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Top Tips for New Online Teachers

Hey Teach,

If your school is moving to remote learning or there is an online component to your classroom, these tips are great for new and even the most experienced teachers.  Kristina Garcia has compiled some great tips and tricks in this video.  She also provides great examples so you can be an engaging and prepared online teacher.

Background

Imagine for a moment, you’re going to a remote doctor appointment.  How awkward would it be to see your doctor’s house as his background?  He’s explaining your cholesterol levels and all you can think about is the books on his bookshelf or how ugly that clown figurine is.  It is very distracting and can feel invasive.  For you and your student’s sake, create a background that is appropriate for school.  In the video, Garcia gives a few examples of some simple and affordable options using colored paper.

Lighting

It won’t matter what your background looks like if no one can see you. Lighting is such an important part of video regardless of whether it’s live or prerecorded.  Natural light is best, but can be unreliable, sunny at 10 am, storming at 2 pm.  It is best to have multiple sources of light so that it is even.  I personally like to do a 3 light system, one on either side of the camera, slightly above eye level, and one behind me close to the floor lighting my background so my hands don’t inadvertently do a shadow puppet show behind my back.

Appearance

I really appreciate the tips Garcia gives for personal appearance.  She reminds us to wear solid colors and avoid patterns and prints so the camera doesn’t struggle.  She also explains the benefit of wearing lipstick and eyeliner if you’re comfortable wearing makeup.  Lipstick can be helpful for students to read lips and learn how to pronounce words, while eyeliner makes it easier for students to make eye contact.  As a glasses wearer, I’d imagine my glasses accomplish the same thing.

Space

It is easy to forget how much space you have.  With the video being horizontal, you have a lot more space to your left and right than you think.  Remember to use that space.  You can make gestures and hold props in that space.  Speaking of props, don’t cover your face with props.  It causes students to disengage and defeats the purpose.  If they can’t see your face, they won’t pay attention.  You can also move closer to and further away from the camera to emphasize a point or grab your student’s attention.

Focus

Your focus or eye line should be on the camera, scanning your virtual classroom to look at your students and occasionally checking your video to make sure you are properly in the frame.  To help you remember to look at the camera, Garcia suggests using a bright-colored sticky note to mark your webcam’s location.  She also gives tips for limiting distractions from within your house.  For example, putting a note on the doorbell telling UPS or whoever not to ring or knock on the door. 

Sustainability

Lastly, it is important to take care of yourself.  It is really easy to fall out of routine and overwork when working from home.  Take the time to plan your day just like you would in person.  Map out when you’ll eat and take other breaks.  Perhaps most importantly, remember to stay hydrated.  Although, I’m sure that is important regardless of where you are teaching.  

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