3 days or 20 years. We are all back to square one when it comes to learning how to teach in a remote, synchronous environment. Simply put, we must re-evaluate our classroom approach and sometimes start all over again.

Our first step is to spend time planning our classes long before they begin. No more can we enjoy the tools we have already fine-tuned to craft an amazing class in 5 minutes.

Fall 2020 requires us to plan days ahead of each class so we can prepare our lessons in writing, build them in blackboard, and support our students during the virtual classroom so it is seamless and organized. Teaching by personality alone will not suffice. Students need clear expectations and directions to avoid confusion as much as possible.

To this end, the Teaching and Learning Center has created a general planning tool to assist you in your course development. There are 4 columns in this template. Each column is detailed below.

Lesson Plan Template
Est. Time Course Topic Anticipated Outcome/Grade Activity & Directions

Estimated Time

During your first few weeks, be very liberal with your estimated time. If you think it will take 10 minutes for your small group to answer two questions on a shared screen word document, expect it to take 20 minutes. Expect to pop into each group quickly while in collaborate small groups to help them share a screen to take notes, to re-explain your directions, and answer questions before they can get to work. I recommend you double each of your estimates in the beginning, with the expectation that the “double” is for technical issues.

By the 3rd week of class, you can lessen your estimated time. If you think it will take 5 – 7 minutes, give them 10.

Here is a quick tip I will share. While they are in groups, keep your participants list open. Tell your students if they have a question, one person should raise their hand, so you know to go into their group. In kind, tell them all to raise their hands when they are done with their group assignment.

Course Topic

The course topic is your course content you plan to cover for the day. Some people will simply list off their topics in bullet format, and some might write formal objectives.

If you want to write formal objectives, start off each statement with this phrase: The Student will be able to…or what I call SWBAT. You can then use a verb list from Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you identify the level of learning you hope your students will achieve with this content. One of the better verb lists can be found here: Blooms Taxonomy Verb List

Here is an example of a course objective written at the application level:

  • SWBAT utilize the provided formula to calculate area with complex numbers.

Content Tips

In a similar recommendation of estimating time, do not expect to cover as much content as you hope to cover during the first 2 weeks of your course. It will take time for each of you to become comfortable with this new environment. Time will be spent covering ground rules for discussions, how to use mute, raise your hand, go into and out of groups, and how to share documents as a presenter in class. Additionally, expect to have these conversations almost daily, as each student gets a turn to “work the tools”.

Expect to laugh with your students as you figure out the technology together, as you help troubleshoot technical issues, and work to overcome challenges. The more you laugh at the awkwardness of this situation, the more comfortable you will all become. And, with luck, your perseverance will pay off and an engaging, safe, and positive learning atmosphere will be in place by week 3.

Anticipated Grade/Outcome

This column is not intended to express the teacher’s vision of class. Your vision is represented in the course content. This column is all about your students.

You need to take a few moments and think like your student. Ask yourself one simple question: What do THEY want to get out of this topic?

This is how you bring the theories of adult learning to life – by applying your content to their real-life situations. This gives value to your content, provides meaning to learn, and motivates your students to self-actualize and embrace learning.

Thinking about your students and what they want helps you better create this environment.

Here is our example from above. The course content was as follows:

  • SWBAT utilize the provided formula to calculate area with complex numbers.

Now, we can explore this objective from the student’s perspective. What is a real-world, anticipated outcome for this content?

  • By learning how to find the area of a shape (rectangle, triangle, etc), students will be able to know how to calculate square feet and determine resources for their home.

While this is a simplistic explanation, it is true. As many of us have been doing home improvement projects during Covid, we do not know how much of the Luxury Vinyl Planks to buy without knowing how to determine the square feet of our rooms.

Activity & Directions

Our anticipated outcomes lead directly to our activities for a class. If I want to have my students understand and embrace knowing how to calculate the area of a shape, I should also create opportunities to reach my students on a personal level.

It would be easy to create a case study which includes 8 different areas in a home. Students are then expected to determine the total square feet of the house, pick one of 3 flooring options (include price and square feet covered per box) in the case study, and determine the following: How many cases will I need to purchase, and how much will this cost. Make your students also include sales tax, and you have thrown in percent and decimal review, to boot.

Students can work together in small groups to answer the case study, and every group can share once done.

Now, instead of basic plug and chug type formula work, students see how everything applies to real world situations. Students also have a chance to work together, and you can see how much they truly understand in the process.

When determining the time for your small group activities which help meet the student’s anticipated outcomes, think of it this way: 1 minute to settle into the group and determine who will keep notes, 2 minutes to process and complete each question, and 1 minute to prepare for sharing to the class. In this specific scenario, I would give at least 20 - 25 minutes to do all 8 rooms, identify the flooring, and determine entire cost.

Sample First Day

With all of this in mind, here is what I plan to do during my first day for each Remote, Synchronous class. This plan is based on 2x a week, 75 minute classes.

Lesson Plan Template
Est. Time Course Topic Anticipated Outcome/Grade Activity & Directions
10 mins SWBAT choose what life experience is most important to them Through snap decision making, students will learn more about themselves and their tolerance for risk taking in our complicated world. Risk Taking Continuum: students will answer 10 questions in Collaborate polls to share how willing they are to take risks. We will also discuss as a whole class.
30 mins SWBAT identify the various components of our blackboard course together. Being comfortable with exploring the course will help identify technical issues and motivation for the course. Course Scavenger Hunt: students will work in small groups to complete a 10-question blackboard scavenger hunt. We will also discuss as a whole class.
30 mins SWBAT interview their instructor to learn more about our class. By interviewing the instructor, students will be able to connect with each other and begin seeing class as a safe space for learning. 20 Questions: Students will be able to ask me questions about me, the class, or Gateway.
5 mins SWBAT measure our first day and compose feedback for course structure and expectations. Students will be able to share their voices on how they feel about class structure and format; they will be empowered as part of the class, making them feel valued and appreciated. Class Grade: Students will answer a brief, 2 question survey at the end of class to provide feedback on how class went.

You will notice I am placing an emphasis on building relationships with my students and building comfort with the class technology. I believe it is crucial to establish a positive, supportive environment early on during these crazy times so our students can feel connected even though they are also isolated.

Please reach out if you have any questions or comments. And do not hesitate to set up a 1:1 appointment here:

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