Online Teaching: How to make your lesson more interactive

Online Teaching
How to make your lesson  more interactive

The “day after” is here and you have already started going online. It may not be as scary and fraught with technical problems as you thought it would be but still there is something missing… INTERACTION!

How can you overcome the feeling that you are glued in front of a monitor and you cannot mingle in class, you cannot hover or get a feeling of the class mood. Nothing can replace human contact but there are ways you can liven up your lesson  and keep attention span and interaction at high levels.

In this post, I will suggest three ways: web 2.0 tools, polls, and the chat box.

1.     Polls
Most platforms incorporate polls in their paid version. If you use a free version, create a poll using MS Forms or any other survey tool and share the link on the chat box. The poll could be on something related to the lesson e.g. "what kind of food do you prefer ?"(healthy/junk) for 4th graders who are being taught comparisons or current affairs issues that could spark discussion such as “Should a curfew be imposed in our city?” for advanced classes. Invite them to complete it and then share the result or even better, send the graphs to a couple of students and ask them to present the results in class next time.

2.     Use the chat box
You can easily invite students to share their reactions on the chat box (thumbs up or any other emoji, short replies). This will give them the feeling that they are actively involved and you will have a good picture of whether your virtual class is with you or they are simply surfing the social media with their mobile phones placed in front of the computer monitor. In addition, you can make the most of the one-to-one (private) chat to give personal feedback to your students, encourage them, or receive feedback on the quality of sound and video or even better asking for clarifications or asking questions that would hesitate to ask in plenary.

3.     Use Web 2.0 tools that require interaction with students
    There are many tools, most of them free. In this post I will give an example with two tools that most teachers are familiar with, Kahoot and Mentimeter. The first one allows you to do exercises with your students in an environment that resembles a quiz show and students can use their mobile phones as joy sticks to choose the correct answer. The second one allows students to form a word cloud or share their views online and in real time. Both tools have more features but for a start, you can try the ones I mentioned above and gradually incorporate the others (for teacher who have not used them before, you will find useful tips further below in the post).  How can you do it?
             With Mentimeter
-          Create a presentation before the lesson. Choose word cloud. Write the question you want your students to answer e.g. What are the benefits of online learning? Set the number of words you want your students to enter.
-          During the lesson, open the presentation and share your screen with your students. Every online platform has this function but you need to make sure you have found it before  the lesson.
-          Tell your students to follow the instructions on the mentimeter slide (it reads: “Go to www.menti.com “ and then it gives them the code to access it. )
-          Keep sharing your screen with your learners while they  enter their answers on their mobile phones. A word cloud is constantly changing shape while they enter their answers
-          When they have finished, use the input they have provided to make comments and spark discussion. Take into consideration that the bigger a word appears the more students have entered it onto the word cloud. So you can find which views are more common that others.

From my experience, students are thrilled with the outcome and they feel they have ownership of the word cloud which means that they are motivated to participate and contribute.

With Kahoot
-          Follow the same procedure as above. Create a game based on what you have      taught.
-          Share your screen and sound and invite them to use their mobile phones.
-      Praise the winners and all the contestants.

The teacher uses a different site to the one that students use. With Kahoot, it is www.create.kahoot .it  while students enter the pin on www.kahoot.it . With mentimeter, you create the presentation on www.mentimeter.com while the students enter their code and answers on www.menti.com. Both tools provide a new pin/code every time you use them. I have often made the mistake of giving my student an old pin/code on a slide. It works better if you project directly the tool on your screen and share it with your students.

More tips
If you avoid excessive use and you alternate them, they will spice up your lesson and give learners a sense of participation and engagement.  When you try them for the first time, don’t hesitate help from a student that is tech savvy and can be relied on. Make them co-hosts so that they can help if something goes wrong.

Enjoy the lesson!
Dimitris Primalis


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