Having the proper supplies and teaching environment can make a big difference when teaching online. For those of us that are working many hours, we have to build a surrounding that is comfortable. Having the proper equipment is critical as well.
On this page are various recommendations for online ESL teachers who are new to teaching or are looking to upgrade their current toolset. For those of you that do not teach children, you can skip through some of the suggestions focused on dry erase boards, stuffed animals, and flashcards.
Please do write in the comments letting us know some of the items that you use in your teaching environment. We would love to hear from you!
View Table of Contents
- 1 Computers
- 2 Headsets
- 3 Webcams
- 4 Dry Erase Board
- 5 Puppets and Stuffed Animals
- 6 Flash Cards
- 7 Desks
- 8 Chair
- 9 Standup Desk
- 10 Laptop Stand
- 11 Lighting
- 12 Surge Protector
- 13 Cable Management
- 14 Suggestions
Are you a Mac user or a Windows user? In the past, when many of the Chinese schools first came online, most of their applications were built only for Windows.
Luckily, this does not seem to be an issue anymore, but you still need to be cautious. Having a computer that runs on Windows is your safest choice.
HP, Asus, Lenovo, Acer, Samsung, and Dell are among the best sellers for lower cost, yet quality laptops. Furthermore, most of the Chromebooks have the proper specifications for teaching English online. Chromebooks are not accepted by all of the online schools, so please check ahead of time before purchasing one.
Here are automatically updated lists of the best selling new laptops for HP, Asus, Lenovo, Acer, Samsung, and Dell.
For an automatically updated list of the top-selling laptops, you can go here.
Important: Teachers have reported that Chromebooks are not compatible with QKids and MagicEars. There might be issues with Chromebooks not being compatible with certain schools that have their own teaching platforms.
We have an extensive article covering the top laptops in more detail here. Just like the article on headsets, there is a list of the top laptops for educators that can be found at the bottom.
One of the primary tools that you will be using is a good quality headset. Make sure you choose wisely and understand that this is a necessary investment.
Keep in mind that if you have a Mac, you need to get a USB or Bluetooth headset. The exception is if you have a MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro supports audio input as well as output so you can use a typical three pin headset with microphone.
Many teachers go with the Logitech series of headsets. They seem to be the most reliable compared to other brands. There are other popular brands such as Plantronics and Microsoft. Surprisingly enough, Microsoft makes high-quality headsets for teaching online including the LifeChat LX3000 which is preferred by iTutor.
Most laptops come with built-in webcams. When looking for a new laptop make sure that you get one with a built-in HD camera. If you do not have a high-quality camera or are running on a desktop, then you can purchase an external webcam.
The main specification when buying a webcam is pixels and frames per second. Look for one that has 1080p at 30fps. 720p at 30fps will also deliver a high-quality stream to your students. Do note as well that many cameras list 1080p for screen recording, but when you look at the specifications for streaming that might run at 720p.
The other specs that are important for online teaching are autofocus and face tracking. Do not forget to check to see if it will run on your operating system.
You can also look for a camera that has a noise reduction microphone built in in case you are going to use it for other purposes beyond teaching. For teaching online, we recommend that you use a headset with noise reduction microphone. Your built-in microphone has more of a tendency to pick up sounds from you typing on the keyboard which can be distracting for the students.
Just like with the headsets, Logitech ends up being one of the more popular brands. The model that has been one of the top rated and best selling for some years now is the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920:
- Full HD 1080p video calling (up to 1920 x 1080 pixels) with the latest version of Skype for Windows
- 720p HD video calling (up to 1280 x 720 pixels) with supported clients. Full HD video recording (up to 1920 x 1080 pixels)
- H.264 video compression, Built-in dual stereo mics with automatic noise reduction. Automatic low-light correction, Tripod-ready universal clip fits laptops, LCD or monitors
- Compatible with: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 or later. Works in USB Video Device Class (UVC) mode: Mac OS 10.6 or later (HD 720p on FaceTime for Mac or other supported video-calling clients; Full HD 1080p video recording with QuickTime Player) Chrome OS,Android v 5.0 or above (with supported video-calling clients),USB port,Internet connection
Friendly Reminder: Please do not forget to look at which operating systems are supported.
Dry Erase Board
If you are teaching kids, it can be helpful to have a dry erase board handy. The larger magnetic dry erase boards are good to have behind you so that you give the kids the feeling of being in the classroom.
