Originally published to eSchool News - May 25, 2021
My teaching philosophy is that the content is no longer the commodity. When I was in school, I had to go to school every day because my teachers had all the information and I had to get it from them somehow. Kids these days have access to all the information they could ever ask for at their fingertips, on the internet.
I teach computer literacy at Digital Academy of Florida (DAOF) and I’ve found numerous ways to keep my students engaged in my short time there. I start by highlighting that it’s their class, not mine. They’re in the driver’s seat.
So, if the content is no longer the commodity, then what is? It’s the entire class experience. Every single subject, every single class should be interactive in some way.
I’ve formulated three tips for having a successful online classroom. But this list isn’t limited to just the online space–brick and mortar teachers should look at these tips and rethink how their class is structured, too.
Make your class a game
My classroom would not function as smoothly as it does if I didn’t gamify each aspect in some way. What this means is structuring class time into somewhat of a game. This keeps things meaningful–not just a means to an end, as most classes are structured.
How I do this is through digital badging. The concept of digital badging has been gaining steam in the professional and academic spheres for years now, so as a way of keeping track of my students’ progress, I’ve made the means of achieving a digital badge in my class into a game.
I’ve modeled it after Super Mario Bros., but you can model it after any game (it doesn’t have to be a video game). Super Mario is broken up into worlds and those worlds are broken up into smaller levels. So, each unit would be a world and each lesson would be a level. For example, for a Microsoft Word lesson, Word would be a world and Word Art would be a level.
Setting up a digital badging system like a game drives students to be playfully competitive with the rest of their class. Eventually, I hand the keys over to them to create their own badges.
Lay out goals for the future
One of the best aspects of online learning at DAOF is the emphasis we put on our students’ future careers. We always want to make sure that we’re tying every lesson into how they could be using the lesson material in the real world. It’s just another way that we keep class time meaningful.
I make sure to ask all of my classes what they want to do in the future and what they think jobs are. In such a technologically driven world, of course so many of them want to be video game streamers. I always want to keep things realistic and have them keep in mind all the things that they would have to do to become a streamer. And this applies to any field that they may be interested in.
Kids have a somewhat abstract idea of what careers are at the middle school level. We try to define different career paths and set them up on that path in a way that will have them fully understanding what it takes to do that specific job.
Ask for meaningful feedback
As I mentioned before, I want my students to know that it’s our class, not mine. Asking them for feedback and asking them to collaborate with me keeps them in the driver’s seat. I’m in the passenger seat navigating them to their destination.
In keeping them engaged, ask them what works, what doesn’t, and be willing to amend your syllabus to cater to what makes your students tick. As a gamer myself, I was able to connect with a younger generation obsessed with gaming and I molded my class around that shared interest. Treat your students like your colleague or your mentee. Collaboration is key.
At the end of the day, our end goal is to teach students skills and knowledge so that they can succeed in the real world. But that doesn’t mean we have to sit at a podium or in front of a screen and lecture them. An online setting can be incredibly engaging even though you’re not right there with your students. It’s up to you to put in as much as you expect your students to get out.
To learn more about Digital Academy of Florida, visit daof.k12.com