Tools of the remote teaching trade: Adapting to a new learning environment

Girl sitting at desk with teacher using immersive reader on computer.

In early 2020, teachers around the world faced the unexpected challenge of shifting to a remote-learning model. They rallied quickly to adapt their lesson plans and adopt new tools to make the experience as engaging as possible for all students.

We talked with Canadian educators Joseph Filiplic, Zélia Capitão-Tavares, and Gabrielle Livernoche about the tools they found most useful and how the remote experience has changed education.

Joseph teaches social studies, construction, and computer science to students in grades seven, eight, and nine in Edmonton, Alberta. Zélia, a hybrid teacher and digital lead learner in Toronto, Ontario, launched a Girls Who Game program to engage girls in grades four and six in STEM, coding, and computer science. Gabrielle is a French language instructor in Montreal, Quebec.

Q: What tools have helped you create an inclusive learning experience?

Gabrielle: I use Word Online practically every day in my work. I discovered the Microsoft Immersive Reader feature and found it to be one of the most pleasant sounding speech recognition tools. The voice, the pauses, the accent, highlighting the words being read—it is so helpful for students.

Screen grab showing immersive reader application.

Zélia: The Immersive Reader feature is amazing. It provides tremendous support for our English language learner students who can listen to instructions and prompts in their native language or in English. They can then either respond in their own language or attempt to respond in English. This makes it possible for them to be independent contributors in the classroom.*

Q: What other tools have streamlined and enhanced the remote teaching and learning experience?

Joseph: I don’t know how you would teach remotely without Microsoft Teams. You have live meetings and chat. Everything is documented. I can screen share, pin speakers, ask kids to raise hands, and there are breakout rooms. It gives me everything I need.

Gabrielle: When teaching remotely, the most important thing is to be able to screen share and do interactive activities where students can move their mice. Sharing your screen keeps them engaged, even when communicating through a camera.

Zélia: Minecraft: Education Edition is an amazing digital learning tool. It’s an entire environment that enables students to be creators, problem solvers, and collaborators, and they acquire so many of those transferable skills that students need when they’re joining the workforce.

Joseph: To stay organized, I use OneNote. I can distribute pages to the entire class or distribute them individually. I can check up on students’ work. It’s the closest thing to actually being in person with my kids. It’s like I’m going up and down the rows in class. 

Zélia: Our students post open and honest discussions in Flipgrid. They share what they’ve learned and reflect on obstacles, goals, and what they hope to gain during the learning journey. They also use Flipgrid to provide feedback to their peers. It’s an amazing tool that enables them to remain connected and gives them the feeling that they have a say in what’s happening.

Q: How has this experience changed what it’s like to teach now and into the future?

Joseph: Teaching will never be the same. We found what’s working, and there’s no way that we’ll be able to go back to the old ways.

Gabrielle: Through this experience, I’ve come to realize how much I love my work. I love to teach! And when you are passionate about teaching, you will love doing it from anywhere. You will always find tools, tips, and games to share what you’re passionate about.

Boy laying on bed with device

Zélia: More than ever, it’s important to take risks in your learning and make connections with community members to guide and support you so that you can together bring about change.

Gabrielle: Five years from now, if I would chat with a student about the past year, I’m sure we’ll say, “Wow, we were able to deal with the impossible. We kept learning.” In a challenging environment, you realize how much you can adapt and how technology is there to help.

Joseph: At the end of each class, a few kids, as they’re signing off, will say, “Thank you for teaching me.” I haven’t heard that in person in a long time. Just hearing kids say “thank you” is more than enough sometimes.

Watch Joseph, Zélia, and Gabrielle share their experiences of adapting to remote and hybrid learning environments.

Educators: Thank you for inspiring students (Full Video)

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*Note: Immersive Reader is available in Microsoft apps, such as Word, OneNote, Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Flipgrid, Minecraft: Education Edition, and the Edge browser.