Just add blank slides: a simple remote teaching idea

If anyone is looking for a simple “remote teaching” idea, it doesn’t get much more simpler than this ⎮2 min 30 sec read

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Teachers who are looking for ways to adapt some existing teaching materials for the purpose of remote teaching or online learning might be able to use these simple steps as a quick and easy alternative. 

Here’s the idea

  1. access the slides you usually use for a topic/lesson;
  2. insert blank slides between all or most of your slides (insert a slide when you would usually ask the class a question out loud, or use some other kind of face to face “check for understanding” technique);
  3. send the slides as is to students (via google classroom, etc.). It’s important that students get their “own” copy of the slides that they can write on (your LMS should be able to do this for you). The slides can be sent along with a screencast of you talking through the slides (for asynchronous teaching) or to go along with your “live” remote teaching via Zoom, etc. (for synchronous teaching); and,
  4. tell the students to use the blank slides as a chance to reflect about what they learned/remember based on the previous slide. Teachers could add specific directions at the top of the blank slides, or make sure students know the overall expectations whenever they see a blank slide.

The goal = “force” (or at least increase the likelihood) students to reflect on what they are learning from the slides in the presentation. Getting students to write about what they are learning as they learn it can help encourage deep processing/elaborative encoding, and/or increase retrieval practice. I know there are teachers out there who have been doing a great job with online instruction, and many teachers are using much cooler and more specialised techniques than this simple idea. I think the goals in the list above could be done in more sophisticated ways with tools like PearDeck, Hyperdocs, or many other tools. But if you need a way to take slides you already have and get some remote teaching done FAST, with little further preparation, I think this idea might work.

Here’s an example of this idea in action: The 3 Box Model and Teaching/Learning

  • Here are some slides I use during presentations with teachers. My goal: help teachers understand how the 3 box model of memory (cognitive load theory) relates to choices we all make during teaching.
  • During this presentation when all are face to face, I stop at strategic points and ask teachers to talk in groups about how they are understanding the memory theories and how they might use the ideas in their teaching.
  • Since I won’t get to talk with teachers face to face any time soon, I adapted this same set of slides quickly into a “remote teaching” format.
  • Here’s the new “blank slides” version of the same set of slides. Notice that all I did was add a new intro slide (slide 1) with some generic directions (slide 2), and add blank slides at strategic spots.
  • The goal: make some very quick additions to slides that I already prepared, get them out to folks and give them the opportunity to THINK about ideas in the slides (which might help with deep processing, elaboration, retrieval practice, and semantic encoding).
  • The next step can be (if you have time) looking at what people write on the blank slides, and then following up to correct misconceptions and share great ideas you find. You could simply copy and paste some of what people write on the blank slides and make a new set of slides that includes the best ideas (anonymously or with “credit” to the authors).
  • Teachers can require students to turn in what they wrote on their “blank” slides and use student writing for both “formative” and/or “summative” purposes: to modify future presentations (responsive teaching), and/or give feedback to students to ask them to try again (student practice), and/or some student writing could be used to evaluate if students acquired the knowledge/skills they were supposed to (grading). Note: it might be important to give students a chance to revise their work based on feedback before assigning a final grade, and since this work is necessarily open-book/open-note/open internet (because of the remote teaching environment), asking students to show their thinking about questions is more useful than asking students to simply find correct answers to closed-ended questions. 

Rob McEntarffer

Assessment/Evaluation Specialist, Lincoln Public Schools

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