Firstly I hope everyone is hanging in there and doing well with everything going on right now! Many schools are now facing a situation they never dreamed possible and the technology is now at the forefront. This post is going to move around a little on a few different topics. The first thing techies need to remember is many teachers are not comfortable with technology outside of browsing the internet, sending some emails, and creating documents. Having to teach online and using video conferencing tools can be very overwhelming to many. For my fellow techies please be patient and really take things slow when helping teachers navigate this process.
Secondly, everyone should keep in mind is this is not the time to introduce new systems, features, or programs unless it is absolutely necessary. We also need to make sure we support each other as this has been a very stressful time. I know my inbox has been flooded with questions and I work in a small school district.
Like many schools, we are a G Suite school so much of our online instruction is using Google Classroom. Many of our teachers have been using it for the past couple of years but there is a large portion of our teachers that have not been using it. This past year I have created an audio/video studio in our district that we call Panther Studios. I am slowly starting the process of offering opportunities for students to learn about media production. This past week with the amount of crash course learning fellow teachers have been going through I decided to create some video tutorials specifically for our staff. These are mainly geared towards G Suite but if you are interested in any of them you can view them on our YouTube page here. Over the next few days, I will be adding a number of additional tutorials. If you have anything you would like to see added to the list of tutorial videos please leave a comment below.
We need to keep in mind that this is a stressful time for everyone, teachers, techies, administrators, students, and parents. That stress on top of learning to use new systems can cause quick frustration so again, please keep that in mind when working with colleagues, students, and parents! That is what I really like about the video tutorials. I have been using a program called Camtasia that has been absolutely wonderful for creating these tutorials. It is considered one of the standards for creating video tutorials and has a ton of features. If it is something you are interested in doing they have a free demo so you can check it out. I can’t speak more highly of it. We had a staff meeting today where questions on how to disable Google Classroom notifications have been a problem for many due to receiving tons of email notifications for students and staff. Within 15 minutes of the staff meeting ending, I had a video tutorial created showing how to change your notification settings.
The largest piece to online learning is the video conferencing. There are so many systems out there right now that it can be overwhelming. The main thing to keep in mind is to try and have everyone agree on the same one or two systems when communicating with students. What you don’t what is teacher A uses Zoom, teacher B used Google Meets, Teacher C uses Skype, and so on. This will only confuse parents and students. The best would be to have everyone agree on using just one system but I definitely understand that for some, one might be better than the other. Google Meets might work for most everyone but for a few teachers, the features in Zoom meet their needs a bit better. As long as you stay within one or two systems it will make it easier to keep everything straight for teachers, parents, and students along with making it easier for techies to support.
I am not going to get much into the technical details behind how to make video conferencing better, I will post about in the coming days but the main thing is to purchase a mic. You don’t need anything fancy, even a headset with a mic on it, not the iPhone like earbuds with attached mic but something more made for gaming or video conferencing. I will make a post going into more detail on how to have the best audio/video in video conferencing.
Again, I hope everyone is hanging in there and doing well! If there is any support I can offer please leave a comment below. I believe at the end of this we will come out with some interesting new ideas and ways of doing things. I am hopeful we will no longer have snow days in our district since we can easily cover those occasional days through e-learning. Stay strong everyone, stay positive, and support each other!