• Reactor School

3 Ways To Conquer Home-Based Learning As An Educator

Updated: Jun 17

This is the fourth piece written as part of an ongoing series, Supporting Educators Through COVID-19, providing a glimpse in the challenges educators faced in this trying period.


Reactor School’s core business has been face-to-face (F2F) workshops since our inception in 2012. One of the key ingredients to our success was our high levels of engagement with our students (mean of >85% across 8 years), which was enabled by amazing trainers and facilitators. Educators and students will both know the importance of engaging trainers and interesting classroom activities in creating an indelible learning experience.


Then Covid-19 comes along. International travel is halted; borders close. Then, regulations for limited social interaction intra-country emerge, followed by even stricter measures. School life ceases as we know it and Home-Based Learning is enforced. Naturally, Reactor School’s face-to-face workshops also cease and we make a pivot to creating a 100% online learning experience.


Now the challenge (and you might already have guessed) is “How might we move our workshops completely online while maintaining our cornerstone 85% engagement levels?” We have heard from a number of our teacher friends that they too are facing a similar challenge. At the heart of being an educator is the intent to create and deliver the best learning experience for our students.


While we ourselves are new to online delivery, Reactor School has been working hard to produce a good online learning experience and have learnt a few lessons that we wish to share. Hence, here are 5 tips we that we hope can help you conquer HBL as an educator!


1. Design for activities and games instead direct teaching a.k.a. Load the work on the students


Something that we carried over from our F2F workshops in the design of our online learning experience is the Pareto principle of 20% teaching of content, 80% application. There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly, teaching content as a download of knowledge through lectures


One of the things that can help us here is that online games are pretty much the toys of this generation. I myself am 30 this year and I went through years of DOTA, CS, Sims and League of Legends etc. The gaming legacy continues for me till this day. Yet even now I am surprised when I see students hunkered around each other in the canteen during recess, playing Mobile Legends or PUBG. I know from experience that students can game for hours on end without feeling bored or tired.


Students of today are more familiar with digital User Interfaces (UI) and User Experience (UX) than ever. Games would be one of the ways to


Additional tip: Leverage the fact that students are digital natives

We sometimes hold ourselves back from using tools and software in our lessons because we worry that students might not be able to use them. Fortunately for us, all you have to do for students of this generation is to point at an app/software developed by a decently good company and they will be able to figure out how to use it without requiring instruction. We do this all the time and it has worked amazingly well. You just have to make yourself available for troubleshooting. Better yet, you can create a library of links for self-help and simply send the link that corresponds to the student’s challenge. If you want to increase productivity even more, you can automate the sending of specific resources based on student input (we can show you how you can do this but it is a topic for another day).


Our students are also extremely comfortable with online communication, especially texting. Leverage this, together with their familiarity with the Google Suite (Google Documents, Google Sheets, Google Slides etc.), to create a seamless activity/project experience for them.


Steps

  • At the start of class, say the following words (or some variation), “Before we begin, I want you to know that this class is a safe space for you to experiment and tie in your interests with your work.”

  • As the class progresses, never deny or reject your students’ ideas outright. Say instead, “That’s interesting” and challenge them to prove their point through action and allow them to learn from experience.

  • For example, if a student wants to pursue her interest in coding in a History class, allow her the opportunity to and challenge her to create a history project around the development of coding over the years.

  • Curtail any negativity and rejection from your students to their peers. Encourage them to be open and to challenge through questioning and evidence.


The above shows students that it is okay to pursue their creative ideas, that it is okay to fail in the eyes of legitimate authority in the room i.e. the teacher, as well as the social authority i.e. their peers. This gives students the room to express and develop their interests while picking up the subject-specific knowledge you want them to learn.


2. Make it a competition between peers


It is difficult for students to push boundaries, to want to innovate and pursue interests, if classes are not set up that way. Unfortunately, the majority of classes are designed rigidly.


Hence, the lesson in itself needs to be designed such that students are allowed to define their own boundaries (with guidance) around their interests and be given the opportunity to innovate.


Steps

  • Know what your learning outcomes are.

  • Design activities that challenge their assumptions, around the learning outcomes.

  • For example, to teach students about empathy for those who have physical disabilities, we simulate various scenarios where students have their vision or movement impaired and have them carry out various tasks.

  • Then, challenge them to teach their learning to their peers, in their own way.


We have found that activities that challenge their assumptions create “Ah-ha moments”, which they invariably remember much later. The peer teaching cements their understanding and is a mini-enterprise con its own. Both of these activities push students beyond their usual boundaries and forces them to be creative and resourceful.



3. You will need a proper set-up for both synchronous and asynchronous lessons


When I was creating my recordings for a session, I did not expect the number of challenges I faced just to get a 10-minute voiceover done.


For both synchronous and asynchronous lessons

Two monitors - One for script and teaching outline, one for recording/synchronous session

A quiet space

Scripts

Good mike

Recording software: Loom

Turn off all notifications


Additional for Synchronous

Water

Get everything uploaded beforehand

Do a test run

Be 10 minutes early


How will you embody entrepreneurial dare? Entrepreneurial dare is a vast concept; these three suggestions barely scratch the surface in how it may be introduced to our students. We challenge you, as a teacher, in one aspect of entrepreneurial dare: taking action quickly.

After reading our article, what is one immediate action you will take right now to introduce entrepreneurial dare to your classroom? For more COVID-19 resources, view them here.

Written by Lim Weiyuan.

Weiyuan is a Co-Founder of Reactor School and Head of Reactor School. He has run two businesses over the course of 8 years.







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Reactor School is on a mission to Cultivate the Galaxy's Best Young Founders. We design Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Business and Design programmes for youth age 13-24. 

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