How to connect with your students in a modern online learning environment.

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To teach effectively, we need to connect in a meaningful way with our students. Teaching is a work of the heart, and it is also one of the most underrated, exploited professions on earth.

Teachers, for the most part, choose to become teachers because they have a desire to nurture impressionable minds in such a way that learners become innovative critical thinkers who believe in possibility, and who aim to achieve their highest potential.

People learn best from other people. Herein lies a possible challenge in the modern, digital classroom – diminishing face-to-face human contact in learning.

A device cannot reach out and give a student a ‘high-five’ for a great effort or understand the look of fear in a student’s body language. A computer does not have empathy or compassion. Nothing on earth can replace looking into a student’s eyes and encouraging them to keep going, despite their struggles. A pat on the shoulder, a: “Well done, I am so proud of you,” cannot be matched by a digital device.

Yet, we cannot avoid or escape the modern world of learning. So, how can we make sure that we connect with out students in a humanly meaningful way, while making the most of digital technology in our classrooms?

Consider these helpful tips:

  1. Make sure that you are using a teaching platform that is a one-stop-shop. Working with numerous platforms to plan, deliver lessons and monitor progress reduces the time that YOU have available to spend connecting with your students. Using a good platform will have you spending less time on planning, managing, and doing admin and more time on finding ways to connect with your students.
  2. Teaching to your student’s needs can consume hours of your personal time in planning. Your teaching platform should allow you to easily create lessons for individual students, pairs, groups or for your whole class. You should not need to leave the platform to make personalized instruction videos so that your students can have you with them, even though you may be focused on another group in the classroom. Video instructions are wonderful as students can stop, rewind, and revisit your instructions. You will be free to roam, conduct group workshops or connect in any number of personal ways with your class.
  3. Marking and feedback are quintessential! Herin lies your power to praise, encourage and motivate even the toughest of your students. Make sure that your platform allows you to add hidden fields into PDF documents, so that the platform does the bulk of your marking for you! Less marking for you means more time for you to connect.
  4. You can only build your students’ self-esteem and learning skills through positive praise and encouragement. Never let an opportunity to acknowledge their progress, no matter how small it may be, slip past you! Even the most defiant student has a need for recognition and acknowledgement. Find those wins! Use video connection to offer praise if you are not physically in front of your student. Add stickers and positive comments to every effort and watch how, being hungry for more, your students will work with greater confidence and determination.

Digital technology can diminish human connectivity, or it can be an extremely helpful tool which can reduce teachers’ workloads and afford them more time to connect with their students – the difference lies in your choice of platform. Choose wisely and enjoy your practice once again!