May 24th Learner Development Get-together Summary
Below is a summary of the ideas brought up in the LD SIG Get-together held on May 24th 2020. We hope you too find the ideas useful.
Managing breakout rooms
Lee: This is my challenge right now – preventing the breakout rooms from being dead-air brakes.
Ian: This for me is the biggest issue with online teaching. Not being able to easily monitor what the students are doing, when they are working in groups in break-out rooms. We talked about how good it would be if Zoom had a function to see all the students while they are in breakout rooms and swap between the rooms without the students being aware that they were being monitored. This would be similar to walking around a classroom while students are engaged in group work. However, this function does not exist. One solution we discussed is to this issue is to get the groups to summarize their ideas after the group rejoins. Another idea is to give the students shared Google docs to work on which can be monitored while the students are in their breakout rooms.
Tim: This doesn’t directly solve the problem in Zoom, but at my place we are using Google Meet, and one advantage is that you can set up several meetings which students can join when group work is required and the teacher can jump from one group meeting to another fairly easily. A colleague suggested setting up permanent URL links on a Moodle course page to Google Meet meetings (set up on Google Calendar) and labelling these permanent links “Whole class meeting”, “Group 1”, “Group 2”, etc, so that students know where the links are every time. By making the link appear in a pop-up window, students can easily return to the Moodle course to view resources there. It also helps to start the class on the Moodle page where all the course material is stored. One thing I found strange about Google Meet to begin with is that the links are “open” all the time, so students who are signed up to the Moodle course can use them any time outside class. I thought this would be a security problem, but, in fact, it allows students to meet up outside class to do homework assignments together or to do other projects.
Sorry if you are using Zoom, but, if your school has Google Suite and this limits access to students who have the “proper” university email accounts, it might be worth trying out Google Meet to see how it compares with Zoom. If you can use it via Moodle or another LMS, you have the added layer of security this provides by limiting access to Moodle users only.
Dealing with parents requests
Sumire: Flexibility was a key to go through this challenge even though it sounded easier to do. I realized how much I was stocked to making videos as one of the online materials for students. In this pandemic, online resources are finally released to students openly to most of the school so the sources should be kept even if this situation is over. I will keep working on making the video and, at the same time, start working on different kinds of materials to be flexible to both types of students who prefer online-based or paper-based.
Also, conducting a questionnaire to see how students feel in their learning and improving my methods would be helpful for dealing with parents’ requests.
Lee: (This is primarily directed to Sumire) I’m wondering how many of your students are already on LINE or Facebook. Given that they’re JH age, perhaps not – but then again maybe they are (especially the 3rd year students). If it’s permissible – how about creating LINE or Facebook groups for them, where they could connect, post their own links to videos that connect with their subject and lessons, and perhaps even peer/near-peer help each other with their homework and assignments? That might need to be cleared with both the parents and the school, and supervised by both – but it might create that “fun” feeling about the school work remotely. (Just an idea and nothing more!)
Ken: (in response to Lee) I know a number of educators embrace the idea of making Line or Facebook groups with their students to be more accessible to them. However, for me, I prize my privacy. Besides, I’ve been told there are already several Line accounts with my name and private information (of course without my permission).
Making videos for students
Sumire: I have been making a video which is collaborated with different subjects; however, challenges are how to make the video focusing on only English interesting and fun for junior high school levels.
Ken: (in response to Sumire) I think it’s great you have been making videos using English with different subjects! It’s the idea of content-based education. I worry that students feel that English is only a subject by itself, when it really is more a tool to other fields of knowledge.
Ian: Some people mentioned that it was difficult to make a video in one take. Also that it can be time consuming to add text and effects to a video. I myself have had to make some youtube videos for some of my classes this semester. I found that a good way to make commentaries is to use Zoom’s record function in tandem with the share screen function. You can easily make commentaries on top of a Powerpoint slideshow. Also, if you use some basic video editing software, such as Apple Movie Maker or Win Movie Maker. It is possible to quickly edit out mistakes in commentary.
