Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Cockpit of control – 10 practical tips on how to set up to teach from home

Cockpit of control 

Set aside a day to set up your teaching station and create a cockpit of control – space in house (not shared). If possible have a door and think about noise – from traffic, trains, the kids, dog, whatever. A room with a carpet and soft furnishings is also less echoey.

Chair and desk

A comfy chair is vital, far more important that the desk, one you can lean back in as you work, with adjustable height. (I know of one person who does all of his live stuff online standing up!) Get a desk that is large enough to contain all you need left and right of the computer. Also, get practical on the need for folders (computer or paper), storage for physical files and an online calendar. Have a notebook handy.


Teaching online? Put a little effort into lighting, some chiaroscuro, light from the side (window or well-placed lamp). Think about background, we’re all curious… show your dog, kids, scan around room, your pics/posters, it all helps make a connection… show you’re a real person. If you're recording stuff online, don't worry about picture quality, research shows it makes no difference to the learning... focus on good audio - that does... oh and don't go all newsreaderish, research shows that informal is best... more research here.


I think people are spoiled by flawless TV and so see Zoom or Skype as TV... but I love the dogs, kids, weird rooms and backgrounds, fuck-ups with PowerPoint, speaking when muted... it shows you’re human. Not so sure about the ‘bookshelves’ in the background when teaching but each to his or her own! And do avoid having a window behind you - the light will be too variable and strong. If you really want to push the boat out Microsoft Teams (if you live in the Microsoft world) allows you to blur your background. Zoom also allows you to drop in customised backgrounds.


You can put your router anywhere, brick/concrete a problem, longer connecting cable between the router and wall socket. Even better is a wired connection between your computer and your router, which should have spare sockets. A second router or wi-fi repeater can also help. Test upload and download speeds using…


Clean up your desktop and get meaningful tabs and folders set-up for tools, year groups and so on. Use natural language terms, the first word that comes into your head for folders, this makes them easier to remember and find.


Computer – the newer the computer, the better the performance – on everything, especially wi-fi adapters. One thing that is worth having is a set of headphones, preferably with a microphone. Research by Nass & Reeves at Stanford shows that picture quality matter less in learning than audio. So make sure you are close to your mike, buy a good one or us the one on you headphones.


A wall clock above and behind your computer is useful – something you can see when you are looking at your screen when teaching online. If you are new to online, you’ll find you talk too much and that the time flies by. That 20 minutes session will end up being 40 minutes.


A whiteboard can also be useful, placed, again in your line of sight, so that you can write things up – you’re opening remarks, reminders to mention something, reminder to thank learners and so on.

Time management

Want to manage and control your online teaching (and life) namely the mess that is a schedule, too much email, endless tasks to sort out. Start by separating your professional tasks out from other ‘stuff’ - those movies you want to watch, books to read and personal projects whirling around in your mind. Stuff is just stuff until you decide to act, so don’t manage stuff, manage actions. Clear the decks, get things off your mind. Lists and memory are both hopeless so use this little algorithm (from the best time management book on the market).

Is it actionable? 

If NO 
a) trash it 
b) put it in a ‘someday’ folder 
c) archive as reference for retrieval when required.

“Will it take less than 2 minutes?” If YES – do it. 

a) delegate 
b) defer to a calendar or next actions

Think about what you have to do before you do it and don’t waste time on thinking about things you’re not going to do anything about for now. 

This is not about making lists, it is about managing your mind. Capture and refine your decision making. 

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