5 tips to embrace teaching Digital Technologies remotely

…without losing your mind 😉

Yasmin Clarke
Mar 19, 2020 · 7 min read

For the times they are a changin….

It’s already a cliche that we are living in uncertain times. The situation regarding COVID-19 is constantly changing. More and more people are being asked to work from home and many teachers and schools are preparing for online learning.

Whether you’ve signed up to a Grok competition, or are using the DT Challenges from the Australian Computing Academy (ACA) on our platform, we’re here to help. We want to do everything in our power to support teachers and students to continue their studies as smoothly as possible. We’re a fully online platform and there’s a lot you can already do using Grok just as it is!

Keep reading for top tips for remote teaching using the Grok platform.

We’re also busily working on more options for you to allow remote teaching with Grok to really take-off 🚀, so stay tuned for more announcements coming soon.

Edit: Read the latest on our COVID-19 support here.

Top tips for great remote teaching using the Grok platform

Grok is a fully online platform, so students and teachers can access it from any device with an internet connection (though we don’t advise using your smart fridge 😉).

If you’re facing the prospect of teaching students remotely, whether you’re using Grok or ACA content, here are our top tips on how Grok can make this easy for you.

Tip 1: Organise your students into groups

The hardest part about working remotely is staying organised. There are distractions at home, and you don’t have the usual cues of your classroom or students in front of you.

To help you keep track of your students on Grok, organise your students into groups. You can choose whatever groups make sense to you. Most teachers find that one group per class is best. Or you can organise students into smaller groups if they are working on projects.

  1. Choose “View all students” from the teacher dashboard.
  2. Select the students you wish to group together, and then add them to an existing group. Or create a new group via the Add to Group drop down.
  3. You can also add students to groups during Registration.
Adding students to groups.

Once your students are in groups, click on a group name from your Teacher Dashboard to quickly and easily select just those students.

Click on a group name from your Teacher Dashboard to see just those students.

>>>More info on Groups

Tip 2: Assign work to students in Grok

Students who are working remotely need more guidance on what they should be working on. In Grok, you can assign a course to your students.

  1. On your Teacher Dashboard, go into the Student view (click on a group of students, or “All students”).
  2. Select students using the checkboxes.
  3. Click “Assign” and then choose the course to assign.
Select students, then assign them to the course you want them to do. Easy!

The assigned course will appear at the top of your students’ Launchpad, so they’ll know exactly what they are supposed to be working on.

The most recently assigned course appears right up the top!

>>>More info on Assigning

Tip 3: Track how your students are progressing

When teaching remotely, it’s harder to see how your students are progressing with their work. Grok has a handy summary right there on your Teacher Dashboard, so you can see at a glance how your class is progressing.

  1. Select a group from the Teacher Dashboard.
  2. Click the button “Assigned Progress” to see student progress in all assigned courses.
  3. OR Use the drop-down menu under the “Course Progress” button to select a specific course and view progress.
Sort your students based on their progress to see how they are progressing.

Each problem that the student is working on is highlighted in a colour. If you hover over the progress bars, you can see which problems have progress. Different colours represent different states of completion for a given question:

  • Green = nailed it! The student has solved this problem correctly;
  • Orange= not yet! The student has attempted but not solved the problem;
  • White = no progress. The student has not attempted this problem;
  • In some cases you might see a blue box — this is a special case where the student has solved the problem correctly but it was after the competition deadline.

>>>More info on Viewing Student Progress

Tip 4: Pinpoint exactly where students get stuck

You might notice that some students are struggling with their assigned course. Can you see what they are stuck on? The answer is yes!

To see a student’s workspace for a particular problem, click on their progress box for that problem. You can see the student’s code and pinpoint where they are misunderstanding or making a mistake.

View a student’s workspace by clicking the progress box.

When viewing a student’s workspace, you can also:

  • See the student’s code revisions, to understand how they are progressing
  • Test the student’s code, to see how it currently works and help them debug
  • See the student’s chat messages with our tutors (for tutor-enabled competitions).

>>>More info on Seeing Student Work

Tip 5: Be prepared to differentiate lessons

We know that every student is different, and students will work at different paces through our lessons. It’s a good idea to have a plan for differentiated lessons, where students can work to the level of their own ability. This is especially true in an online learning scenario where students are more likely to be working on their own or at different times.

For students who move faster, have extension work available. A great option is to use our Hour of Code courses. These are short themed courses, designed to be a bit of fun. Students can draw snowflakes; write a chatbot; or program a virtual pet; as well as many more.

For students who struggle to keep up, use paired Blockly and Python courses. These courses cover the same content, but students can choose whether to work in Python (text programming) or Blockly (visual programming). The Blockly visual programming editor allows students to learn the same coding concepts but provides more scaffolding and syntax help.

The same content available in both Blockly and Python.

Courses which are available in both Blockly and Python include:

🌟 Bonus tip: Create your own!

Between Grok and the ACA, we have over 200 hours of content in our platform for your students to learn Digital Technologies via online learning. But if that’s not enough, here’s a bonus tip. You can set your own challenges for your students!

When students need to code something new, they can use our Playgrounds. Our playgrounds are just empty coding spaces — no guidelines from Grok here. So you can design your own project for students, give students an assessment task, or have students come up with their own coding creation.

Playgrounds are blank workspaces for your students to build their own coding creation!

Since we don’t know what your students are trying to create, our automated marker can’t mark these Playgrounds (we’re not that magic…yet!). But if it’s an assessment task that needs marking, you can have a look at their finished code and mark it yourself. Remember to assign the Playground to the students first (Tip 2). When they are finished, use the Teacher Dashboard to go into the student’s workspace and see their code (Tip 4).

We hope these tips keep your lessons running smoothly whether in the classroom or at the dining room table. Keep an eye out for more from us in the coming days and weeks as we work out how best to support you. And remember…you got this! 💪 💯 🙌

Edit: Read the latest on our COVID-19 support here.

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