Digital Learning Environments Teaching and Learning

Online lesson creation- Methods you can use to deliver content in COVID19 and beyond

Pre recorded and live lessons play a huge part in teaching our students through this current climate. They can also become an important aspect of your teaching practice in the future too. Below are some instructions and advice to get you exploring both live and pre recorded options in Microsoft Teams and Powerpoint.

I remember my very first lesson I ever taught. PGCE me was so nervous about whether that Year 8 class would understand me. Whether they would be interested in engaged when learning about the eye (it was the chosen topic for the lesson). Whether I would be able t deliver to them a lesson that was fun and captivating enough to earn a 12 year old’s attention for a full hour.

Most importantly, would I be able to understand them and adapt my lesson based on their questioning, their answers to my questions and the various subtle (or, not so subtle) clues that they will give me that they are following and interested.

For anyone interested, I settled on sawing a frozen sheep eye in half to show them the inside of the eye, then we all looked at various eye conditions and the parts of the eye it affects, before ending with a “wordsplat”. It took be 4 and a half hours to plan and produce an hour’s worth of differentiated activities. We have all been there. When you first start teaching, everything takes longer because you plan meticulously in order to not mess up in front of 28 pairs of eyes.

Then, it gets easier. As the years progress, you learn that by creating and sharing high quality resources in your department, you all have an easier time the next year, where the resources will be available to you. Then COVID19 hit, and our worlds were no longer in front of students in a classroom. We were all instantly transported into our brand new digital classrooms…. and the ways of communicating the content to the students suddenly made us all feel like content creators instead of teachers.

Even as we could smell the virtual paint drying on the virtual walls of our now virtual classroom, we were all figuring out how to safety and sustainably create resources for students that continued their learning, but now at home. To regress to “the sage on the stage”, where students could not ask questions, or contribute in an active way, would be a great shame for us as professionals. This is not how learning happens best. However, as each class is different in the physical world, to simply say “do live lessons” for all classes and only supplying one method would be naive and, frankly, dangerous to the stress level of the teachers and detrimental to the learning of the students. And, what about the future? Are we simple creating a plethora of these digital resources to simply tread water in a limbo stage before we go back to “real” teaching in our “real classrooms”….. or can we be clever about the skills we are using now, and create reusable digital resources. This means when we go back to our physical classrooms, our classrooms can be upgraded to encompass the new skills we, and our students are learning each day?

There are many ways to teach in a physical classroom. Your digital classroom is no different.

I do worry about schools pigeon holing themselves and insisting on pre recorded lessons or live lessons. Think about how long you have been teaching. Then, think about how long you ave been teaching in an online classroom. I certainly did not know the “best” way to teach within three weeks of my PGCE, therefore please, please do set the unnatainable goal of mastering this new environment in a month. You won’t. Sorry.

What you could do instead ensure that your teaching methods remain diverse. Please continue to try new things. Even if they completely flop the first time. That is how people learn.

You can also make ensure that you continue to work smart. What skills can you get great at now, to ensure that your September start is as smooth as it can be? This is bearing in mind that some countries may have to stagger going back to school, which potentially means that teachers may be teaching in a blended environment, with Year 10’s in physical classrooms, but Year 8 still distance learning.

When all your students are back in your physical classrooms, how can you use those videos you carefully created for your students, or the skills of online collaboration you painstakingly taught them?

Pre recorded and live lessons play a huge part in teaching our students through this current climate. They can also become an important aspect of your teaching practice in the future too. Below are some instructions and advice to get you exploring both live and pre recorded options in Microsoft Teams and Powerpoint.

Pre recorded lessons: Become a Content Creator

There are so many options for creating online pre recorded videos, which you can them post onto the platform of your school’s choice. I have picked using PowerPoint recorder and the Meet Now option in Microsoft Teams because it does not require any additional learning on any other independent platform. Hopefully, once you have gained confidence, you will branch out yourself!

Pre recorded lessons give the option of more control over what your students see, as it can be scripted, there are no interruptions, and there is no chance of anything unexpected happening in the video, because you can edit that out. The huge advantage of a pre recorded video is that high quality ones can be used next year in physical lessons to facilitate scaffolding, alternative instructions, or group tasks.

The downsides are that there is no student feedback as you are producing the content. If the students do not understand, they will need to message you, or rewind and repeat, and hope that they understand the second time.

My advice is to create a script of exactly what you want to say. Also, give yourself enough time to create it. Creating a high quality video takes 4mins of preparation for every 1min of content…. I have had videos that have taken 37 takes before I got it right!

The advantage of using PowerPoint is that you do not need a Team to initially create the video. The advantage of using Meet Now in Teams is that it automatically uploads onto Microsoft Stream. This makes it a lot easier to share into other Teams, it also automatically creates a transcript for subtitles and you can edit the background noise out.

Online Live Lessons- there is more than one way to host a lesson

Every class is different. Therefore, there is more than one solution to hosting an online live lesson. The advantage of live lessons is obvious: The human connection when you are teaching is the reason why we became teachers. Having this in even a small way helps hugely towards your students motivation and feelings of involvement. Isolation is an incredibly lonely experience for most of us.

The disadvantages are that students will push boundaries and find ways to bring attention to themselves in a negative way. Having strong and clear expectations is the first step in making sure that your boundaries are kept. Ideally, this should be a schoolwide approach to ensure the safeguarding of students and teachers.

Secondly, consider your audience and your content. Large whole school assemblies can be done through Live Streaming. A concept introduced to me by Niall Statham from Hartlands, Dubai. Live Streaming enables content to be pushed out to students from the “producers” without unexpected interference from the student audience. The disadvantage for this is that, for students, it is like watching live TV: there is very little opportunity to get involved. There is also no option yet to stream your system audio with videos.

A scheduled meeting has options to make all students attendees. This gives control back to teachers by giving only the teacher presentation privileges. Students are in control of their own microphone and video. This provides the advantage of the students being able to interact. The teacher can also “mute all” student’s microphones. The teachers are also the only people allowed to kick anyone out of meetings. With scheduled meetings, the teacher can also share their screen with audio, making quizzes and video sharing a lot more lively, as the students can hear the audio you want them to hear.

Finally, a regular Meet Now, has the advantage of the students being able to present their screens too, which is great for group work. However, this option is harder to police and requires a relationship and expectations to be built first between teachers and students for this to be an effective learning environment.

I hope these methods help you start to create the content that is the most helpful for your style of teaching and your student’s needs. Remember, there is always more than one way to teach a lesson.

By Linda Scaife

Author of Digilin Learning.
Follower of Educational Technology enthusiasts, of all subjects. I am an MIE Fellow, Apple teacher and Google Educator. If it can be used as a learning tool, I will be keen for it. Currently a science teacher in the UAE.