Encouragement and Resources

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You Can Do This

The idea of moving, suddenly, from a way of teaching that is familiar to one that you may have had little or no experience with is naturally stressful.

It is important to remember, therefore, that the bulk of what makes an online teacher successful is no different than what makes a traditional classroom teacher successful: good communication with students, giving students room to add something creative to what they learn, encouragement that shows your confidence students can take what they've done to another level (even when already strong), enthusiasm for learning new things, and humility about being able to improve.

To the extent that stress in an emergency switch to online instruction is a function of not knowing the tools you will use as well as you want, there is help readily available.

Learning Any Tech Tool

You can learn any tech tool on your own time and for free through what I would describe as the most powerful educational resource ever created: YouTube. You've probably used the sprawling video library to find ways to fix or cook something, and teachers need to know that there is a seemingly endless set of how-to videos for the tools you might need to learn.

A few tips, though, can help you find the good ones faster.

First, for a given tool ~, search in YouTube using terms like "an introduction to ~," "~ for beginners," or "~ tutorial" to get started.

Once you get a set of results, try the shorter ones first. If someone can explain something successfully quickly, that's all the better for you.

Be careful to note when the video was posted. For learning a tech tool, anything more than a year or two old is probably out of date.

Also note how many views the video has had. It is probably, but not necessarily, the case that more views points to a better tutorial.

The sweet spot is a video that is short, was posted recently, but has plenty of views.

The ninja move worth learning is a simple one that few use: if you like the style of a tutorial, click on the name of the organization or person who posted it. Once on their YouTube page, look to see what other tutorial videos they've made. You may well find that they've created something else that would be useful to you.

Other Resources

A number of schools, universities, and organizations around the world have posted resources for emergencies, health information, and online learning which could be useful as you make the switch from a traditional classroom. Explore them as you can, and take time to talk with your colleagues about what you find.

Even online, many hands make light work.

About the Pandemic

US Centers for Disease Control page for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) - The CDC posts updates, "What you should know" sections, and info for schools and other organizations here.

Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction - This audio series from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta begins with a short introduction (Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction) (Feb 29, 2020) and then began posting episodes each weekday beginning March 2nd.

The Daily: The Coronavirus Goes Global - This New York Times podcast (Feb 27, 2020) explores the spread of the disease and what makes it different from other outbreaks such as SARS and MERS.

Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus - This NPR post (Feb 28, 2020) has a web comic to help children better understand what this disease is and how to stay as safe as possible.

About Online Learning

When Virtual Learning is Your Only Option - This podcast from the EdTech Roundtable team at Concordia International School Shanghai (Feb 21, 2020) discusses the sudden switch this school made to online instruction in the face of COVID-19.

15 Strategies for Online Learning When School is Closed - This page from Global Online Academy has great tips for those making a quick transition to online learning. One that stood out to me was, "When it comes to content, be a curator, not a dumper."

Online Learning Tips for Teachers and Schools - This Kasey Bell interview of Jennifer Pearson includes fifteen tips, many of which are especially good for online learning with younger students.

Snow Days - Natalie Milman of George Washington University published a paper in 2014 on tips for distance learning when school is canceled, and summarized her points in this set of tweets (Feb 29, 2020).

Instructional Continuity - George Washington University has a page devoted to helping professors prepare for unscheduled closures, including a preparation checklist and tools for working with students during a closure.

Online Learning Guides - This publicly shared Google Drive folder contains documents from a number of strong Asian international schools on distance learning, flipped classrooms, and elearning.

Online Learning Wakelet - This Wakelet page from Justin Ouellette contains a variety of resources for those exploring online learning possibilities.

Learn Anything on YouTube - this short tutorial shows how to find videos to help you learn tech tools. Pro tip: when you find a video you like, click on the name of the person who posted it, as she or he may have created other videos that would be helpful to you!


In putting this guide together, I want to thank the many people who have taken time to create strong content and/or talk to me about this issue. The list will surely leave someone out, and I apologize for that humbly.

Thanks to Sandra Chow of Keystone Academy (Beijing); Dennis Grice, Chris Carter, and Daniel Mendes of Concordia International School (Shanghai); Nate Gildart of Nagoya International School (Nagoya); Clay Smith of the New York City Public Schools (New York); Natalie Milman of George Washington University (Washington, D.C.); Rita Lee of Junipero Serra High School (California); and Steve McGriff of DivergentED Consultants (California). Also very helpful was the discussion at EdCambell '20 with Traci Bonde of Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District (California), Jen Orlick of Campbell Union High School District (California), and Catherine Boucher of the French American International School, San Francisco (California).

The ISTE Commons discussion I started on this topic included strong comments from many dedicated educators, including Patricia Aigner, Tara Linney, Nay Belaunzaran, Natalie Milman, Alex M. Braden, Michael Flood, and Doug Joubert.

I add an appreciative shout-out to Todd Seal, my long-time collaborator in making NextVista.org something special for teachers and students around the world.

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The writer, Rushton Hurley, is the founder of Next Vista for Learning, the author of three books (Making Your Teaching Something Special, Making Your School Something Special, and Technology, Teamwork, & Excellence) as well as the writer of the blog Inspiring Improvement.