If you are facing the daunting task of teaching online due to the coronavirus, I want to help. But before I add to overwhelming amount of information and ideas already out there, I want to remind you of a few things as you prepare for remote learning:
- YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL: You’re not an online teacher. You were not trained or prepared for this. There is no way that you can design an entire online curriculum in a matter of hours or days. Pretending like that is possible is insulting to the virtual teachers among us.
- YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR PRIORITY: You’re probably overwhelmed and stressed during this pandemic, and that is normal. Do not let online teaching consume your life and add to your anxiety. Keep your mental and physical health at the top of your priority list.
- SUPPORT YOUR STUDENTS: Don’t overwhelm them with work. Students need flexibility and grace, just like you do. As long as your district is not requiring live lessons, plan asynchronous work that students can complete at their own pace and on their own time. Remember that students will be worried about other things: their health and their family members’, an unpredictable schedule, taking care of younger siblings, the reliability of their devices and internet connection, etc.
- DO THE BEST YOU CAN, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE REST: This is not going to perfect…it’s going to be far from it. But do the best you can during this tumultuous time, and don’t worry about the rest. Give your students resources, lessons, and guidance, and hope for the best.
Tried-and-True Ed Tech Tools
Although I am about to share 20 of my favorite ed tech tools, please know that you do not need to do or download All Of The Things. If this list stresses you, exit out of the tab and take care of yourself. You do not need to do any or all of these things if you physically or mentally cannot. But if you are in a space where you are searching for some tools to manage remote learning for the next few weeks, I wanted to share what’s helped me.
Although I only taught online for a few months, I spent 3 years teaching in a 1:1 environment with Chromebooks & Google Classroom. I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with different tech tools to find out what works best for students. The following is a list of FREE and manageable websites. extensions, and apps that won’t take you forever to learn. While there are tons of shiny new tech tools and innovative strategies that you could implement, not all of them would work well for this kind of emergency remote learning situation.
If you’re looking for intuitive, practical, and FREE ed tech tools for online teaching during this pandemic, here are my 20 tried-and-true favorites:
1. GOOGLE CLASSROOM
If your school does not have an online learning management system (LMS), then I highly recommend Google Classroom to streamline your remote teaching. Google Classroom is intuitive and user-friendly, and it syncs with many of the websites and Chrome apps/extensions I mention below. Your school does not need to be “a Google school” for you to utilize Google Classroom with your students. All you need is a free Google account. Your students will need one too. With Google Classroom, you will be able to do the following (and lots more):
- Check students’ progress on ALL assignments
- See students’ work & writing (via Google docs/slides) in REAL TIME
- Send reminders to students who have not completed assignments
- Provide personalized feedback to students through comments
- Automatically grade Google form tests, quizzes, exit tickets, etc.
- Efficiently grade all other work submitted through Classroom
- Facilitate class discussions through the “Ask a question” feature (more info on that HERE)
I could write an entire post on utilizing Google Classroom, but then I wouldn’t have room for the other 19 tools…so let me know if that is something you’d like to see and I can work on a separate post. 🙂
2. RECORDED LESSONS
One thing you will inevitably want to do is provide screen-recorded videos for your students. Whether you are lecturing on content or walking your students through directions for an assignment, there are multiple options for recording your screen (and even you, if you want students to see your face in the corner of the screen…totally optional though). My favorite tool for simple screen recording is Loom, a Chrome extension that saves your screen recording as a link (not a file that you have to save/upload anywhere). With Loom, you can see how many people have viewed your video, which gives you a good idea of how many students are doing their work.
Thankfully, Loom has removed all recording limits from its free version in the wake of the coronavirus, so you can record and post as much as your students need. Other free screen recording options include Screencastify (another Chrome extension) and Screencast-O-Matic (which you must download).
3. INTERACTIVE VIDEO LESSONS
If you find yourself wanting to do a little more than a screen recorded lesson, then you’ll be glad to know there’s an amazing free resource for creating interactive video assignments: EdPuzzle! With EdPuzzle, you can upload any video (from YouTube, your own screen recordings, etc.) and embed questions for students to answer as they watch. Once you assign a video, you can see who is watching it and answering the questions, so it makes accountability & grading easy. To learn how to create your own EdPuzzle, check out this thorough tutorial from my friend Jenna at Doc Cop Teaching. If you don’t have time to create your own, you can browse the many existing videos other teachers have uploaded to EdPuzzle.
