How to use 3 Types of Learner Interactions in Online Learning


In February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UAE region, amongst many areas, causing nation-wide school closures. Teachers began flooding online to research, collaborate, train-up and gear-up to fight for quality distance education delivery that each and every student has a right to. Edtech companies were supporting teachers by waiving fees to their services. Telecom companies were working rigorously to ensure their severs don’t burn, due to the wave of teachers and students hopping on to video-conferencing apps.

Flashback to last year when I had the pleasure of team teaching with a brilliant individual who taught me about See Think Wonder. I would describe this teaching strategy as the cool cousin of the traditional, yet still very popular Think Pair Share.

The best way to learn is to do so let’s do it!

Take a look at this photo.

Answer the following questions about the photo.

  1. What do you see?
  2. What does it make you think?
  3. What does it make you wonder?

Here are my responses.

  1. I see a person smiling whilst writing in a book and using a laptop.
  2. It makes me think that she is an independent learner who is confident in keeping up with her daily schedule.
  3. It makes me wonder how to make online learning enjoyable for students.

If you could create positive online learning experiences for students, what might that look like?

In the present, after 5 weeks of distance learning, my school has been proactive in implementing a variety of asynchronous and synchronous learning strategies. To make learning enjoyable for our students, we have used clear expectations and a variety of teaching and learning activities that target different types of learner interactions. Since then, we have shifted our focus to student well-being. It is the students who you are teaching that matter. Empathising with our students is more important than ever before.


3 Types of Learner Interactions in Online Learning

Over 30 years ago, Michael Moore published an article describing the 3 types of learner interactions in distance learning! Never has there been a time where this is more relevant!

Here are some examples of how you can apply the 3 learner interactions to create positive learning experiences for your students.

1. Learner-Content

Use Engaging Videos

There are so many awesome Youtube videos out there that you can embed in your lessons. If you don’t like the ones out there, film your own!

I became a YouTuber last month to share my maths videos & become a digital role model to engage my students. SUBSCRIBE to Classnotes to learn more about high school maths & receive free worksheets (I post around 4 per week!). I am of one of many teachers that are using YouTube make our lessons accessible to the public. Click here to access my free guided Maths worksheets.

If you might want to make YouTube videos, I encourage you to start today!

Microsoft PowerPoint/ Google Slides for Instruction

My school first began distance learning with a purely asynchronous approach via PowerPoint and posting them to our learning management system (LMS), Edmodo. We have since adopted the use of live tutorials using Microsoft Teams.

To make your PowerPoint student-friendly, have clear instructions for the students to follow! Many teachers post their daily instructions on their LMS. The reason why I choose to have the instructions in the PowerPoint is to allow students to do a quick final check that they’ve completed all the tasks before closing the PowerPoint for the day.

Below is the first slide of a Year 8 Maths lesson delivered online.

Games & Simulations

Students can explore mathematical ideas through simulations. There are many sites including Geogebra Materials & PhET Simulations. You can also find online maths manipulative from sites such as Toy Theatre.

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2. Learner-Learner

Collaborative Tasks

Set tasks that encourage students to communicate with each other. Google Suite software including Google Docs & Google Slides as well as Microsoft OneNote allow for multiple people to collaborate on the same document. One

In my ICT classes for example, students have been assigned groups and are creating a website using Google Sites. To ensure each member does some work, allocate group tasks as well as individual tasks that students need to complete.

There are a variety of collaborative whiteboards, you may like to adopt such as Jamboard and Ziteboard.

Asynchronous Discussion

In additional to communication posts via your school’s LMS, students can stay connected on communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams. You can also use Edtech tools such as Padlet for students to respond to prompts and comment on each other’s responses.

Prompt in Padlet in Year 8 Maths for the topic Direct Proportion

Edtech Tools

There are some AMAZING educational tools you can use to facilitate learner-learner interactions. A popular tool for Maths is Desmos. It has activities such as Turtle Time Trials that allow students to see how other students have responded to the same question.

Quiz tools such as Quizizz, allow for multi-player functions where students compete with each other whilst answering content-related questions. It also has Learner-Content interactions too where students can use the Flashcards option to revise concepts from the quiz.

For English, Peergrade is an online tool that allows students to peer assess each other’s writing.

Flipgrid is video discussion platform that I have just started to use. It is very friendly to use. For my Year 9 Maths class, students created videos explaining the similarities and differences between Simple Interest & Compound Interest. Whilst in Year 8 Maths, students filmed a video tutorial demonstrating to solve an equation that they created. I am a very big fan of this app because it promotes student voice and autonomy in their learning.

Btw, I’m a fan of Flipgrid badges!

3. Learner-Teacher

Video Conferencing

There are a variety of video conferencing tools. The popular ones are Microsoft Teams & Zoom. You can then hold live Q&A sessions with students to support questions.

Feedback

Feedback is crucial in the teaching and learning sequence. You can use your LMS Assignment Function for students to submit their work. If students are completing their work in their exercise books, which is common in Maths, then have students take a photo of their work and submit it through the digital drop box. Their work can then be graded and typed feedback can be provided.

You can address misconceptions during video conferences or use tools such as Screencastify to film hints and solutions to exercise questions students have trouble with.


Remember, there is no one-fit model for an online classroom. I think that’s the beauty of education. Adopt strategies that suit your style of teaching to engage the three learner interactions in online learning and listen to the feedback from your students!

Thank you for reading!

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Have ideas about how to use the 3 types of learner interactions?

Post in the comment section below to share your ideas! I would love to hear from you.

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!

Continue reading “16 Tips for Beginning Teachers”

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegre


Disclaimer: I draw connections between Dale Carnegre’s book and teaching. This piece is also a reflection on how the book helps me to understand my own environment.

Behavioural psychology is fascinating to us all. What makes each person tick? Why are some people more successful than others? How do I become more influential?

Continue reading “How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegre”

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.

Continue reading “Teaching kids about $$$”

5 tips for your teaching internship


When I was a pre-service teacher, I was sent to a range of schools including a public and private high school for my practicums (In Sydney, we call them ‘pracs’), and a college which operated alongside TAFE NSW for my internship. In my first year out, I was fortunate to have landed a full-time temporary position at the public high school where I did my second prac.

Here are my tips for getting the most out of your time on prac.

Continue reading “5 tips for your teaching internship”