When the world stopped back in March, I wrote that no one knew how to teach in a pandemic. Here we are, 8 months later and we are still learning and adapting every day. I know each teacher has their own unqiue set of challenges this year, but I have found some small wins that I’m happy to share in a small series of posts.
My school is in a hybrid model where I have 4 groups of students in each class: A/B week hybrid, all in person, and all remote. Going into this school year I thought I had a plan about how I would teach a hybrid class, but having all 4 groups of students in each class has definitely made it more challenging. I decided to live stream my classes to keep all 4 groups together even though I worry if that is the best instructional model. I have struggled how to be a constructivist teacher where I put students at the center of education because it is so much easier to fall into a lecture/worksheet type pattern. Over the past several weeks, I’ve devised strategies that I’m using and adapting each week.
Though there are amazing applications out there to help facilitate school this year such as Peardeck, Nearpod, Classkick, and Edpuzzle my school is a Google based school meaning that we use Google Classroom as our primary platform for disseminating information to our students. I worried about introducing too many different platforms for my students and wanted to focus on the tools that they would be more likely to use in all their courses. For this reason, I primarily focus on the Google Suite for Education including Docs, Slides, and Jamboard. I have used Pivot Interactives, Vernier Graphical Analysis, and Flipgrid to help support the learning.
The first interaction that most of my students have with me is through Google Classroom itself, so I try to keep my Classroom as organized as possible for myself and my students.
The most important technique that I have, is turning off the classwork posts from the classroom stream. On the stream I only keep the crucial information such as a landing page, the bathroom sign in/sign out forms, reassessment request forms, and, of course the zoom link.
Figure 1: Screenshot of Google Classroom Stream
On the Classwork page I have my information organized into units and number each day. If a day requires assignments in addition to materials, I add a letter to it so it’s clear where it goes and it's easier to communicate with students about what work they have to complete. Before the next class, I move the date to the end, so the most recent will always be first and then it will go in chronological order. Each unit has its own topic that I move to the top when so students see the newest materials first.
Figure 2: Screenshot of Google Classroom Classwork
The bulk of my materials are done with Google Slides. I make a new slide deck for each day that has the agenda, assignments for breakout groups, and using the google slides as virtual whiteboards. While this helps me as the teacher keep track of what we were able to accomplish, this also helps all students access the materials and any conclusions that we draw together.
Classroom set up:
I’ve been using Zoom with both my in person and my remote students at the same time, this way I can try and build some form of a class culture and make sure that all students have the ability to interact with their peers and with me. Because I am live streaming my classes, I find it most helpful to use multiple devices. My current classroom set up has my personal laptop connected to a second monitor, a school chromebook, my ipad, and the school desktop that is connected to the projector. Is it too much? Maybe? But it’s the only way that I can see managing right now.
Figure 3: Ariel's computer set-up
I use the school Chromebook for attendance and the school emails that come in that always have to be addressed immediately. Sometimes these are important communications from school administration, guidance counselors, or other teachers, but sometimes students are communicating with me during class, either asking for help or expressing they have trouble logging in. I log into the Zoom on my personal laptop because it’s at the teacher station in the front, as opposed to the desk off to the side. I move the documents that I use for the screen sharing to the second monitor so I can see my students and the document at the same time. The iPad is useful so I can use applications such as notability and writing on a document so students at home and in person can see it at the same time.
I log into my Zoom from my laptop and the school computer so I can use the smartboard/projector. Sometimes I also log in with my iPad so I can use apps like notability. While this seems weird, it’s easier than trying to work all the different devices at the same time.
As my students enter the room virtually, I have the daily agenda being shared on their screen. I use the waiting room to easily mark off attendance as they enter. As my in person students come into the room, I sometimes have them log into Zoom as well. This allows students to collaborate and tries to prevent my fully remote students from being completely isolated from the rest of the class.
I have daily setbacks.
- I forget to change the share settings on my daily Google Slides
- Students get kicked out of the Zoom session
- The WiFi drops in my classroom
- Students accidentally (I hope) delete all of the slides for the day's materials
- I accidentally post assignments forgetting to assign a copy for each student and have to do it again on the fly
- Materials that are formatted perfectly in Word, don't work quite the same in Google Docs
- Students need more technology assistance than I realize
- I review material for 5 minutes before students tell me my microphone is on mute
Even with all of these hiccups, the structure is basically working. The next post will address whiteboarding and classroom conversations in a virtual environment.