4. AUDIO RECORDINGS
If you simply need to record audio instructions or feedback to attach to assignments, you can record on your phone, upload to your computer/drive, and attach the file for your students. But there are even easier alternatives, like Vocaroo, a website that lets you record audio and save it as a link (one that you can easily embed into an assignment or post). Another option is this Online Voice Recorder, which saves your audio as an mp3 file. If you want to record yourself giving feedback on a student’s Google doc, then check out the “Voice Comments” Google App.
A hyperdoc is essentially a document (usually a Google doc) with various live links to resources, assignments, websites, etc. It can be used as a scaffolded resource hub for students or as a self-paced lesson module. Whether you dress your hyperdocs up or down, they are perfect for remote learning because everything is in one place. This means less stress for students (and fewer “Wait, what am I supposed to do? questions for teachers). For more information, check out this blog post on how I use hyperdocs, these free hyperdoc templates, and this collection of free ready-to-use hyperdoc resources.
6. DIGITAL GAMES
Digital review games (like Gimkit, Quizlet, Kahoot, and Quizziz) offer an excellent way to keep your students engaged during remote learning. Many of these websites feature engaging live learning games for small groups, as well as individual player options that students can play asynchronously. These games are quite similar, but each has its own unique features (Quizziz features fun memes, Kahoot has “lit music,” according to my students, etc.) so feel free to mix up your instruction and see what students like the best. My students love Gimkit because for each correct answer, they “earn” (fake) money that they can use to buy “powerups” and upgrades. However, the best part of all of these websites is that you can search for existing question sets/games that other teachers have uploaded and edit them to fit your needs. Low prep & high engagement…what’s not to love?!
7. WEB QUESTS
Instead of spending time recording lectures for your students, consider trying something a little different with a Web Quest, a student-centered approach to learning. Similar to a Hyperdoc, a Web Quest is an inquiry-based lesson model (usually housed in some kind of doc). During a Web Quest, students are asked to find, read, and synthesize information online. This can be as structured or open-ended as you make it. You can give students specific links to guide their learning, or you can pose essential questions and see what they gather on their own.
A structured Web Quest may direct students to read this article, watch this video, play this interactive game, etc. while an open-ended one may provide more choice and fewer direct links. Either way, you’ll be surprised at what students can learn on their own. To flip a lecture or PowerPoint into a Web Quest, dissect it and think about it backwards until you can design a series of steps for students. You can find more information and free Web Quests here.
This website is another great tool for creating games, quizzes, diagrams, and creative images for lessons. You can easily generate content games like Pac-Man and “Fling the Teacher” (hilarious) , create “spoof headlines” for lessons, design a fictional Facebook profile for a character or figure, and more. All of these options provide simple, fun ways to make your online teaching more engaging. My friend Staci from The Engaging Station likes to use this to create “breaking news” images to display on her projector and incorporate games into her lessons. You can find examples and more information on her Instagram.
9. READWRITETHINK DIGITAL INTERACTIVES
- Timeline Generator: I love this timeline creator because students can add details and images to the dates they mark on their timelines.
- Trading Card Creator: Students can create a trading card for characters or historical figures.
- Flip Book Creator: This is a fun way for students to represent their knowledge.
Here are some other classic interactive organizers that work would well for online teaching: Plot Diagram, Venn Diagram, and K-W-L Chart. Almost all of these digital interactives can be saved as PDFs and submitted via a LMS like Google Classroom.
10. DIGITAL POSTERS VIA CANVA OR ADOBE SPARK
Canva, Adobe Spark, Venngage: A research + digital poster/infographic is a great option for students during distance learning, and these websites make designing appealing posters easy. Assign students an author, historical figure, literary element, or other topic, and ask them to create an informative, engaging poster to represent their knowledge. You can take this one step further by “publishing” all student posters in a makeshift e-book. As long as students submit their posters in PDF form, use a website like Small PDF to combine the files and save them as a new file. Post that on your LMS for all students to view, and the class instantly has a helpful resource to help them review all of the content.
If you want to incorporate student discussion and interaction, then Padlet is an engaging alternative to your typical discussion forum. You can think of Padlet as a virtual corkboard of sorts. After you create a template and give students access, they can post their thoughts (via words, images, videos, links, docs, music etc) to an essential question on the class Padlet (for all to see). Once students have posted their original responses, they can interact with their peers’ comments by liking, starring, upvoting, and replying (almost like a form of social media). Padlets are super easy to set up, and once everyone has contributed, they become a great resource that you can share on your LMS.
