And when you do find a tool that actually makes your life easier while (more crucially) improving student learning, learn how to use it effectively. You don’t necessarily have to use every nook and cranny of Skype or FlipGrid to get the most out of it. The point is to know the platform and then selectively use the bits and pieces that work for you and your student.
Here’s a lesser-known tip for VIPKID teachers. As discussed above, internet stability can be scary, especially when you’re traveling. Some people turn to local SIM cards or TEP devices for backup internet. I say poo to all of those things. Get yourself on the Google Fi network and never worry about backup internet ever again. We use Google Fi as our cell phone provider and I’m able to easily use this as a hotspot anytime my internet fails. Google Fi is awesome for so many reasons. First, you ONLY pay for the data you use. They charge $10/Gb, so if I use 4Gb of data during a month, it’ll be $40 (plus a $15 flat-rate service fee). If I use 2Gb, I’ll pay $20 for that month of data. Google Fi also caps off at 10Gb of data. As soon as you reach 10Gb used, data becomes free for the rest of that month. If I use my phone as a hotspot for VIPKID, it takes approximately 0.1Gb of data per class. Therefore I use about 1Gb of data for every 10 classes. Again, I only use this for emergency situations but it has saved my butt time and again. Another reason Google Fi is so awesome is that international data is the same price ($10/Gb) and they provide service in 170+ countries. We’ve used our phones in Thailand, the Maldives, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. We’ve been able to get steady LTE in all of these locations. For VIPKID teachers and especially for those traveling, I highly suggest switching your cell phone provider to Google Fi. The network is phenomenal and the prices are unbeatable. Use this link to get $20 off your first bill with Google Fi
I’m in several different VIPKID Facebook groups and internet speed seems to be the hot topic 99% of the time. I understand it can be a bit confusing, especially for new teachers. So that’s why I hope this bit of “insider” VIPKID information helps those who are wondering about internet stability. There is a definite way to check your internet speed and that is through the VIPKID app on your phone or tablet. Find it by going to the “Account” tab on the bottom menu. Once you are here, you’ll see a small hexagon in the top right-hand corner (it looks like a nut or bolt); this is your settings menu. Choose the settings menu and click on “Network Diagnostics”. The VIPKID app will automatically begin testing your internet speed and stability. If your connection is suitable for teaching, it will say “your internet connection seems okay”. If it’s not suitable for teaching, it will say “your internet connection is unstable”.
Feedback = a nightmare! Am I right or am I right? If you’re a VIPKID teacher, you know how irritating it can be to submit feedback after each class. While it’s helpful for the parents to know how their child is doing, feedback becomes so repetitive for us teachers, especially with regular students. Luckily, I have found an easier way! Some people swear by the app, FeedbackPanda, but I refuse to pay for it because I’m trying to earn money, not spend money. Nope, my trick is completely free and it’s so easy. Voice record your feedback. Yes, just like you would voice to text your friends, you can also voice to text on the VIPKID app. In order to do this, you’ll need to use your phone or iPad (this MIGHT work on computers but it doesn’t on my Macbook Air). Go to the missing feedback section and select the class you want to leave feedback for. Once you have reached the text boxes, open your phone or iPad keyboard as if you were going to type. You’ll see a small microphone on the top right-hand side. When you choose this, start dictating your feedback! My favorite part about this is that it’s hands-free. I don’t need to sit and type comments for an hour after a long slough of classes. I can be cleaning, folding clothes, or doing other tasks while still completing tedious feedback.
The best VIPKID trick to use (in my opinion), is the short notice booking option. I mean, who doesn’t like to earn 20% more per hour? VIPKID offers teachers $2 extra per class when they book short notice classes. Short notice bookings are classes that are booked within 24 hours of the class start time. Most teachers probably already know about this but very few use it to their advantage. Prior to actively using this trick, I would randomly get a short notice booking here and there. The extra $2 per class was nice but it was hardly noticeable in the grand scheme of things. It took me a year, but I finally realized that I could potentially earn $4 per hour more by only booking short notice classes. I figured out that waiting to open classes until the night before has put hundreds of extra dollars in my pocket each month. Some teachers are turned off by this approach because they want to be available for their regular students. I completely understand this because I have hundreds of students that I know and love. Leaving slots for them to book in advance is important for me, too. So instead of booking ONLY short notice slots, I open 50% of my slots ahead of time and 50% the night before they are scheduled. By doing this, I am still averaging $23 per hour as opposed to $21 per hour. Based on my schedule and the number of classes I teach, I would typically make around $2600 per month by opening all of my classes two weeks in advance. But, by opening 50% of my slots ahead of time and 50% as short notice classes, I am making around $2850 per month. That’s $250 more per month for the exact same amount of work. Booking short notice classes also allows me a lot more freedom to decide what my schedule can look like.
Edmodo is a classroom management tool that allows teachers to send messages, share class materials, measure student performance, and more. Parents can also have access to their child’s classes and receive notification of when their child’s assignments are due.
Kahoot! is a game-based platform that allows teachers to create interactive lessons for their classes. Teachers can write questions and create games using Kahoot!’s platform and have their students log on with a game pin or link. The platform is a good example of how to create engaging lessons for their classes.
ClassDojo allows teachers to connect directly with students and provide instant feedback. It also gives students a voice where they can showcase their work in their own portfolios. Teachers can also share what’s going on in class with parents who can be granted access.
Preparing for online teaching is a critical component for a successful class. Teachers should start by testing the technology they will be using for the class to ensure it is working properly and the components, i.e. breakout rooms, chat functions, etc. all function to their expectations. Next, the teacher should consider how they appear to students online. Is there sufficient lighting? Teachers can also spruce up their background to include posters, messages, or other items to represent the class, or use an engaging virtual background. Once the technology is squared away, teachers can focus on how to deliver the curriculum. In an online environment, engagement is critical. Students are spending their entire day in front of a screen. Students may tune out, or worse, stop showing up if the class is not engaging. Teachers can increase engagement by developing short lessons followed by hands-on activities. Group and individual projects, problem-solving activities, and break-out room discussions, are just a few ways to make online courses engaging. Teachers can also consider brief, physical activities to keep their students fresh. Have students take a minute or two to get out of their chairs and stretch or use a mindfulness activity to help students focus before the start of a lesson. At the K-3 level, teachers can consider planning short lessons (20-30 minutes) followed by assignments where students can work off screen. This will help cut down on the amount of time young children are spending in front of a screen.
Teachers should be very clear in setting expectations for their online course. This includes letting students know what they can expect from their teacher as well as what the teacher expects from them as online learners. Teachers should be clear in explaining when assignments are due, how much participation is expected, how grading and exams will work, conduct and class rules that should be followed, etc.