Bright ideas! Take a look at some of the ways teachers are getting creative with distance education

We’re all adapting to work from home, but teachers, in particular, have had to figure out unique ways of recreating that classroom experience in front of a camera. Here’s how they’re doing it.

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“They have WiFi issues, I have WiFi issues. There’s just a lot of challenges in the world right now,” says Emily Nix, a professor who teaches finance and business economics at USC. “It’s a conundrum, how do you reach students in the same way online as you do in face to face?”

Emily Nix, professor at USC

Professor Nix was frustrated over the loss of the most basic classroom tool, the blackboard, and wanted to find a way to re-create a similar experience on Zoom.

“I do a lot of board work and so I’m up at the board, writing things, talking to the students. So I wanted them to see that, have the feeling of a board but also be able to see me,” says Nix.

Her hack? She took a sheet of plexiglass and rigged it with LED lights around the edges. When she writes on the board, her words and diagrams come to life in an eye-catching glow!

She uses free software called OBS to flip the image.

“Apparently some of my students thought I learned how to write backwards over the summer,” says Nix.

Teaching hacks have flooded social media!

A teacher in Los Angeles posted a way to show off documents on a webcam with just a pencil, CD, tape and a quarter.

A teacher in Madison, Wisconsin posted a DIY standing desk made out of an ironing board!

Then, there’s the $10 reflector and free app called Osmo Projector to help share what you’re writing.

Teachers are also turning to more online tools.

Lizzy Stapleton, a teacher in San Francisco, uses a website called Quill to help teach grammar.

“It’s just differentiated instruction for you built-in, and they go at their own pace. I have students complete 5 to 7 activities a week,” explained Stapleton.

Lizzy Stapleton, a teacher at Galileo High School in San Francisco

She creates a Google Doc to act as a digital planner for the week with assignments, presentation links and due dates all in one place! “Even if a student’s internet fails and they can’t show up on Zoom, they can go to this agenda,” explains Stapleton.

Meanwhile, Screencastify is a helpful Chrome extension to create and share screencasts. Special tools let you also write on the screen. Videos up to 5 minutes are free!

Prezi Video lets teachers give virtual presentations, complete with compelling on-screen graphics next to their face, kind of like what you see on the news!

Turn out, teachers are now learning themselves!

“I think the more we can collaborate together and share what works, share what doesn’t, that will just help our students have a better experience because at the end of the day we want them to learn, we don’t want this to be a lost year for students,” concluded Nix.

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