Padlet is great, but if you’re ready to see your students’ faces via video, then try using Flipgrid in your online instruction. Flipgrid allows students to submit short video responses, organizing the videos in a grid. It’s a great way to give all students a voice and facilitate some much-needed virtual interaction. If you want students to submit a project proposal, deliver a presentation, or share a book talk, then Flipgrid is the perfect platform!
13. COMMON LIT, READWORKS, AND NEWSELA
Common Lit, Newsela, and ReadWorks are excellent resources for ELA teachers who are looking to assign reading passages and question sets. These sites offer digital libraries that make it easy to search for excerpts that will pair well with what you’re teaching. If you’re worried about missing out on key instructional time before state testing, these sites are your best bet for test prep in the absence of traditional instruction.
Endless reading assignments will become tedious for students, so consider mixing up your texts with podcasts, which students can access from their phones (or online). Students can practice essential literacy skills and meet standards while listening. While I love listening to podcasts, I’m not an expert when it comes to using them in the classroom, but my friend Ashley at Building Book Love is! She is the “listening is literacy” podcast queen, so check out her blog posts for more information:
As its name suggests, ThingLink allows you to link lots of things in an innovative way, making it perfect for a digital lesson “hub” or starting point. Think of it as a digital alternative to a gallery walk or even learning stations. If you want to introduce students to new content or ask them to explore a subject (perhaps before writing), organize a ThingLink and let them explore everything at their own pace. Better yet, ask students to create their own ThingLinks after researching a topic, and then share All Of The Things And Links with the rest of the class!
16. COLLABORATIVE SLIDESHOWS
Group work in the online setting seems almost impossible, but here’s a solution: Collaborative slideshows! I’ve done these through Google Slides, but I’m sure you can set up the same sort of thing with other learning management systems (such as Microsoft + PowerPoint). All you need is a slideshow (such as Google Slides) that you can set to editable for the whole class. I know this sounds scary, and it can be, but with clear instructions and designated slides, it can work. Create a slide for each student, or a slide for each small group, jigsaw your content, and let students work together to create a master collaborative slideshow.
17. NO RED INK OR QUILL GRAMMAR PRACTICE
If you want to make sure students are working on their grammar skills, consider assigning lessons on No Red Ink or Quill. These grammar websites offer diagnostic assessments, personalized learning, and organized data. You can browse lessons by topics (like parts of speech, capitalization, commonly confused words, etc) and assign what your students need. While both sites offer premium subscriptions, the free versions are robust on their own.
18. E-BOOKS AND AUDIO BOOKS
If your students need access to an e-book or audio-book, there’s a good chance it’s out there somewhere. Try googling or searching on YouTube for audio versions to use while you’re online teaching. There are many read-alouds of poems, children’s books, short stories, and even entire novels/texts on YouTube. Don’t spend the time making your own when someone has already done the hard work and shared it! One great place to find thousands of free e-books in the public domain is Project Gutenberg.
19. VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS WITH GOOGLE EARTH
Your students might be stuck at home self-quarantining, but they can take a virtual field trip with 360 views. Virtual field trips work perfectly for history/geography, as well as for setting in ELA. When I teach Into the Wild, I use Google Maps to drop pins on the different settings, and then I link up 360 views from Google Earth or Google Instant Street View. Then, students choose a setting and write a postcard from a character’s perspective to demonstrate their knowledge of point of view and setting.
If you and your students are overwhelmed by the number of sites you are utilizing for online teaching and learning, then Symbaloo is a great way to organize everything in one place (thus allowing you to post just ONE master link on your LMS). Symbaloo allows you to create a webpage featuring a grid of icons with embedded links. It’s like a doc of simple links, but in a much more appealing and accessible arrangement. In fact, if you’re overwhelmed with all of the resources I’ve shared with you, consider throwing them into a Symbaloo for your own reference just to test it out! 🙂
I hope these ed tech tools make online teaching a little bit more manageable during these uncertain times. If you have any questions about these resources or if you’d like to add to the list, drop a comment below or send me a DM over on Instagram. In the meantime, I’m wishing you the best of luck. Stay healthy and do your best — it’s enough. <3