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Virtual Instruction Tools

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Special Guests in Online Lessons

A colleague of mine (high school social studies teacher) likes to invite special guests to synchronous virtual lessons, and I’m incorporating this into my teaching as well. In the past, he has invited state senators and legislators to attend his sessions, allowing students to learn from an expert and allowing the legislator to learn more about our school.

Benefits of special guests in a virtual lesson are:Image

  • motivating the student
  • providing an expert or second opinion
  • students can prepare questions in advance
  • the session can be recorded and replayed for those who missed it

I am putting a spin on having a special guest in my LiveLesson session tomorrow.  I teach a gifted science course to 4th and 5th graders, and in the second semester we have a long-term science project that ends with a student presentation in a virtual session.  Tomorrow’s lesson shows students what is required in the final presentation, and special guest, former student and current 6th grader, will join me to present parts of his project along with the instructions I provide. He will also be available to answer questions from the students. I hope this motivates the students and helps them realize they can do it!  🙂

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LiveLessons®

As a virtual teacher, I get to teach synchronous lessons when my students log in to my virtual classroom at scheduled times.  At Capistrano Connections Academy, we use Adobe Connect called LiveLesson®.  The screenshot below is from a 3rd grade Literature Study discussion session. Student names and faces were blurred or blocked out for their privacy.

Screen shot of LiveLessonExplaining Pods
In Adobe Connect, the host can move and re-size pods (the little windows you see above) in any way they desire.  Layouts with pods can be saved to easily reuse the same arrangement.  In this particular session, I’ve used the following pods:

  • Chat Pod
    • renamed to be “Discussion Pod” with instructions for students to only stay on topic
    • I do not want to mislabel this as the “Chat Pod” and let the students think they can use it for socialization.
    • I do let the students chat before we begin and if there is extra time at the end, because I do want to allow time for connecting, however we need to stay on topic once we’ve started the lesson.
  • Share Pod
    • Many things can be shared here (website, application, whiteboard), and this is an example of sharing a PowerPoint presentation.
    • The current slide shows student pictures (with faces blurred for their privacy) because I like students to visualize who is talking throughout our discussion.
  • Attendance Pod
    • This pod shows a list of the students present, and will also show their “status” which can be raising hand, showing to speed up/slow down, agree/disagree, etc.
    • I ask students to change their status as a quick way of checking for understanding and attention.
  • Note Pod
    • Notes can be created, re-sized, and saved.
    • In this picture I have a note pod up with the “Focus Question” for our Junior Great Books discussion.
  • Poll Pod
    • Polls are great features to engage the students, vary the lesson, and to get quick feedback from the students.
    • I created this poll quickly during our discussion when I realized the question really only had two answers, and this way the students could see classmates’ opinions and if they changed throughout the discussion.
  • Applets
    • Adobe swf files have been created that work in virtual classrooms.
    • “Stage Lights” appears on the screen and I use it to show the students how much time they have on their microphones.
      • I encourage my students to interact frequently, so I’d rather they use the microphone for under a minute to allow time for responses, rather than talk for about 5 minutes straight and not allow other students to comment and interact with their ideas.

Kinds of Lessons
While the picture above is from a small group literature study discussion, there are other uses for LiveLesson® sessions too.  Here are some that I’ve taught:

  • 3rd-5th grade Shared Writing session
  • 2nd-5th grade Math Lessons
  • 4th Grade Writing Lessons
  • Open Tutoring Lessons
  • 4th-5th grade Science lessons
  • 4th-5th grade virtual science fair presentations

I hope this information is useful and helpful to you.  Do you have any questions or would you like to see more examples?

Do you Scoop It?

I recently learned about Scoop It from Twitter.  Scoop It is a great place to keep track of things you read and come across online that you find useful, specifically to a certain topic.

This is a screen shot of my first curated topic, Virtual Instruction:

Screen Shot of Scoop It Topic Virtual Instruction

You can add the “Scoop It” button to your browser menu bar, and when you are on a particular article, website, or blog page you can add it right to your curated topic page.  It adds an image and description automatically, or you can add your own.  You can suggest posts for the topic areas you follow too.Scoop it App

Some of the benefits I see to Scoop It are:

  • quickly save good information
  • organize by category (it’s okay if your topics overlap)
  • can follow other topics and “rescoop”
  • easily shared via twitter in the same step
  • can add information suggested automatically or by other users
  • I get to save what I find useful (and not what I am not interested in)
  • all the good resources are shown in one place, rather than a series of book marks or weblinks

I find Scoop It very user-friendly, and a great way to store information I want to refer back to on various topics. I now have the following topics: Virtual Instruction, Transitioning Online, Common Core Coming to California, Virtual Leadership, and Public Speaking and Presentations. 

Do you use Scoop It?  What do you think?  What other useful tools do you have for your own professional reading and information gathering/sharing?