Things I’ve tried in online lessons recently

It’s a little while since I wrote anything about teaching online, mostly because I haven’t been doing much of it! Having said that, I’ve still been able to experiment with a few tools and techniques which I’d like to share with you.

Renaming participants for grouping

I found this to be a useful technique when trying to organise breakout rooms, especially for big groups. When I wanted to differentiate a CELTA input session, renaming allowed participants to select which activity they preferred. It was also helpful when I’d decided on the groups before the sessions – I read out the list of who was in which group, with instructions for how they should rename themselves. In both cases, I told participants to add the extra information before their name, which meant my participants list was organised accordingly, making it much faster to set up manual breakout rooms.

White text for answers

This works especially well with shared documents. When setting up a document, you can add an extra column to a table, or an extra page at the end of the document, where you put all of the answers. Change the font to white. In the session, either change the text to black so everybody can see the answers at once, or tell participants to highlight the text without changing the font colour to be able to see the answers themselves without revealing them to anybody else.

Mentimeter for surveys and sharing slides

Mentimeter is a presentation tool which allows you to include interactive content. In the free version you can share two interactive slides within a longer presentation. Examples might include scales, word clouds, ranking, multiple choice, or open ended questions. Results are then displayed on the screen immediately. Here’s an example from a CELTA session on CPD, with participants grading each area out of 5. Mentimeter then displayed the average:

To participate, people go to http://www.menti.com and enter the code which appears at the top of the slide (not shown here).

Apart from the interactive tools, you can include (very cleanly presented) content slides. Anybody looking at http://www.menti.com on their own devices will see the next slide automatically as you move through your presentation. This could be an efficient way of sharing resources without people having to take screenshots all the time. It does mean they’re locked into only moving to the next slide when you move on, and they can’t interact with the content slides, only the interactives, but it could still be useful in some situations.

ActivInspire as an online whiteboard

A huge thank you to my most recent bunch of CELTA trainees for introducing me to this, and showing me a whole range of ways to use it in my TP. ActivInspire was originally designed as software for interactive whiteboards, but it is freely downloadable for anybody to use, even without the IWB hardware. All you have to do is tick ‘personal’ at the relevant point in the download process.

You need to do a little playing around with it to find where everything is, and you can’t use the in-built poll feature as this requires the hardware, but generally it’s a very flexible tool as an online whiteboard. The main things I saw the trainees do effectively was having information prepared at the side of the ‘slide’ and gradually adding it to the board as they elicited it from students. They were also quickly able to flick to a pen, drawing or highlighting tool to draw attention to important features – much faster than you can in PowerPoint for example, and it’s got much more functionality than the Zoom whiteboard had last time I looked.

There are templates already available with the software, and there are many tutorials out there. Here’s are 20 steps to using ActivInspire and here are a set of video tutorials.

A new name!

Thanks to Katie Lindley for finally giving me a name for a technique I’ve used from the start in online lessons: waterfall chat. This is where all participants write their answers in chat, but they don’t press enter until you give the signal. When you say ‘go’, all of the answers appear at once in a kind of upside-down waterfall. This stops them from being able to copy each other’s answers. It works especially well for short answers, maybe multiple choice, true/false, or one- or two-word answers.

A bonus idea…

This is one I haven’t tried out, but came up with when chatting to a friend about possible warmers to get sleepy teens moving in online lessons. Each student suggests one thing to find in the chat, based on e.g. collocations, or with a relative clause (or whatever other grammar point they need to revise), then they have 3 mins to find as many as they can. Student-generated, revision, and movement all rolled into one – what more could you want?!

How about you? What have you been playing with in online lessons recently?

4 thoughts on “Things I’ve tried in online lessons recently

  1. Thanks, really liked the first one, and also had never considered using ActivInspire online (and that’s what we use with IWBs, so would really cut down on getting used to it tiime).

    I’ve also been using white text more and more recently, and it’s a great way to make line by line brainstorming (https://tefltastic.wordpress.com/2019/06/20/line-by-line-brainstorming-tefltastic-classics-37/) work in online classes (probably even better than it works face to face).

    Also tried jigsaw activities recently, with students cutting and pasting within the Word document to put it in order, as a slightly desperate attempt to do something new 45 hours into an online course. Worked surprisingly well, with the added need to keep the texts in short-term memory hopefully good for learning too. Note that you’d need students to be able and allowed to open editable documents such as Word that you send them on their devices , which is not always possible on their work computers if you have Biz classes like me.

    Like

  2. Thanks, great post. I’ve been a fan of ActivInspire for quite a long time and happily brought it with me when I moved to online teaching in March 2000. There are some really useful features, including an option to save your slides as a PDF, which you can send to students after the lesson.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.