“Paperless” is the hot word right now. Some want to save the planet and others want to see the bottom of their desks once and a while. Striving for a paperless work experience came to me through a more practical route. Thousands of miles between myself and my students necessitated finding some virtual alternatives.
Already there are amazing virtual schools with great resources to go along with them. But what do independent online teachers do? I have tried and tested a hoard of applications and services, and here are the ones I use daily! This is not sponsored. All opinions are my own.
My first draft excluded this paragraph all together because it is about something we all take for granted…technology itself. I have a MacBook Air. I run High Sierra macOS. Furthermore, I use an iPad Pro 10.5” with an Apple Pencil, the latter of which is a recent addition to my technological family. I operate my computer and tablet in tandem. Like a good dance team, I cannot tell when one starts and the other ends!
Though a basic app, it is indispensable. I keep track of different timezones. As I travel over state lines and outside the country, it is vital to have a place I can trust for the correct time. That way I am never late for a lesson. At the beginning of each writing lesson, my students always write for 15 minutes, so I whip out my timer. We all tell ourselves we can watch the clock and timers are superfluous, but the reality is that we get distracted. I set the timer so that I can focus on teaching and not watching clocks. Occasionally, I play games with my students. At that time, I use the stopwatch.
Skype/Google Hangouts (Free)
These services allow me to carry out the lesson as a video chat. There are many options within this genre of app. I prefer and primarily use Skype. I keep my students within a contact list to find them easily. During the call, the text chat column stays open on the right, while I converse within the video column on the left. I primarily use “share screen” to display my virtual board. The older version of Skype (Version 7.58) supplies all my needs; the newest update took away some key features.
Google Calendar (Free)
Not for personal use, I use this only to diligently list my lessons. I keep each student within their own calendar. I share them individually with my students and also with their guardians (if applicable). What I write there is binding, and it keeps everyone accountable and on track.
In short, this is my virtual whiteboard. I utilize this as an old-fashioned board with some modern twists. Pictures and diagrams can be dragged onto the screen directly. I can type and write freehand. Lines, circles, and squares are available to me. There are good color options to choose from — black, dark blue, light blue, green, purple, red, and yellow. BaiBoard is a white canvas for me to share and impart whatever I need.
I utilize this in the same fashion as BaiBoard, only on my iPad instead of computer. I freehand everything within this app and can draw more intricately.
My own personal folder and notebook, where I keep all my textbooks, handouts, assignments and notes.
Quick Tip – Use templates!
I learned to write in cursive in third grade. Instead of using a ruler, my teacher had a mechanical device that held three pieces of chalk evenly spaced and perfectly straight. She glided it across the board with the ease akin to water sliding off an umbrella. What a time and hassle saver! Why reinvent the wheel? I bring this into my online teaching. I use templates for the board layouts I regularly employ. This is particularly useful in Latin, though English sentence diagrams can be made into a template as well. Don’t forget to keep these in a very easily accessible folder for quick access.
Don’t work harder, work smarter. Technology opens the world and shrinks limitations. I hope these apps will transform your virtual teaching experience!