Lee: The challenge I’ve found with this is what I mentioned in the open session before – that on-demand access actually requires more work in terms of monitoring and marking than with synchronous sessions, as you’re more compelled to call for weekly homework and assignments.
Ian: I have two classes this semester that are being taught “On Demand” and I have not had any opportunity to talk with the students directly. I have found that forum activities have been very useful in generating discussion online and that it is also a great way to have students practice their writing skills.
Jim: With shared online docs, advantages and disadvantages of anonymous contributions
Sharing handouts effectively – adapting materials for online use
Ken: With students who wilt at the sight of text-heavy readings, I have resorted to make outlines and share them on Google Documents. The work does help me to recognize what is really important for students to learn and incorporate.
Ian: I have found Google apps, such as Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Slides to be invaluable whilst teaching online. By using these apps, I can easily share documents with my students and students can easily submit documents to me. I am also able to monitor my students’ progress anytime I want and leave comments on their work.
Handling the increased volume of work – marking etc
Ken: I think this is a personal decision for each of us. For me, since achieving 10,000+ steps per day is a goal (requiring 1.5 to 2 hours), I try to stifle my tinkering tendencies and try to encourage students with judicious comments. It’s easy to forget how nice it is that students log in at all!
Dealing with staggered starts
Lee: Another issue! I’m falling between stools a bit on this.
Ian: I’m thankful that I do not have this issue, but I guess that getting a good scheduling app would be very useful!
Student engagement in online classes
Sumire: It depends on the number of students in a class. However, if I could use the Zoom or the Google Meet, I would like to use Boomcards as an introduction and make the students feel comfortable in a lesson. Also, I liked what Ian said that students can send messages personally to a teacher. That is an advantage of online classes.
Ken: I’ve been able to convince my department to employ student teaching assistants (TAs), and in some cases, 2 to a class. On my Zoom Basic account, I assign them to breakout rooms where they can monitor student interaction and keep them on task. In other classes, I’m grateful that they turn on their screens and leave them on during the lesson!
Ian: This is hard to gauge as it is impossible to read the students the same way you would if you were in a real classroom. However, I have found that there are many positives to the online environment. Some students seem to be more at ease taking classes from the comfort of their own home rather than in a classroom environment where they may feel the pressure of their classmates eyes. Also, I have found that students are using zooms private messaging function to ask me questions. Students seem much more willing to ask questions this way than by coming up to me in person in the classroom.
Tim: Yes, I have found that in online classes students seem to be more relaxed and I think I feel more relaxed than in a classroom situation. I wonder also whether we actually feel it is easier to look at each other online because we are all staring into the camera. Overcoming technical problems together also helps us to feel close, I think. However, as Ian says, engagement is difficult to gauge and I have heard anecdotally that students find it hard to watch recorded classes offline presumably because there is no interaction. Additionally, I don’t necessarily find online teaching any less tiring than classroom teaching, maybe because I have to make an even bigger effort than usual to get ideas across and because it is difficult to gauge the students’ reactions.
Conducting Student presentations online
Ken: I’d like to know the feasibility of uploading presentations without crashing the university LMS. A friend has recommended Flipgrid, so I’m currently trying to figure out how to use it (5/26).
Ian: I haven’t had to deal with this yet. But I plan to use Google Slides for my presentations this semester. This will allow me to monitor my students’ progress easily and will also allow students to do their presentations on Zoom.
Successes In online teaching
Lee: As breaking the ice has been the immediate challenge, I thought I should write here what I mentioned in our session – a minor breakthrough came with my use of a Google Doc as part of one of my breakout room sessions just last week. It got students “discussing”, and if I refine it further (separate BR Google Docs, or having students write their names on it, etc.), it could become an important tool.
Ian: As I mentioned above, using Zoom and video editing software to make videos and using google apps to share and monitor assignments has been very effective for my online teaching.