Guest post by Frank Freeman, co-founder of Propagate.
Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or tutor, you’ve probably been faced with the challenge of needing to explain something to a student through a digital medium such as phone, email or text. As a private tutor, graduate school instructor, and entrepreneur, I’ve collected many ideas on how to do this successfully. I’ve curated a short list of tools and tips that have made me a more effective communicator with my students.
Google Hangouts While Skype is always a great option, I find that Google Hangouts works more smoothly for online sessions. Their screen sharing feature is fast and intuitive, and it allows the presenter to share either a single application or the entire screen. Integration with other Google tools is a cinch, and students love Google Effects, which allows them to draw on the screen, or wear silly hats and props.
Google Docs Google Docs is outstanding for helping students write papers or short-answer responses. The application allows multiple contributors to simultaneously edit the content of a document, and add comments as well. When students and parents use the application for the first time, they are always excited to see their instructor typing in real time.
AWW: A Web Whiteboard awwapp.com is a free white board tool perfect for demonstrating solutions to math problems remotely. I highly recommend the purchase of a nice computer mouse, such as those used by gamers, as it will allow for more precision when drawing on the whiteboard.
Calendly This app has greatly simplified the scheduling of my online sessions. It syncs with my calendar, so I can just send a single link to my students and it will let them know my availability. It blocks out times when I’m unavailable, and sends me an email when students schedule time with me.
Asana Asana is widely used as a project management platform for small businesses, but it can also be used to track student progress on homework and group projects. The platform allows teachers to easily create and track assignments, and the mobile app sends notifications to students, letting them know once you’ve created a new assignment. It also allows students to easily upload files or screenshots for accountability purposes.
Get students’ work ahead of time. Many times, student homework assignments are available in PDF format. If you’re conducting an online session, communicate to students, parents, and teachers that you prefer to have all materials ahead of time. In the event that you don’t get these, or if the student needs to send content from a textbook, you can just have the student take a picture with their phone and send it by email.
Use an external monitor. With the use of an external monitor, you can use the additional screen real estate to keep an eye on more resources.
Use the chat window to send links. Whether you’re using Google Hangouts or Skype, you can use the chat window to quickly send helpful information, such as hyperlinks.
Learn to watch for student engagement. Learn to watch your students’ behaviors to determine when they are on- or off-task. You can also ask them to share their screen with you at any time so you can verify that they’re not engaging in off-task activities during your remote session.
Take Screen Shots. Quickly show your students something you found on the web, or permanently save an image into your Google Drive or online portfolio.
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For more from Frank Freeman and Propogate, follow him on twitter @propagatevocab