Author interview: Alex Kajitani on 101 tips for teaching online

by | Jun 15, 2022

An interview with Alex Kajitani author of 101 tips for teaching online 

What inspired you to write 101 tips for teaching online?

Like so many educators, I found myself having to adapt quickly to online teaching when the pandemic hit. It was important to me not to lose sight of what we still must do fundamentally as teachers: Get the students engaged, build relationships, create community, and deliver the academic content they need. I saw my own children experience online classes they couldn’t wait to log into and others they dreaded. I heard colleagues express their challenges. All of this made me realise this opportunity to evolve what we do. How do we build something new that’s still grounded in highly effective teaching practices? My research included lots of phone interviews with teachers I knew who were experiencing these challenges, as well as my own struggles and growth. The result is an engaging resource where teachers can pick up a few fresh ideas to enhance what’s working or read cover-to-cover to really build a new online environment where kids can thrive.

What are some adaptations you offer in the book?

One example adapts what I consider the number one classroom management strategy of all time, which is greeting your students at the door. That sets the tone for the class and gives students a welcoming environment. We’ve got to do the same thing online. As students sign in, be sure to greet them warmly. Let them know you see them. Welcome them into the community. Then, there’s the bigger issue of equity and online learning. It’s not enough to give every kid a tablet or laptop and call it done. Some students have connectivity issues. Some students are unable to participate online because they’re caring for other family members. Some students have really good reasons for not turning their cameras on. These are all good things we need to address and are things I discuss in the book.

What have you heard teachers say is their number one challenge for teaching online?

I think it’s keeping students engaged from sign-on to sign-off. It comes down to building relationships with students, managing our online classrooms, using the right teaching strategies, and structuring lessons that keep the class moving. I’m really excited about what this book offers to address student engagement.

What was one of your favourite chapters to write?

I really enjoyed writing about building community. I believe that building relationships with students online is something that absolutely can be done. I see it every day. I know it can be powerful and that it can be a lot of fun for the teachers as well, especially if we start thinking about the space as a community rather than a class. A class is someplace where people show up, they learn some stuff, take a test and get a grade, and then they’re out of there. A community is something we come back to, we contribute to – a place where we belong.  

Alex Kajitani is the 2009 California Teacher of the Year and a top 4 finalist for National Teacher of the Year. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker who supports and motivates teachers and administrators nationwide.