5 Best Distance Learning Tools For Teachers - Secondary Urban Legends

5 Best Distance Learning Tools I Couldn’t Be Without

What Questions Are You Asking About Distance Learning or Online Teaching Tools?

What are some of the best tools used for online learning? What is the best platform and tools for distance learning? What supplies or tools do teachers need for distance learning?

If you are asking any of those questions, in this post, I have put together some of the best online teaching tools and distance learning resources for teachers I have found, used and loved.

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What Questions Are You Asking About Distance Learning or Online Teaching Tools?

Distance learning or online teaching tools are software products that teachers use in a digital classroom. This includes audio, video, or digital text. These tools allow students to learn anytime, anywhere through an internet connection.

Distance learning is a trip! lol. There is so much I could say about what I learn about education and stakeholders but I want to focus on the positive of tools- specifically websites- that have allowed me to have some semblance of teaching.

Making virtual learning or distance learning work for all students is challenging. You can have all the best tools in place, but without access at home for all your students — and adequate prep and training for yourself — it can be difficult to replicate a traditional, in-person learning experience.

In this post, I assume that you’ve got those problems worked out and are now focusing on finding the best and most essential distance learning tools.

Lets Allay Some Fears around Using Distance Learning or Online Teaching Tools?

Online teaching tools for virtual, distance learning will not replace you as the teacher. At least, not yet. Instead, they offer you unique opportunities to teach in different ways that aren’t possible in traditional classrooms. And this is something that should always be embraced. They enhance your lessons rather than replacing you.

My Top 5 Distance Learning or Online Teaching Tools

Classroom Screen

Example of using Classroom screen in during virtual instruction.

With the constant in and out of students due to unreliable technology, Classroom Screen came in handy by allowing me the ability to be able to have a screen to share lesson instructions thereby limiting my need to have to constantly repeat myself. 

There is a plethora of features but the ones I use on a daily basis besides the text box, is the timer and background.

The timer allows my students to work on pace. I still follow our instructional model most days of Bellringer, Whole Group Instruction, and Small Group Instruction. So timing and keeping students and myself on track is important especially with so much around them to keep them off task.

If you are wondering, how do I do small group instruction virtually, the easy answer is two screens. Since I use TEAMS, I can jump in and out of channels and I keep the audio open for the main general channel and host the small group on a different device. My students are trained on the do not disturb while I am in small group and to use the chat for any urgent needs. One thing I have noticed is students helping students which I am grateful for.

Dual screen is bae

Classroom Screen has a variety of backgrounds and I typically use the themed or the blackboard. You can also use upload button to add your own image as a background.

Spotify

Let’s just say my music choice tends to be a point of conversation with my students especially on the days when Hamilton is on repeat. #sorrynotsorry.

I have always played music during independent work time and especially in a virtual environment of square boxes (no I do not require cameras on), it at least lets students know I am there and we feel connected around the music.

I am going to start DJ Mondays as an incentive for iReady which is our Tier 2 intervention program that we use.

Class Notebook

Class Notebook is a such a lifesaver for teachers so I am always shocked when students tell me other teachers at our school still have them take a picture and upload work!! Blasphemy in my classroom.

For a number of reasons, Class Notebook was the way to go for me.

Number One: Equity. Not every student has access to a phone at my school.

Number Two: As a parent of a child who has to take pictures and upload, I hate it with a passion. Too cumbersome and way too many steps.

Number Three: My school is hybrid and I had to plan for what to do about collecting work from physical students. South Florida dealt with the pandemic for an extra- long time so Class Notebook allows for a touch-less way to have students do assignments because I can upload their textbook pages, pdfs, you name it for them to access and write on.

Number Four: The best reason is it is in real time since it utilizes Microsoft’s One Drive cloud so I can see what they are writing in the moment. I know a lot of teachers enforce cameras on for accountability but by using software such as Class Notebook, not only do I know that they are working, but I can also give immediate feedback which is essential in Intensive Reading.

Google Jamboard

Even though as a Microsoft Teams user I have access to a built in Whiteboard, but it pales in comparisons to Jamboard.

Jamboard has all the bells and whistles you would need in a whiteboard including the ability for a laser type pointer and collaboration with and between students since you can have up to 20 “slides” in the same Jamboard session.

I love this distance learning tool because it is above and the beyond the standard features of draw function, text box, and uploading of images. Students can join the Jamboard and also write on the screen also without having to sign in to their Google accounts but this middle school teacher would suggest having them sign in.

sample partner activity using Jamboard

Forms

Both Google Forms and Microsoft Forms have become staples in my class. All of our bellringers are on Microsoft Forms which integrates smoothly into Teams.

Students are automatically logged in and It keeps a track of when they first start the bellringer and completes it. Reports like those are key to accountability and great to bring up during parent conferences.

Both Microsoft and Google Forms are real time in the sense of once they submit I see their answers instantly.

I use Google Forms for quizzes and also to collect links to assignments completed in Google Suite since we are not a Google Classroom school.

Honorable Mention

I was not going to mention Padlet since if you have followed me long enough or heard me present, I bring it up all the time.

The functions of it was awesome pre COVID and it still is. Students are able to share and discuss ideas and respond to texts and to each other.

As their teacher, I can moderate those responses and when they can view one another. I am still patiently waiting for a Classroom Edition for Padlet but until then, it is still free and easy to use.

Sample Padlet discussion for the book The Pearl

Final Thoughts:

Whether you’ve been using online teaching tools for years or you’re starting to embrace the trend because of a crisis, you’ll find that there are more solutions available than ever before. With education changing daily, the time to embrace distance learning tools is now.

If you have not tried out these online teaching resources and have the ability to access these tools for virtual learning, I highly suggest you give them a shot.

They are great for collaboration, communicating, and accountability. My next blog post, I am going to share how I had an aha moment and evolving my instructional framework to better help my students and save my sanity.

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