Having one that is portable and easy to write on can be good as well. Some teachers find it practical to use a smaller dry erase board, while others see it as being too cumbersome.
Puppets and Stuffed Animals
For those of you that are teaching children, puppets can come in handy. By handy, I do mean hand puppets. Some teachers go the DIY route and make their own, while others find it easier to buy them online. Having at least one stuffed animal around will help keep most students interested in the lesson.
Some of the Chinese schools also require flash cards. These come in all different shapes and sizes, so make sure that you find ones that are practical and show up clearly on your web camera. You can look at the various types of flashcards for basic concepts, reading and writing, and general study aids. This pack seems to have all that you would need:
- four flash cards sets - these 4 sets will teach your 3-5 year old math, language and basic skills.
- math, basic skills and language - the numbers set will teach your child math. The colors & shapes will teach your child basic skills and the first words and alphabets will teach them language.
- rings included - this set of flash cards includes a ring for every set to keep it neat and organized and for easy sorting.
- large fonts with realistic art - these flash cards are the perfect hand-held size with large, clear and bold fonts so it easy to see even from afar. The realistic art makes it exciting and practical for teaching your child.
- teach and review - it is deal for teaching, reviewing and practicing sight words, in the classroom as a whole or each child individually or in groups, at their level.
Depending on if you are working part-time or full-time, having a proper desk can make a huge difference. The issue with some of the better desks is the high price associated with them. We try to tackle that problem in the recommended desks listed further below.
Make sure that your desk is large enough to accommodate various props and other items if your students are children. If you are teaching adults, you should not be as concerned.
Check to make sure your hands are resting both flat and straight on your keyboard and mouse. Along with that, your elbows should be close to your sides, instead of reaching out to the desk and computer.
A comfortable chair that is also ergonomic is another important part of your office. Look for one that has multiple adjustments while still fitting firmly around you. Read plenty of reviews with a focus on which ones last the longest.
Having a creaky chair can take away from the learning experience of your students. Unless you have a super clear noise reduction microphone on your headset, it might pick up the extra noise of leaning back or forward in your chair. Here is a list of the top-selling computer chairs.
Recommended Computer Chairs
For those of you who are adventurous, you might want to look into a standup desk. Many people are finding that using a standup desk helps to keep your energy up, while also helping with better posture.
A new standup desk can be a significant investment, and one that if you don’t use will be hard to resell. Kind of like when people buy treadmills for their new year’s resolution and end up using it for a clothes rack.
There also desks that function as a traditional desk, and can then be cranked up to be used as a standup desk. If you’re just starting out this might be the best choice if you have the funds.
If you are interested in standup desks, then be sure to check out the various mats that used while standing up. Some people get away with just using a typical yoga mat.
To get you started, you might want to start off with a basic adjustable standing desk riser/converter.
Recommended Desk Converters
Recommended Standup Desks
Having an adjustable laptop stand can be a benefit as well. In case you do use a standing desk, this will be something that is essential. If your digital nomad, there are small portable laptop stands that can comfortably fit in your bag.
Recommended Laptop Stands
Recommended Travel Laptop Stands
The proper lighting is essential for your students to see you effectively, and to ensure that you do not strain your eyes. Fortunately, this is not as big of an investment as a desk, chair, or new laptop.
Lighting is one of the topics that we discuss in the article on how to stay healthy while teaching. https://oetjobs.com/stay-healthy-teaching-online/
Look into an adjustable LED desk lamp. One of the best and most cost-effective is the Effy Lumos. If that is not what you are looking for, then check out this updated list of the best selling desktop lamps.
Recommended Desktop Lighting
Unfortunately, this is an item that some people overlook. Doing so can result in the loss of a laptop or at least a burnt up charger. For those of you that don’t already know this, most of the chargers newer laptops have built-in surge protectors. However, having extra protection never hurts.
There are various Battery Backup Uninterruptible Power Supply in cases where you have fluctuations in power. Depending on the one you buy, they can stay on for another 10 to 20 minutes if the power goes completely out. Here are the top sellers that are automatically updated.
If you are travelling teacher, you should have a surge protector or two. A wise investment is this one from Belkin that is also an adapter and comes with two USB charging ports.
Recommended Surge Protectors
Now that you have all these devices you will have to figure out what to do with all the wires. To me, this is one of the biggest hassles especially when you are on the road.
Our lists of recommended products can always use some help from other teachers just like you. Please do share your opinions in the comments below.
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Last update on 2018-03-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API