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Week 7: Online Learning Tools: What’s Worth it?

In March of 2020, the world was turned on it’s head. The resulting Covid-19 Pandemic forever changed the way the world looked at health, employment, and education. Teachers all over the globe were forced into a panicked and rushed version of online teaching. This lead to numerous discussions about online learning, and it’s feasibility and effectiveness going forward. What’s important to remember however is that this discussion has to differentiate true online or blended classrooms, between the emergency Covid-19 response. Online and Distance Education can be an extremely effective form of education, and employing the right tools within these classrooms is a large part of that equation.

Read more: Week 7: Online Learning Tools: What’s Worth it?

When designing an online classroom, I find that there are some key areas that must be addressed, typically by some sort of software. I’ve broken down the following paragraphs into what I consider the most important of these areas, giving several examples for each.

Online Platform (or Learning Management System)

Each online school, class, or blended classroom must have some platform to house their information. Ideally these platforms give students and teachers the ability to organize lessons, link or embed other resources, upload/submit assignments and communicate, all in a clean, easy to navigate manner. There are numerous tools available to schools or classes looking for an online platform, and it’s big business in the Ed.Tech world. Some examples:

Screen Recording

Many teachers wish to prerecord lessons, directions, or explanations in an effort to aid in the flexibility that is common within online and blended classrooms. Having access to screen recording software that is powerful, yet efficient, is important for any online teacher. Many of these tools, also have editing features built into them, allowing teachers to ignore the annoyance of having to record in one software and edit in another. Additionally, some tools offer for the ability to directly upload to places like YouTube, Google Drive, etc. right within the software. The suggestions below are a mixture of free, fremium, and paid versions, each having highlights and drawbacks.

Additionally, many online meeting platforms (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) allow for screen recording within online meetings! This can be extremely helpful for those that wish to record meetings for students that miss.

Video Editing

While some of the tools above also have editing capabilities, having a dedicated video editing application that you are comfortable with often gives you more options, and allows for a higher quality finished product. Another thing to consider is the device you will be editing on. While some software is extremely efficient in your traditional desktop computer setup, there are other options that excel on mobile devices or tablets or

Tools for Collaboration

The motivation behind this section is simple- let’s include the collaboration in our online classrooms that is often touted as one of the major differences when comparing a face-to-face classroom with it’s online counterpart. Parents that are on the fence about having their children join online classrooms are often curious about the potential for seclusion. Teachers that are able to effectively employ tools such as those listed below offer students the potential to engage with their classmates and teachers, even from behind the screen. Some of the software below promotes collaboration by allowing real-time updates in the same document, while others allow for collaboration through projects, assignments, or games.

Please note, these are only some of many, many, tools available online. All of the tools listed above are one’s that I have or currently use in my day-to-day teaching. However, it’s easy for me to say this and a far stretch from employing it in reality. Our blog post asked those of us that do not currently teach online to consider how our current context would shift in an online/distance education format. Like I mentioned above, I was one of the many teachers who had never taught online a day in my life, and rapidly became an emergency online teacher in March of 2020. Although it was a tremendous shift, I found that I was in a better spot than lots of teachers, as I was familiar and embraced many aspects of technology prior to the pandemic. While there was certainly a great deal of planning that went into it, I was happy with my ability to employ recording, editing, and collaboration tools to offer education that was as effective as possible given the situation. Furthermore, as mentioned it is important to distinguish this emergency response to true online teaching. Given more time to plan and prepare, I believe my online teaching could have been dramatically more engaging and efficient than it was during this time.

Additionally, as my role within the school has recently shifted to include much more Learning Support, I believe that my context would change greatly if we were to shift to online or distance education today. My belief is that Learning Support is highly conversation and relationship based. Forging these relationships and conversations online can be quite difficult, as I find that online discussions can lose some of the authenticity that face-to-face discussions have, particularly when discussing sensitive topics or with students who are not fully mature. Keeping students engaged and interested in these important discussions are also more difficult behind a screen. While there are certainly ways to combat these issues, I find that my current context would be much more difficult to do effectively online.

Finally, let me know what some of your favorite tech tools are! What things do you enjoy using in your classroom or planning? What get’s the greatest engagement from your students?

Have a great week!


One thought on “Week 7: Online Learning Tools: What’s Worth it?

  1. Thank you for mentioning all these Colton!
    A few of them are new to me and I will love to try them soon.
    Your statement “Teachers all over the globe were forced into a panicked and rushed version of online teaching” took me back to my days when my school board asked us to teach everything online. I saw so many teachers including me.. struggling with this drastic change and when we started understanding this process we saw our students’ interest deviating from learning and studying. Indeed it was not an easy time for all of us.
    Great post! Thank you


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