Summer school on Zoom: a teacher's account of lessons online

Author: Laura Martin, Comms & Programme Manager

Digital Schoolhouse partnered with Middlesex University to encourage the next generation of digital creators to learn new skills in games design. Over the course of three weeks in August, students participated in the free Summer Success Camp to develop KS3 numeracy and literacy, embed digital skills and explore careers opportunities.

Catch up on lessons you missed

Lead teacher at Neatherd High School, Michael Skilton, delivered 9 hours worth of content to aspiring students. Here's Michael's account of the challenges and joys of teaching online:

"Working on delivering nine lessons with Digital Schoolhouse for Middlesex University, the first think to wrap your head around is delivering lessons one way, with minimal feedback.

Set up in my summerhouse with a screen behind my back to give the students consistency, teaching through Zoom is like teaching in the classroom just without any feedback to let you know how you’re doing. However, this has associated challenges. For example, you need to be very reflective and self aware, trying to guess what misconceptions children might have whilst you’re teaching new content. This requires a level of experience to think back to previous lessons with actual students in actual classrooms, and what challenges you face in that environment. 

Teaching through Zoom is like teaching in the classroom just without any feedback to let you know how you’re doing.

Though in practice, there are clear exceptions. For example, not having to behaviour manage, not having to manage operations in the classroom environment, not managing Teaching Assistants, not managing resources, not having to walk to assert yourself in your space, not reacting to student questions, not having to support misconceptions as they occur. Teaching children online is a little like lecturing a group of university students. All I am conscious of having to maintain whilst teaching from home, is composure (because I’m being recorded) and then switching between my camera, my visualiser that is pointed down on my page, and my visual resources on my computer. Then making sure to bounce the right visuals at the right moments and doing this in such a way that you hope is engaging and interesting for the viewers. 

If you’re good at talking, you should have no trouble teaching over video, making sure to plan well in advance and teaching things you know you can do one way is essential. Having enough content that will last you your allocated time is also important, as it is more difficult to leave open ended activities whilst you cannot see what your students are working on. Keeping things tight, concise and interesting enough for you to be excited and enthusiastic about your content is essential too. 

I miss teaching in my classroom, I miss seeing my students, I miss the buzz from teaching new things with that immediate feedback from my kids, and I miss the lighthearted banter. I don’t have to wait long though, school is back on from Monday, let the madness begin again. I’m sure very soon I’ll be missing the slower pace of life that Covid has given many of us." 

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