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It’s the end of week three. I am beginning to get the hang of this online teaching thing. Ideas are popping up and there are great webpages, ESL/EFL and others to be used. Onestopenglish lessons, for instance, are downloadable as PDF files and can be shared. Another page is BreakingNews.com where you can also download and save lessons as PDF files for sharing in your online lesson/meeting.
The sharing is not as complicated as I thought in the beginning – once you understand a few things about the respective programme you are using. (So far I have only been using Cisco Webex.)
There are a few little but essential things you just have to know and follow for everything to work smoothly.
One of my problems with the webex sharing function, for instance, was with its design. When you are in a webex meeting there are six to seven round buttons towards the bottom of the page. The third from the left is the sharing button. (You also have a taskbar at the top of the page, but you can, or maybe even SHOULD ignore it; I found it confusing to have several keys offering the same functions). When you click on the share button, a white window opens. Here you see different further small windows. What is essential to know is that what you see in this window, among a few other things, is your screen and pages or programmes you have opened on your computer, meaning: you HAVE TO open them in advance of your meeting. Really important.
On the right side of this white window is a very light grey scroll bar. Two more rows of mini-windows reveal themselves when – and only when – you scroll down.
In our first introductory online meeting for webex, some in the group were talking about and using a ‘whiteboard’. The host of the meeting had opened it and showed us what you could do with it, and people were starting to draw crooked lines and circles in different colors (that kept getting erased by our host).
The day after our online meeting, I kept looking for that damn whiteboard. I just couldn’t find it. (Not that I was sure what I wanted to do with it, but it was infuriating not to be able to find it.) You might have guessed: you have to scroll down. It is at the bottom of the white sharing window. But I just hadn’t seen the scroll bar, the very light grey scrollbar – until I did.
Another very essential thing to have is Adobe. I didn’t at first. And couldn’t open and share my PDF files. Took me a while to understand how important Adobe was. Nobody else seemed to have had that problem, though. Maybe everyone except me had Adobe. Well, now I do too.
When you want to share something different, you have to first end or stop what you have been sharing. To do this, you go to the top of the screen where you see a narrow orange bar. When your cursor touches it, a menu drops down. Here you click on the stop sharing XXX. Then you go back to the third round button from the left, click on it, go to the little window you want to share. When your cursor is on this min-window, the word share pops up and you can open it for all to see.
So once you understand these small but essential things, lesson preparation can start. I downloaded some material into my Adobe programme, made scans of stuff I wanted to use, images eg. Created word files for exercises going with the images. Planned to send some material to the members of my groups for them to have available during our session.
Three of us teachers decided to come together to practice and try out things. Very recommendable. You need people to practice with to develop routine and familiarity with the possible functions of the programme. It takes a while to gain some confidence and understand when the problems are you and when they are not. Very important.
There are still things that don’t work and to which we haven’t found a solution yet. The biggest problem is bad connection. All lesson plans come to nothing if your sound is bad and you can not communicate adequately. Some seem to believe it’s the programme and are switching to others. I just hope these others work similarly to the one I now feel fairly comfortable with.
So in the end, I am having some ideas of how online lessons could work and looking forward to trying them out. But at the moment I feel like an engine running hot without being able to move. I hope things will improve as the Corona situation is not likely to change any time soon. One of the companies I teach in has already announced a prolongation of external online trainings, workshops and language classes until the end of May. I thought they were being a little proactive, as it is just the beginning of April. However, I’m afraid they might have a point.