As a teacher managing a virtual classroom, a major part of your responsibility lies in setting up structure and expectations for your students, no matter what age. Prior to starting your connected learning journey together, it would be beneficial for both you and your students if you supplied them with tips for how to make their connected learning journey a success.
Remember, we’re all learning this new world together, so students and parents will appreciate the advice and framework for success. Navigating learning in the world of COVID-19 isn’t always easy, but if you follow these easy tips and share with your students, you’ll all experience great triumph throughout your remote learning experience in a connected classroom!
Let’s dive in:
Perhaps the most important key to success with virtual learning is preparing the technology setup. Not everyone in this world is a certified IT professional, right? But the good news is, the tech setup for online learning is typically simple, so you don’t need to be a teacher and IT professional simultaneously – don’t worry!
Depending on what platform your school is using, provide students and parents a checklist for how to log on to the platform and test their setup directly in the technology platform you’ll be using. Make sure they know how to check microphone and speaker access once logged in so they can hear the audio and engage in class. Also, that their video is turned on for ultimate peer “face-to-face” interaction. Most importantly, make sure their parents help them by checking the at-home Wifi connection to see if it is strong enough to support streaming of the class – if it seems weak, have them find an ethernet cable for a hard-wire plugin that won’t fail.
Start the etiquette conversation with students and parents by expressing how important that face-to-face interaction is, how no one wants to be the only one in class appearing as a dark shadow on the screen! For connected learning to truly create connection, we want to be able to see faces to fully engage.
The way to effectively prep for this is to set up a learning space at home that has good lighting – not too dark, or too bright. A room with shades and a neutral background is best.
Another key is selecting a quiet space that will allow students to unmute without background noise to participate in class, while also allowing them to concentrate without distraction.
Make sure that students understand that just as you wouldn’t slide into your desk 10-minutes after the start of class, don’t log on to your online classroom after the class begins. This leaves much room for error when it comes to ensuring tech is working properly (because even when you check your setup, technology can sometimes have a mind of its own). It’s also disruptive to the class!
Instruct students to log on to “check-in” and triple check tech 5-10 minutes before the class begins with all their materials prepared so they don’t need to leave mid-class to gather papers or notes.
Just as in an in-person classroom, you want to make sure that students understand the need to be respectful of those who are presenting or speaking. Let them know that life happens – the dog barks, your parents may pop in – all this is ok, it’s our new reality, but do stay on mute so you don’t disrupt the class and can unmute to participate when your background noise has passed.
Let them know that in order to fully engage and learn, it’s important to remove distractions like their phone or tablet to remain focused – emphasize that there will be breaks where they can check all the texts from their friends!
Finally, as a teacher it’s important that you don’t allow interruptions when others are talking. The flow of an online class can be a little tricky compared to an in-person, but make sure students are aware that it’s not productive if they unmute and speak over others to get their point across. You can tell them that they can simply head to the chat box and chat that they have something to say or raise their hand on video and their turn will come! This is where you acting as a virtual moderator really comes into play.
We’re all learning here! Virtually connected classrooms present new challenges and new skills, a new method of teaching you may not be familiar with. Give yourself and your students grace! Create a classroom environment where students aren’t afraid to provide feedback so you can help cultivate an engaging and effective classroom environment. Tell them it is okay to speak up if things aren’t running smoothly or if their audio or video goes out. The only way for connected learning to succeed is if we keep communication open and honest!
Embrace the Experience
It’s important that you don’t let the connected learning experience cause you stress. Allow these five simple tips to guide you and your classroom, providing this advice and these strategies to your students and their families from the beginning. We are all works in progress, we are all learning and adapting to our new normal, you aren’t alone! Embrace the initial discomfort, enjoy the connected learning journey, and before you know it, this will be your comfortable new normal.
Think of all the doors connected classes will open for you in the future, the ability to learn and interact with those across the globe seamlessly. The possibilities are endless, and you are ready!