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How To Optimize The Lesson Preparation Process In Online Teaching
Back in the days I prepared my lessons by jutting down timelines on paper and compiling stacks of copies to hand out during lessons. Nowadays, it’s a bit different. Or as the Thais say “Same Same, But Different.”
When you’re teaching online you have the whole world wide web at your disposal: an endless array of interactive exercises, articles, videos, podcasts and so on and so forth. As a rule of thumb: There’s always more than you could possibly use. And: There’s new stuff every day.
So, when there is no excuse of inadequate or not enough, there’s nothing that could possibly go wrong, or is there?
The Overabundance of Awesome
Often I find myself browsing through the net and saying: “Hey, wow, you could use this and that in your lesson with X,Y,Z.” but ask me a day later about it and I forgot the source.
In order to avoid this moment of seeing the perfect worksheet in front of my eyes but having no clue how I got there the day before (it’s just no fun scrolling for hours through your browsing history) – I use bookmarks.
Nothing new, right? Well, yes. On the other hand it’s important to have some kind of system. If, each time I find something related and just hit bookmark, it’ll be a disorganized mess after a while. So, what I do is twofold:
- Keep those bookmarks organized: Create folders and subfolders with meaningful (?) descriptions
- Stick to the system: In the heat of the moment I often just “dump” my bookmarks in the general bucket. So, then I do the sorting and structuring, later.
Sounds boring? Well, maybe it is. But there’s nothing like a student saying: “I always wondered about the use of Konjunktiv II irrealis” and being able to respond with a salvo of pinpointed exercises within miliseconds.
Many times people asked me: “Where do you get all that stuff from so quickly?” and my answer is always the same: “I got them bookmarks sorted out!”
Dive-In, Build-Up, Wrap-Up!
Okay, so let’s say we got a well-organized little bookmark library that we can always restock and draw from when preparing lessons. But how do I cope with setting up and preparing the actual session in terms of sequence?
There’s a plugin.. I mean extension for that.
Really? A browser extension just for preparing lessons online?
Well, not officially. But it does the job! Here’s what I used to do before:
- Open up browser. Load all the learning materials, whiteboard apps, mindmaps and whatnot in tabs, arranged from left to right with the stuff I want to start with at the beginning and homework/further materials at the end.
- Leave the browser window-open and DO NOT close it. If your browser crashes or you suddenly go on an unrelated browsing-spree and close everything: START AGAIN!
Especially if you like to prepare hours or even days before a lesson, this method is obviously not the best . What to do? Simple: Browser Sessions!
You get the idea?
Instead of having to keep my window with all the tabs open all the time I simply do it once and save the session. Whenever the meeting starts I simply pull it up again.
Some browsers support this natively but there are a few benefits in using an extension:
- Manage multiple sessions/students and quickly save/retrieve them
- replace or overwrite a session as you go along. This is very helpful when things went differently than you planned and you want to bring the materials over into the next session. Simply close what you’ve already done, add a few more things and replace/overwrite the session.
UPDATE: For even more control (ability to edit existing sessions) see also this Chrome extension recommended by Glenn Weidner.
It might seem like overkill to do this in the beginning but I’ve actually experiences a few benefits from this practice:
- saves time and energy (that can be invested in other things)
- reduces redundancy (nothing like having to do the same over and over again…)
- makes me go into a lesson with a sense of being fully prepared
- even in emergency situations (no time for preparation) there’s always something that you can build on
- images: success kid meme, still from 10 commandments with C. Heston, extension screenshot and a messy table via morguefile.