40+ Tools for Distance Learning (A response to COVID-19)


All UAE schools are closed for a month as a preventative response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The first two weeks will be Spring break, followed by two weeks of distance learning. Some other countries around the world have temporarily shut down schools including China, Japan, Iran and Korea. The spread of a virus behaves like an exponential function and will likely affect the education of students over the next few months.

How do you implement distance learning?

Distance learning involves students learning remotely, most commonly through the use of online learning platforms. Amidst global economic uncertainty, as an educator there are factors you can control such as equipping yourself with online learning tools to support your students from afar.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of distance learning for students?

Benefits of Distance Learning for students

  • Freedom to study at your own pace
  • You can study anywhere at any time (asynchronous approach)
  • Self-regulation of learning
  • Online learning tools are easy to use
Student studying at home

Disadvantages of Distance Learning for students

  • Chances of distractions are high
  • Easy to lose track of learning schedule
  • Limited face-to-face interaction with classmates and teacher (if any)
  • Learning is limited to Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Quality of learning is restricted

What online tools are available to you?

Here are 40+ tools that can help you create the best distance learning experience for your students.

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

LMS are widely used in schools and allow for efficient communication between teachers and their class. LMS can be used to upload class work, create assignments, create quizzes, track quiz results as well as communicate with students and parents.

Tools include:

Content Presentation

How will you deliver lesson content? Do students have access to an online textbook or will you summarise notes in slides?

Tools include:

Formative Assessments

To review students’ understanding of content, you can embed interactive questions within your slides. This allows you to modify your lessons to ensure you are meeting the needs of your students.

Q&A

Tools include:

Collaboration Tools

Imagine every student in your class contributing to a brainstorm digitally! Simply share a public link for your students to contribute.

Tools include:

Collaboration

Create Instructional Videos

Record your teaching and post them onto your LMS. Be creative!

Tools include:

Live-video Stream

If your school has decided to implement a synchronous approach to learning, where all students are to learn at the same time, these tools are absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you may consider hosting periodic live sessions to answer questions from students.

Live lesson

Quizzes

Students can revise on these sites or create their own quizzes and send it to their peers.

Tools include:

Interactive Maths Learning

Students can compete maths questions online and receive immediate results. Often schools will already be attached to an online maths platform.

Tools include:

Projects/Reflection

Create a project for students to complete. It may include an element of surveying the community, presenting information and reflecting on the task.

Investigation

Tools include:

Recommendations

  • Communicate regularly with your students.
  • Give clear instructions. For each lesson, include learning objectives and instructions for task submission.
  • Organise lessons well and use folders on your LMS.
  • Provide regular feedback on student work. Students can, for example, take photos of their written work and then submit it through their LMS for feedback.
  • Provide student choice e.g. Submit a video demonstrating how you solved a question or create 3 questions of increasing complexity, send it to a friend and peer assess their work.

Support your fellow educators & share your ideas for distance learning!

7 Student-Centred Learning Strategies in Maths


Recently, I have been experimenting with student-centred teaching and learning strategies in Maths class. Student-centred learning is an approach to education that places the learner in an active role in the classroom. The teacher then becomes the facilitator of learning.

I have found that this model of teaching requires a much higher degree of classroom management than traditional methods, however, ripples with immense benefits to the learning culture of the class. There are immediate signs of increased student engagement and autonomy. It is well worth the efforts in planning and implementation. Its success is influenced by the teacher knowing each learner’s needs, managing the classroom effectively and expecting the most from each student in each and every lesson. It is a powerful approach to learning Maths pillared on high expectations and teaching to the highest standard.

Strategy #1: Mini whiteboards

Pros:

  • Mini whiteboards is a common assessment for learning tool that allows the teacher to provide immediate feedback to their students. It can also be used for pair/group activities and student led discussion within the classroom.
  • Students are sometimes reluctant to write their ideas down in their books because of fear of being wrong. This helps break down that barrier.

Tips:

  • Use foam sponges as the eraser. This is more economical long-term.
  • Mini whiteboards are very versatile so be creative! It can be used for students to check their understanding of mathematical concepts, address misconceptions and accelerate the pace of the lesson to allow more time for higher order activities.

Precautions:

  • It can be messy!
  • It requires materials including whiteboard markers, whiteboards and erasers.
  • It is a routine that needs to be taught. Students need to refrain from doodling, drawing on the table etc.

Strategy #2: Visualiser for students to explain their work

Pros:

  • Students love to be at the front of the room showing their work on the visualiser (document camera). The student becomes the Student Expert, i.e. a class leader and instructor.
  • Displaying and deconstructing work on the visualiser allows for best practice to be modelled for students. It can be book work, a good diagram, the layout of a worked solution to a question etc.

