I am lucky enough to have three best friends who work in the education field. One is a fourth-grade teacher; one is a fifth-grade teacher; and the other is a Speech Language Pathologist for her district. I’m likely biased, but I happen to think they are the greatest educators on the planet. On a recent Zoom date, we got to talking about work and how the pandemic has impacted our lifestyles. While I knew the pandemic had a major impact on them, I wasn’t fully prepared for the details I would learn.
Like many teachers across the globe, my friends are teaching 100% virtually for the first time in their careers and it has brought about challenges they didn’t get taught when they were students themselves. With virtual learning, their students have screen fatigue and overall engagement is much lower than in a classroom. Parents are stretched too thin trying to balance their own work while simultaneously making sure their kids are on track. All parties involved are dealing with frustrations over tech glitches and entirely new working and learning environments and requirements.
None of my friends even complained about any of the above; they simply spoke candidly about what they go through on a daily basis. They each expressed how even through all of the change, they’ve become closer with other teachers across the globe – sharing resources and ideas via Facebook groups and educations forums – and they’ve had parents express happiness over being able to spend more time bonding with their children.
Through all the challenges, they’ve been constantly learning and evolving to do whatever they can to make sure the kids in their classrooms receive the best education possible. Here’s to totally tenacious teachers!
Four Tips from the Learning Technology World
While I will never fully understand what they are going through, working in the Learning Technology industry has provided me resources and best practices for keeping learners engaged, so I put together some ideas I thought would be helpful for them and for any other teachers out there. While these ideas don’t solve some of the larger issues teachers are facing, I hope they can spark some ideas and provide a smidgen of help. Because if anyone needs a helping hand right now, it’s them.
1. Random Acts of Gamification
Gamification is a vital tool companies use to drive learning engagement and it’s one that teachers can benefit from as well. In “The 5 Types of Learner Motivation and How to Reward Them” webinar, Josh Barton, Instructional Media and Digital Content Designer for SAP Litmos, discussed a tactic they like to use to surprise and delight participants, in an effort to keep them more engaged.
Within the training session, they awarded badges to people for random activities like helping set up the chairs in the room they were training in. This type of gamification keeps learners on their toes and keeps them excited about the possibility of being rewarded for something they didn’t think they would be rewarded for.
Teachers can use this method as well. Perhaps you can give surprise awards like “eyes on the prize” – an award for a student whose eyes hardly wander when they’re on screen. Or perhaps give out silly awards for something they are wearing. For example, maybe one student wears a yellow shirt one day and you give them a “yellow shirt” award. Get creative and have fun!
2. Virtual Wins with Video Assessments
As one friend told me, you can ask your students to be on camera, but it is not required for them to be on the screen, even when the entire class is on the screen. Some students are shy and other students may find being on screen overwhelming or distracting. No matter the reason, it’s hard to engage students when you can’t see their faces.
A feature in SAP Litmos Training – Video Assessments – could help with this challenge. These are videos filmed within the LMS platform for managers to review, so that the learner can improve in a particular scenario or communication, such as a sales presentation or elevator pitch. While I can’t say for sure that this will get your students on the live screen, perhaps having video activities that they can control and do at their own pace will make them more comfortable when the entire class isn’t online.
You can also try out the random acts of gamification as mentioned above. Some fun screen-friendly awards could encourage them to be on screen and engage with the group.
3. Microlearning for Better Outcomes
I would never pretend to know how hard it is to put together a curriculum and lesson plan to virtually train children. But I do know that when it comes to the L&D industry, we support the use of microlearning. Broadly speaking, microlearning offers learning delivered in short, focused bites.
Teachers might find success with this approach as well. Putting together small chunks of learning content could shorten self-guided sessions and increase on-screen engagement. Especially for younger learners, long blocks of content may be counterproductive by being overwhelming, difficult to complete, and too much to retain.
4. Weaving Feedback into the Learner Experience
At SAP Litmos, we love receiving feedback, especially from people directly using the products. Hearing what customers say and knowing what features they’d like to see helps guide our roadmap in an effort to make better solutions. Teachers can try the same tactic – ask your students what is working for them and how you can make their experience better. You might get some silly answers, but there might also be nuggets of wisdom you can use to your advantage. Young learners are digital natives and may experience technology very differently than their teachers. That perspective could prove invaluable as you continue to hone your digital learning strategy.
Overall, the circumstances teachers are facing won’t be solved with a single blog post or even an awesome learning platform, but we hope these tips from the business world can serve as a small but useful resource for teachers bravely navigating a new world.
If you’d like to help teachers during this time, check out this list of resources for supporting your local teachers.