Technology Resources for Educators
When considering meaningful engagement in learning through remote means, additional considerations need to be made by educators including the identification of the approved instructional technology tools that will best support the chosen learning objectives, and promising practices in online pedagogy. The tips and tools for LPS’ educators provided here are intended to support the ways in which teachers and other staff are thinking about sharing learning opportunities with students.
Blended and remote learning models rely on the use of traditional curriculum materials and resources delivered through the instructional technology tools that are chosen to facilitate or enhance the learning process. In Lincoln Public Schools, when we consider meaningful student engagement through remote means, we must think about how to design learning experiences that also effectively support the introduction of and interaction with our standard curriculum materials when students are not present in the classroom.
Online pedagogy requires thoughtful consideration of the communication process: When and through what method will students and their significant adults be informed of online class time, lesson content, lesson activities, and expectations for the demonstration of student demonstration? Once the communication methods are identified and information is shared, then students will be better equipped to engage in live video sessions, online discussions, and/or independent learning that they document and share in some way.
LPS' educators are fortunate to be able to learn from educators across the globe that have successfully engaged thousands of students in school beyond the walls of a traditional classroom. The Global Online Academy and International Schools Services are two organizations that have already trained hundreds of teachers and developed online resources. We can use the learning from these organizations to inform our work.
The Global Online Academy's mission is to reimagine learning to empower students and educators to thrive in a globally networked society. This organization has a wealth of resources, including online learning for educators. The resources from the Global Online Academy are very informative. Lincoln Public Schools educators who would like to learn lessons from educators around the globe are encouraged to check out what's available. The GOA list of 15 Strategies for Online Learning When Schools are Closed is a blog post that provides excellent ideas for educators to consider when shifting learning to a blended or fully online model.
When reviewing the suggestions, remember that the instructional tools identified by GOA may or may not be approved for use with LPS students. Please check the Matrix prior to use.
The International Schools Services supports the global education community. Their website has comprehensive information designed to support teachers who work in international schools. Often, these educators work with students remotely simply because of the nature of the mobility and travel of the parents. International Schools Services has done well is develop a comprehensive set of guidance for schools and school systems to use when they shift to an online approach to teaching and learning. LPS educators are encouraged to review the information about online pedagogy to learn lessons from the ISS teachers that can support students in our school district. The International Schools Services Online Pedagogies are especially helpful for all educators; the information also includes suggestions targeted to teachers of the Arts, Early Learning students, or Health and Fitness.
All teachers who offer remote learning in LPS should be using Google Classroom as the platform for content delivery at this time.
Educators and students in Lincoln Public Schools are familiar with and use a variety of online tools. The Matrix offers a look at the previously approved tools in LPS.
It is up to each individual classroom teacher, in consultation with district and building colleagues, to make the decisions about which instructional technology tools will best serve additional instructional needs of the classroom. Choosing which tool(s) to use with students is dependent upon what the educators in each school, grade level, and/or department know will match what their students already know and can do with online technology.
The Educational Technology Analysts in LPS Computing Services are happy to meet with teams at the district or building level to identify needs, strategies for meeting needs, and support the operational use of core LPS approved tools. Please feel free to reach out to Kristi Peters to start that dialogue.
Creating & Delivering Multimedia Content
LPS provides all of the tools necessary for creating video or audio based content, and delivering it online. Following are the most common teacher needs, and our first suggestion in each scenario. If the proposed solution does not meet your needs, there are often alternatives within LPS that might, and they are listed as well.
There are a number of ways to record yourself talking directly to a camera so that students can learn from your content. Despite the many options available, LPS recommends using MyVRSpot, as it is easy to use and share with students in the district. Follow the link below to learn more about this approach to recording instructional material.
Best Practices for Recording Yourself
- Nobody likes the way they look or sound on a recording. It’s human nature. Don't let it stop you.
- Proactively practice smiling before you even hit record.
- Dress professionally. People tend to look best on camera in solid colors, but not in black or white clothes.
- Sit close to the screen. Your face should fill most of it.
- Look directly into the camera lens (not the screen) and act like you are speaking to a real person. Let your personality shine through.
