Recently and for obvious reasons I have had to switch from a face-to-face teaching style to an entirely online delivery. There are so many gifts that are unique to online classes, and at some point I hope to experience them (LOL). Until then, I hope that you can find some humour and possibly some preventative advice in the following words. Names and details of the real students were changed to avoid detection.
In my defense, I shifted to online delivery with only a couple hours notice, that said, I was oddly confident and felt totally ready. In as much detail as I can share, here is how my first couple of classes played out.
Timing and tech
We began in our google classroom at the normal start time. I have always used an online classroom with my groups so that they have access to all class information digitally and it often lightens the load on me in the long run. Well that is how it used to work…
Not having the normal routine obviously caused a few problems for my students as they filtered in one at a time over the period of about an hour, yup, an hour.
So the very clean staggered start I planned with a soft online landing in Google? A complete waste of my time.
On top of that, the new shift to using zoom that I thought would be “easy-peazy” was a raging disaster, mostly because I planned an entire lesson (3 hours for night classes) to follow the few minutes I thought it would take everyone to settle in and become comfortable with the format.
Finally, about the timing…. I know I seem like an intelligent human, and in most ways I definitely feel as if I pull my own cerebral weight, but this was a tough lesson for me. I was absolutely convinced that I had to be “teaching” for the entire 3 hours. Our class starts at 6:45 and the three hour face-to-face stretch is exhausting in person, but we were all in the comfort of our own homes, so it would be much easier right? . .
****It is worth noting here that not everyone understands that the meeting will be visual and at least one person chose to stay in their underwear. That said, I was able to catch it fairly quickly and it was not formally noted.
In a regular class I often begin as follows;
“Hi everyone, looks like it is time to start, it has been a couple of days since we shared a space, how are you doing?”
There are inevitable a couple of mumbles and eventually I launch into a quick round table check-in where each student has the floor to say hello and share their week.
Online, after a 33 minute check in fiasco getting everyone onto zoom, dressed, with both video and sound, I began my welcome:
“Hi ev –
“sound of someones dog barking loudly/cars driving by/the latest episode of Survivor/papers shuffling”
“Sorry about that”, I say – as I cleverly mute everyone, “Lets get started, Why don’t we all check-in with a quick share out? Bob can you start?”
I forget Bob is muted and he proceeds to share his experiences from the last week completely before I clue in and unmute him.
“Sorry Bob, can you share again, I forgot to unmute you.”
“Nope I’m Good”
And on and on the next 15 minutes went, more dogs barking, kids screaming, washing machines running and computers dropped as we all valiantly tried to connect.
Lesson#1 – Plan for at least one session where you just check in, get everyone used to the tech, reward them for using the new tech and call it a day!
Lesson #2 – Do a trial run of the tech with trusted friends to trouble shoot the process
Lesson #3 – Remind people that we can see more than they think we can.
The actual learning
As I mentioned previously, I actually felt quite comfortable before beginning the actual class, confident even, but at this point, roughly an hour into our time together , that confidence was starting to crack. I pulled myself together and pulled out my trusty power point to begin the evenings learning. I felt my confidence return in spades, this is where my happy place is, teaching, sharing, guiding…
Showing off my computer savy, I immediately “shared my screen” and began the lesson. Almost immediately I hear someone talking..
“Hello…(giggle)… is anyone there…(another giggle)?”
“Hi Chrissy” I say wondering why she is isn’t muted like the rest.
“Hi Lav! It totally took me so long to figure this out! I am so excited I finally got in, this is amazing! What are y’all talking about? I have had such a week! How is everyone else coping? I mean what with everything being closed and all of my sports being cancelled I’m totally at a loss! OMG what can be next this is crazy town!! Has anyone been watching the news? I saw that thing about the dogs and man…”
-This is where she paused, thank god, and where I finally saw my opportunity (because on zoom talking over someone just creates an actual mess, so you have to wait for a pause). I don’t know the thing about the dogs, and while I am intrigued, I really don’t have time for this!
“Hey Chrissy! I am so glad you got in, can we chat at the end of class? I’m just in the middle of the lesson…”
Lesson #1 – Make sure everyone is in that is coming in (more about that later)
Lesson #2 – See lessons above (use your first connection just to connect, leave the learning for later)
Lesson # 3 – Make sure that you know where the mute all button is. Had I been thinking I could have muted her mid sentence or even later, like after the first five sentences.
Wrapping it up
I managed to get through at least part of my lesson the first day, and even a played a video the second day. There were more struggles and definitely more mistakes, mostly by me, but all-in-all no one was harmed in the learning.
I am going to spare you the painful details of the rest of the but just so you don’t think it was all sunshine and blue skies from here, check out these other tips.
#1 – sign in to video sites and password protected areas BEFORE you share your screen
#2 – Keep a sticky on your computer reminding you that you are sharing your screen just in case you get the urge to pop into facebook or messenger during a movie you have seen about 83 times
#3 – It may be helpful to keep an additional device open to the online classroom so that students who come late are not left hanging for two hours, waiting for you to help them get on…
Just a note about my students.
I am being very tongue in cheek here, but I need to say, for the record, I am so grateful to share this journey with the humans that I do. My students are all amazingly capable adults who like the rest of us are live in various levels of technological comfort. I adore each and everyone of them and cannot thank them enough for the gifts they bring to our shared space each day.