Remote Tutoring Sessions

Remote tutoring sessions have been a part of my tutoring practice for over a decade. They have been my entire practice since March 2020, and will remain so until further notice. These sessions can work with anyone anywhere in the world who has a computer (not just a phone, the screen would probably be too small) with reliable, fast Internet access, and a microphone and speaker (or headset).

Aside from the obvious health benefit of remote tutoring, there's also a huge convenience factor for both the student and whoever would transport the student, especially in winter, and there's less environmental impact.

A lot of people remember the nightmare of remote school and are turned off by the prospect of remote tutoring, but I'd like to reassure you that remote one-on-one tutoring is very different from a remote classroom. Groups are really hard to do online. Remote tutoring is more like a phone call, but with great video and great audio. In addition to Zoom (please ask for the Zoom link), I use some great tools to make mathematics come alive on a computer screen, notably GNU TeXmacs (from which I can generate a pdf that the student can refer to after the session) and GeoGebra or Desmos for graphing and geometry, and Notability on my ipad so I can write on a whiteboard almost the old fashioned way.

While it's not necessary, sessions work best if I can see a student's work as they do it. I know of three options:

  1. (Cheapest, and probably most effective, if you already have an iPad or other tablet) An app that allows handwriting and drawing with a stylus like Notability works very well on zoom with a shared screen. (Look up notability for android to find android alternatives.) The student joins the zoom on their computer and on their tablet, and works directly on the tablet, so I can see what they are doing as they do it. With Notability, students can even scan worksheets and write on the scan, though I often discourage that practice because there's rarely enough room on worksheets to work through the problem properly. Only one of the computer and tablet should "join audio" on the zoom to avoid feedback, and both should be on wifi. I do something like this myself so I can demonstrate to students.
  2. A stand for a smartphone (e.g this) that can aim the phone camera down at the paper (not all stands can do that). The student joins the zoom on their computer and on the phone. Please make sure to:
    • flip to the back camera, not the selfie camera, since it's a better camera;
    • make sure the phone is on wifi;
    • make sure that only one of the phone and the computer "joins audio" to avoid feedback.
    • make sure the work area is well-lit despite the student's hand and the mounted phone
  3. (Most expensive) A document camera which the student aims at their work. Make sure the camera's output is compatible with your computer (usually USB-A or USB-C). Using the zoom settings, the student can switch to the document camera so I can see what they are doing. Again, make sure the lighting works well.

These techniques do make sessions work better, but sessions also work well without these technologies, since I often use my computer screen as my blackboard. I often take dictation, so we both see the student's work on my screen, while demonstrating what I hope are good work habits.

It helps to try zooming with a parent or friend to make sure whatever technologies you are using work before your first tutoring session. You can also try Zoom's test zoom room to at least make sure your Internet and zoom audio and video are set up correctly.

Please email any assignments you'd like to work on and some recent work beforehand, in whatever format is most convenient. Links, pdfs, scans, photos, screen shots, etc. can all be helpful.

If things aren't working, please call or text. There's always the possibility that I might not have power or Internet, especially if the weather is interesting.

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