- It can be harder to understand people on recordings than in person. When you’re talking, go a little slower than you might speak normally. Pause between sentences.
- Create a list of talking points before you begin and keep it where you can see it.
- Shorter videos are better than longer videos in almost every circumstance.
- Perfection is not expected or required in most cases. Don’t worry about a few ‘ums’ or ‘ahs.’
Best Practices for the Recording Environment
- Make sure the space behind you is clean, free of distractions, and is appropriate for student viewing.
- Make sure the room is well lit.
- Don’t sit with a window behind you. Face a window or light source if possible.
- If you are recording in a quiet environment, you don’t need a special microphone or camera. However, using an external microphone of any kind can improve the recording. Even a pair of earbuds with a microphone might help.
- A room with more fabric will help to absorb ambient noise and optimize your audio. If you are able, close any nearby windows or doors.
- Elevate your laptop so that the camera looks slightly down at you, if possible. It's a more flattering angle of your face.
- Don't worry about the recording quality. In most cases default camera settings (720p HD) are good enough. Higher quality recordings create large file sizes which take longer to upload and process.
- Do a short test recording and listen to it. There is nothing worse than finishing a 10 minute recording, only to realize that the camera or mic wasn’t working as expected.
If you would like to record activity on your computer screen, whether it be to demonstrate how to accomplish a digital task or to display digital content, you may want to create a “screencast,” or a video that captures your screen. LPS recommends that teachers use the tool MyVRSpot to accomplish this task, as it allows the user to add voice narration to enrich the video layer. Follow the link below to learn how to produce a screencast using MyVRSpot.
Best Practices for Screencasts
- Make sure there is no sensitive info on your screen, like student data, grades, staff communications, etc.
- Make sure all of the content you want to show is open or loaded before you start recording, if possible.
- Declutter your screen to reduce distractions.
- Consider what’s visible in your bookmark bar, open tabs, etc.
- Turn off Zoom or chat notifications.
When recording your screen, you might choose to enhance your content and instruction by including a recording of yourself narrating the activity within the same video. This method of multimedia delivery is similar to “picture-in-picture” in that it displays a smaller video within a larger, full-frame video. It enables students to see your face as you speak, which enhances their comprehension of the material. Follow the link below to learn how to record yourself and your screen at the same.
If your content exists in a slide deck, you may want to record a narration to go along with the slides as students (or other audiences) view them. There are a few different avenues to accomplishing this end-result. The easiest solution is to record a screencast while your Google Slides are open full-screen. Instructions for screencasting are shared here.
Alternatively, the following LPS solutions also offer ways to accomplish the same results:
- Microsoft PowerPoint allows users to record narration over slides, then save it as an .mp4 video file.
- WeVideo allows you to import your Google Slide deck, and narrate over the individual slide images.
- Zoom allows you to present slides full screen, include a picture-in-picture of yourself, and record the whole thing.
If you need to record just an audio track without any video, LPS recommends using either MyVRSpot or Soundtrap to create such a recording. MyVRSpot is a straightforward audio recorder without any editing or mixing, whereas Soundtrap offers full editing and layering in the cloud. Soundtrap also produces a corresponding transcript that serves accessibility purposes. Follow the link below to learn more these processes.
Instead of having students watch a full video then quizzing them on the content afterwards, you have the ability to pause the video and embed questions for students to respond to before they continue with the rest of the video. You don’t have to be the person who created the video, you can do this to videos pulled in from other sources, like YouTube. Learn how to use this strategy in a tool called SmartSpot, which is part of MyVRSpot, where your videos are probably stored anyway.
Communicating with students is integral to the process of teaching and learning. While several technology tools facilitate this communication, LPS advises teachers to use the messaging capabilities in Google Classroom, which supports private messaging as well as more public, class-wide conversation.
Use Zoom to check-in with students, respond to any questions they might have, and maintain regular contact outside of the classroom. Because of its remote conferencing capabilities, Zoom is an ideal platform to hold these conversations with students. To learn more about how to meet with students via Zoom, click the link below. All LPS staff should access Zoom via the desktop application.