Backup plans – some tips for teachers (guest post)

by David Andrade,
Every teacher is taught that back up plans are a must. Things change constantly in education and there are a variety of factors that can make plans change – computer breaks, internet goes out, file is corrupted, forgot your flash drive at home, you finish a lesson early with a class, your class has very low attendance due to a school activity or event (like AP testing, prom, etc), lesson runs long, students don’t understand the material, class is interrupted by a fire drill.
To deal with these issues, teachers must have back up plans ready to go and be flexible and organized. Here are some tips and resources for backup plans.
1. Computer breaks – if possible, have a laptop or netbook available for use. Be aware of any laptops in the building that you could quickly use or even an empty classroom you could move to for that period. You should also have your lessons and resources available in paper form. Even though I am 99% online, I have a print out of my lesson plans, lesson notes, master copies of any packets or worksheets, and print outs of PowerPoint slides. If you have a smartphone, you can always access your notes and files that way and then write on the board. (pretty much same advice if your projector dies).
2. Internet goes down – see computer breaks. If you have a laptop available, having the ability to connect to the internet in other ways is a great back up too. You may have a plan for your laptop with a wireless company or be able to access public WiFi or, like me, access the WiFi in the area from my cable provider. You can also use many smartphones as a WiFi hotspot for your laptop.
For both 1 and 2 I can access all of my files and information from any computer, laptop, and even my smartphone. I use web based services for everythingonline file storage and backupGoogle Docs for filesEvernote for lesson plans and resources, and email, Google Sites, Blogger, and more.
3. File corrupted – have backups of your files on a backup system
4. Forgot Flash drive at home – don’t use a flash drive. Use an online system instead (or at least also use an online system) to access to your files from anywhere.
5. Finish lesson early – have some kind of material to work with if you finish your lesson early. Going to the next lesson doesn’t always work depending on the time remaining. You could show a short video about the topic you just finished, you can have a classroom discussion about the topic, have students write a short paragraph about what they learned today (and anything that surprised them).
6. Low attendance – many times there are school activities such as AP testing or class trips that can leave your class looking barren. I always have some kind of extra activity that I can do with the students that are there. I don’t always want to continue on with a lesson and leave a huge percentage of the class behind. I usually have them do a mini-project or some kind of mini-lab (whether hands-on or virtual). I may also just have a discussion with them about different topics, including college plans and how they are doing in their classes.
7. Lesson runs long – Sometimes a lesson takes longer with one class than with another due to the student make up, discussion, or other issues that may interrupt the lesson. I try to be flexible when planning and give myself time in the plans for some classes to take longer. This also means that if I want to keep the classes in sync, I may have to use some extra activities, like I described in #6, to stagger another class. The activities are always relevant though.
8. Class interruptions – don’t get flustered. Just come back to class and get started again. You can use the ideas above in #7 to deal with the fact that you lost class time and therefore your lesson may “run long”.
9. Students don’t understand the material – have a different idea or method to teach the material. A video, activity, or just a different approach can be used to help the students. I have extra videos, activities, textbooks, and web sites that I share with my students who are struggling. I also have time after school every day that they can come and see me and get extra help.
10. Adapt and overcome – issues will happen. Just go with the flow and put your backup plan into effect.

Cross posted at Educational Technology Guy and via Twitter

David Andrade is a Physics Teacher and Educational Technology Specialist in Connecticut. He is the author of the Educational Technology Guy blog, where he reviews free educational technology resources for teachers, discusses ways to use technology to improve teaching and learning, and discusses other issues in education. 
He is also a professional development trainer and presenter at conferences, helping educators learn new and innovative ways to educate students. He is also a Discovery Education STAR Educator and member of the CT DEN Leadership Council. 

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of his employer.

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