No matter how much we worry about not knowing what to have and which one to prepare first and how much we wish for the government to keep on pushing the start of the new academic year, we would still face “Day 1” fair and square. While I was pondering on what to work on first, I thought I could share with you pages I found useful in organizing my virtual classroom.
I first reviewed pages about the best practices for teaching online. What Stanford University shared might be heavy text wise (not a very inviting page), but really helpful. Their Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online encapsulates the main ingredients every teacher should prepare to cook and serve a splendid Day 1 experience with learners who are also new to this type of learning. Takeaways from their list are
- Our students should feel our ever present presence most importantly during scheduled synchronous sessions. Knowing that we are always there as expected during working hours extends a sense of belonging that they are not lost and that we are always there to give them feedback.
- Online or onsite, setting clear expectations is a nonnegotiable. Whenever I write classroom expectations I always ask myself, “Would I want to stay in my class if I was the student?” If we cannot tolerate or make sense out of what we prepared, we should press delete.
- Combining concept learning with personalized learning means that we have to know our students very well. We have to upgrade our glasses to see them more than the most advanced holograms. We have to be keen listeners to keep them interested and truly productive. This is the aspect where I always think of those Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings.
My next stop was on back to school activities. I needed to make sure I wrote “online” or “virtual” on the search bar to avoid those pages that are about to be forgotten. I got hooked with the name of the teacher running the blog. She is called Miss G which is very close to how my students call me. Back to School Activities for Virtual Distance Learning has fun and unique tasks that both teachers and students will surely enjoy. Takeaways from her list are
- Instead of the “get to know the teacher” mantra, Miss G suggested that students “investigate the teacher.” We can imagine our students virtually scurrying on the web to find answers. We can incorporate a little bit of digital literacy as we guide their “stalking” task to refer to reliable sources.
- I love running learning stations in my classes. It feels good to see how those stations can be converted into their online version. The idea is to present the lesson into yummier bite-sized chunks. Considering gender sensitivity, it works for everyone when instructions are laid out or questions are asked one by one.
- Adding a venue where students can share their responses is a must. Remembering that communicating with students through our online classrooms is prone to more barriers, we cannot simply eat a 15, 30, or even a 60-minute synchronous session simply by rendering a one-way audiovisual lecture. Let us imagine running a one hour music playlist. What usually happens? It is either we stay until the end (like our very hardworking kids who would survive it); we switch to another list (the camera only shows what our students want to show, not the complete picture); or we simply doze off (more so when our voice and overall projection bring in some magical sleeping effects). Thus, venues where students can give us and their peer feedback must be utilized to the fullest.
My last stop was not as heavy as the first two pages. Holly Clark of Infused Classroom has a very straightforward info-graphic presentation on 8 Fun Activities for Virtual Learning Meetings. I could only hope that some of our “heads” read this post. Takeaways from her suggestions are
- To have fun teaching and learning means careful and wise planning. No teacher could run any of the activities listed without prior knowledge of the class members and without preparing materials. Let us take for example the “Movie and Netflix Reviews.” Sections of one review should be divided and assigned to different groups. How to get groups working together in a virtual classroom can be a challenge at first. Thanks to fast-changing technology, we have now several options from fancy forum threads, Padlet, to simple shared Google Doc or Slide.
- “Hot or Not” is an interesting activity. The most important part where students could showcase the depth of their understanding is their explanation. At least they hear and experience another way of answering the not-so-favorite “why.”
- With the majority of the population relying on visual cues, the 8th activity can be simplified to present a photo that can be vague, but relevant enough to anchor an online discussion.
Did this post just help get us excited now knowing where to start or our list has just gotten longer yet we have a smile on our face because we know we are on the right track? The world has indeed taken one ugly somersault and it is still midway doing the action so no one could tell yet which side is up or down. We all need to find ways to keep our sanity and our bodies healthy. We have to carry on!