6 Distance Learning Tips for Teachers - History Gal

6 Distance Learning Tips for Teachers

For most of us, this is unprecedented. We've had temporary closures for the flu and the stomach bug, snow days, ice days, wind days, hurricane days, tornadoes, and fires, but I have never seen entire states and nations close down schools for an undetermined amount of time. If you are a stressed out teacher, you are not alone! 

Deep breaths. It will be OK. You've got this.

Second, figure out your digital learning platform. 
If your school system isn't choosing a platform for you, there a lot of choices out there -  Schoology, Google Classroom, Canvas, Edmodo, Zoom, just to name a few. In order to decide, you'll need to know what you want the platform to do.
  • Do you want to just post assignments and then have students email the completed assignments to you? 
  • Do you want to post assignments that students complete and turn in with the platform? 
  • Do you want to use extensions (small software programs that let you do some custom things) on the platform? 
  • Do you want to meet digitally?
Once you know what you need the platform to do, you can pick the platform that will work best for you.

Want some advice?

Third, use what you already have.

  • These can be loaded directly to most platforms. If the PowerPoint size is too large, you can divide it into parts before uploading it. 
  • PowerPoints can easily be converted into Google Slides with very little work on your part. Upload the PowerPoint to your Google Drive. Once it is uploaded, open it. At the top, you'll see an option with a pull down menu that says "Open with." Choose Google Slides and Google will automatically convert it into Slides! (note: some animations and custom fonts may not convert perfectly). Then, use the File menu to save it as Slides in your Drive.
  • If your PowerPoint is too large to open in Preview, Google will not give you the option to convert it. But, don't stress! All you have to do is divide your PowerPoint into smaller parts before uploading it to Drive. Once the parts are all in Drive, you can merge them back into one large PowerPoint or you may keep it separated into parts.

Did you know that students can type right into a PDF? They can!
  • If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can create fillable fields that students can type in by adding text boxes to the document. 
  • Adding text boxes does tend to be a very tedious process so the easiest way to let students interact with a PDF digitally is through an online program or extension. DocHub and Kami are two great programs/extensions to use that allow students to write/type/draw/color right on the PDF.
  • Leah Cleary has a fantastic tutorial on using DocHub if you want to learn more.

Word files are very easy to share, BUT it is very easy for students to accidentally delete your text. It is best to first save your Word file as a PDF before uploading it so students cannot delete your instructions, questions, etc.

Fourth, think about what you are assigning and what you will have to grade. 
Just like with paper work, you can stagger due dates so everything does not get submitted all at once. Consider using Google Forms and extensions to automate grading. Intrigued? Click here to learn how Leah Cleary creates self-grading quizzes.

Fifth, listen to the advice from teachers who have experience with digital or e-learning.

Lastly, think about all the things you wish you had time to do with your students.
Well, maybe now you do.
  • Have students read a book of their choice that connects to a historical event and video chat with them about it.
  • Read a book virtually to your students at a designated time each day on Zoom or Google Meet.
  • Have your students listen to music and find songs that connect to a historic event. They can share their songs and the historic connections on your digital learning platform.
  • Do your students realize they are now living during a historic event that their kids and grandkids will learn about in school? Have them create a journal that documents what they did/saw/talked about once or twice a week and they'll be the author an actual primary source! 
  • Have your students watch a historical movie and compare the movie to what actually occurred - they can make a simple chart to shown what they learned.

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