Wait… I have to do what? Provide services online? How am I going to do that?
We know that it’s crazy right now. Brick-and-mortar schools are scrambling. They are figuring out how to begin instruction for their general Ed students, which also means following FAPE and offering special education and services to exceptional students as well.
E-Therapy has been quick to support numerous brick-and-mortar schools successfully, helping them move their onsite programs online as this pandemic unfolds. Since we’ve been doing this work for more than 11 years, with hundreds of teletherapists around the country, we want to share useful tips for therapists who find themselves suddenly moving to distance learning.
School administrators are grateful and thankful that there is technology to bring us all together! However, that doesn’t remove all the struggles that come with it.
It’s great, yes, that we all can hop on Zoom, GTM, Adobe Connect, Illuminate, BB Learn. All these platforms have tutorials, and you can figure out the basics to connect you to your students. BUT, what happens when all those students are looking at you, real-time, waiting for your teachers or therapists to begin their lesson, share their screen and become online instructors/therapists instantaneously? These teachers/therapists have never thought about working this way until the last 72 hours, and they have to do it well! They want to do it well!
How to feel more comfortable teaching online
E-Therapy has provided services remotely, online to students for 11 years. We are equipped to help you with the basics and to share essential tips of the online trade that we call teletherapy so that you feel more comfortable while working online.
The first step in doing that is to master the technology. Sound scary?
Let’s break it down into the essentials:
Master the Tech
Choose a DEVICE to use for online teaching
Hundreds of our therapists agree with this tip: A desktop computer is the best option to deliver instruction. A laptop will work too, just make sure that it is on a stable service and not wobbly (like on your lap while you’re sitting on the sofa!).
You may be used to walking around in your classroom during instructions. Stay put during your online lessons. Do not walk around with your laptop in your hand while you are instructing a class or therapy session.
Make sure you are not on a mobile device, as that is so distracting for your students, if you are moving around.
Brush up on neglected INTERNET skills!
Maybe you are a therapist that’s only comfortable with the basics on the computer. Maybe just using one tab and searching the internet is all that you do. That’s OK, but now is the time to brush up on a key skill that will make all the difference in your lesson flow:
- Practice opening multiple tabs and navigating through them.
- Practice keeping those windows open on your computer so that your activities are cued up and ready to show when you “SHARE YOUR SCREEN”.
Confirm that the AUDIO is working properly
Can your students hear you? Are you speaking clearly? Is the audio continuous or is it cutting out?
- Test your speakers and headsets before you go live and frequently during the session. You may want to invest in a stand alone microphone if the sound quality is poor.
- Use headphones if you need to, and suggest that your students use them. Headphones can help cancel out background noise.
- Check in with your students frequently to ask if they can hear you. If you have comments turned on, ask them to give you a “Y” for yes! You get feedback, and they get to be interactive.
- Pay attention to those students who are easily distracted and give them listening reminders.
Make the CAMERA work for you
Many of us shy away from being on camera. This could be stressful for you, but we have some tips to make teaching online – while looking into the camera – work for you.
- Eliminate stage fright. PRACTICE looking at yourself on your computer camera many times BEFORE you have your students attend your sessions or classes.
- Feel good about yourself.
- Get dressed (at least from the waist up!), fix your hair, and do your make-up. Did you that many YouTubers apply eyelashes to help them “make eye contact” effectively? Try it.
- Organize and de-clutter your work space that appears on camera. You want to eliminate distractions.
- Invest in good lighting or position yourself next to window with plenty of natural light.
- Position your camera so your students can see your entire face and mouth! They need to see what you’re saying, not just hear it!
How to Keep Engagement High
Keeping students engaged is key when teaching and providing therapy services online through eLearning. Your energy, just like when you are in the onsite classroom setting, needs to be high. You have to be present!
Finding ENGAGING ACTIVITIES for online learning
There are so many open source and free materials out there that you can bring into your online class or therapy session. Look for a blog post later this week with a list of our suggested resources.
Schedule a daily planning time to search online for games, activities, documents, and worksheets that you can incorporate into your class or therapy session. Look for activities that require engagement from students and encourages them to participate, like polls or fill-in-the-blank questions.
Know where your SAVED activities are located
Save links to resources on your desktop in a folder labeled classroom or therapy activities so that you can easily access them.
Have all your resources and plan set up before you logon with your students. This will feel different than when you were located in your classroom. Your materials may be mostly digital now.
Become comfortable with switching back and forth between open windows on your screen while you are teaching or providing therapy.
Learn how to SHARE YOUR SCREEN
This can be tricky if you are not coming from the eLearning or online therapy space. It is easy to share your screen and wind up in an awkward situation when you are not prepared.
- Close all windows, photos, and desktop items You do not want to share your screen and have a personal photo or a document up and push that out to your students!
- Make sure you know how to share the screen on the platform you are using. Each platform has its own tutorials on how you can share the screen. Go through it to make sure that you are comfortable.
- Practice with family members or friends many times before your class or online therapy session takes place. Become comfortable with switching between activities while sharing your screen and keeping your video window up AND maintaining engagements simultaneously with your students.
SHARE the keyboard and mouse and use a highlighter tool
Most platforms have the ability to give control of the mouse and keyboard to students so that they can interact real time on activities that you share on your screen. Become familiar with how to give and take these controls. The highlighter tool is so much fun for students. Become familiar with its features like how to change the color of the tool. Your students will love it!
REDIRECTION for students with the wiggles
Not all students are good at sitting still for long periods of time. Remember to check in with your students frequently. Give “wiggle breaks” or “Get Up And Move” moments.
Remember, you need to get up and move, too. Pay attention to the time you have asked your students to sit and listen and remember that they need eLearning breaks or activity or game changes to keep them engaged.
Provide digital rewards for students. Create a class digital award jar for participation or proud moments of interaction.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and PRACTICE some more
If you can, connect with colleagues or friends to practice delivering your online lessons with them. Have them evaluate for these specific things:
- Audio quality. Can they hear you loud and proud?
- Articulation and diction. Make sure that you are speaking clearly.
- Eye contact. Make sure that the students can see your entire face! So much information is lost when students cannot see your mouth or your facial gestures.
- Moving from tab to tab.
What to do if you are STRUGGLING
We all are looking for support. Most teachers, administrators, and therapists are like ‘fish out of water’ right now, having to navigate an entire new way of providing lessons and therapy services to their students.
Don’t be ashamed to reach out to your colleagues. Everyone is in this together, and we’re sure your district wants you to succeed. There are also many online educators and online E-Therapists out there that would love to help!
- Join the E-Therapy Hot Topics Forum. This is a safe space for you to ask specific questions directly related to your field.
- Follow the E-Therapy Facebook page and ask questions there. We monitor our Facebook page every day, plus there are hundreds of teletherapists from all over the country that participate.
- Look online for eLearning specialists that have BLOGS and/or podcasts.
- Look for experts in the field of online learning, email them and ask questions.
- Coordinate times to meet online with other teachers and/or therapists and have a “brain storming session”, share ideas that have worked and which ones failed.
Contact Us at E-Therapy
We are available by phone or online, if you just have questions or need direction about what to do. Click this link to contact E-Therapy.
If your therapists are struggling to provide therapy, we would love to share our thoughts, ideas, and support with you. We are here as an open resource for your schools, teachers, therapists, and students.
Be well and stay safe. We are all in this together.