Tips:

  • Set up the visualiser to the correct position and relieve your duty at the front of the class to the Student Expert. Place yourself at the back of the room, then allow the student to lead class discussions.

Precautions:

  • The visualiser may require initial testing to ensure that it is focused on the correct area of space.
Visualiser cartoon

Strategy #3: Students model their answer and teach the class

Pros:

  • Students modelling their answers provides opportunity for some students to lead class discussions, others to self-assess their work and for the teacher to address misconceptions and comment on best practice.

Tips:

  • Encourage the Student Expert to ask the class for help for tedious steps (e.g. large multiplications) to accelerate the pace of the explanation.

Precautions:

  • Create a safe and supportive environment where it making mistakes is considered essential to part of the learning process
  • Proactively teach appropriate etiquette e.g. If the Student Expert has made a mistake on the board, students should raise their hand to address the issues instead of calling out.

Strategy #4: Split class into smaller groups to solve harder problems

Pros:

  • Working in smaller groups enables multiple high ability learners to lead discussions.
  • It also encourages social support and student self-regulation, which are skills that are often overlooked in the Maths classroom.

Tips:

  • It is useful to have multiple large whiteboards in the room for this activity.
  • The smaller the groups the better.
  • Consider how the groups will be created. They could be differentiated by ability where lower ability learners are given scaffolds or they can be mixed groups where no scaffolds are given.

Precautions

  • Working collaboratively generally requires a flexible classroom layout where students are able to move to the area in which they are working

Strategy #5: Students to teach alternative methods of working out the same question

alternative methods cartoon

Pros:

  • Comparing alternative methods of work acknowledges and values different ways of thinking. Often Maths is taught using the teacher’s preferred method of working, however, comparing methods enables students to develop an understanding of the creative application of an individuals mathematical capabilities.

Tips:

  • Students to remain working until the Student Experts have finished writing their solutions and are ready to discuss. This maximises the time in the lesson students spend working productively.
  • An additional task may be to deconstruct alternative methods of completing a question.

Precautions:

  • Similar to other student-centred activities, a culture of appropriate feedback etiquette to be developed.

Strategy #6: Use of online Maths teaching and homework platforms

Examples:

Pros:

  • Maths technology is naturally engaging for students as they are able to use their devices.
  • Students receive instant feedback on their answers and, depending on the site, are provided with hints and explanations for each problem.

Tips:

  • It can make a good starter or extension activity.
  • Consider using appropriate time constraints.
  • Set clear targets i.e. Complete task on Factorisation.

Precautions:

  • Depending on the site, the questions may not be differentiated. In this case, set targeted tasks for different learners.

Strategy #7: Students to tutor their peers if they move fast through class work

Pros:

  • Students become experts when they are able to explain concepts they have learnt to others. It can be mutually beneficial for both parties.

Tips:

  • The class seating plan should accommodate this strategy. For example, high ability learners can be seated with low ability learners to enable communication.
social support cartoon

Precautions:

  • Recognise positive behaviour such as patience, self-management, the use of mini whiteboards for teaching etc.
  • Unproductive behaviour such as arrogance, disruptions and loitering should to be nipped in the bud.

These strategies listed can be adopted into other KLAs. Positive results from any strategy will arise from consistency, positive reinforcement of good behaviour and purposeful practice.

What has are some strategies that are focused on the student-centred learning? Share your ideas on how to improve student outcomes in our classrooms!

16 Tips for Beginning Teachers


Recently, I was asked to speak with a class of Mathematics students who were finishing their teaching degree at a local university. These students were about to embark upon their first year of teaching. I thought to myself, “What would I share?“. What could I tell these bright-eyed individuals that might make a difference to their practice? What would have resonated with me back when I was sitting in their seats?

It was the short, sweet & raw advice that I remembered (No filter!). So here are my top tips for beginning teachers!

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Maths City Project


After I finish teaching a topic, I like to give my students an opportunity to create a piece of work that combines ideas and concepts learnt in the topic. I have especially enjoyed this small project with my younger students. Not only will your students work collaboratively with others, but you will end up with a magnificent classroom display that enhances your learning space to become more positive and welcoming. After seeing my classroom display, other teachers have asked for me to run the project with their class, hence, I’ve decided to upload all the resources I’ve used so that any teacher can pick up these instructions and hit the ground running.

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Teaching kids about $$$


Last year, myself and two colleagues conducted empathy interviews with high school students. The aim of the interviews was to gain a better understanding of what was important to our students. The interviews were conducted as part of a UTS workshop about implementing project based learning at school.

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