As states across the country brace for the COVID-19 pandemic to reach its peak in the coming weeks, educators are some of the hardest-hit professionals left in the wake. After all, their ethical obligation to teach students isn’t locked away just because the doors of their classrooms are, so teachers are left to adjust their syllabi and shift their lesson plans daily.
Still, finding ways to keep students engaged from a distance is no small task. With school buildings closed all across the country and online learning taking over as the new normal for the foreseeable future, teachers have to find creative ways to get students involved with their own education from afar.
Fortunately, 21st-century teachers have one very powerful tool at their disposal: technology.
Specifically, zoom video communications allow educators, from Kindergarten teachers to Harvard Law Professors, to continue interacting with their students on a regular basis.
Of course, education isn’t the only powerful way that zoom is aiding human interactions impacted by social distancing measures.
The internet has been inundated with stories of everything from weddings taking place on zoom to plumbers using zoom conferencing to facilitate virtual home tech services, but the fact remains that teachers are arguably bearing the brunt of the burden in these turbulent moments.
As such, these zoom meeting tricks are designed especially for teachers trying to get a handle on the evolving landscape of their digital classrooms.
Get To Know The Platform
Before utilizing any clever tricks for teachers using zoom, a teacher first has to understand the program. Zoom is rather user friendly, but beginning the first virtual class without first exploring the functionality of the software would be like walking into a classroom on the first day of the semester without a lesson plan—no good teacher would dream of it.
As it turns out, some of the best tips for teachers utilizing zoom classes are built right into the program. Screen sharing gives teachers the option of showing all students a daily agenda at once; this is known to keep classrooms organized and on task, so the same principle is bound to be true for virtual classrooms as well.
Teachers can also “whiteboard” a shared item. For example, if a math problem is being shared to all students, a teacher could use the whiteboard function on zoom to complete the work in real-time right along with the students. Measures like these help bridge the gap between virtual and physical learning.
Additionally, when teachers take steps to provide visual aids along with their explanations, they account for students of all different learning styles, ensuring that no one is left in the dust.
Every teacher knows that student engagement is critically important to the learning process at every level. In turn, perhaps the largest hurdle facing educators at the current juncture is how to keep every student involved during zoom classes.
In all likelihood, classes on zoom will have to be slightly more regimented than those in person.
Students will probably need to have their microphones muted for the period of time during which the teacher is presenting the lesson so that all of the students can hear, and class times will likely need to stick to a structured schedule.
In order to encourage engagement in spite of this structure, it’s important that teachers make time for questions, comments, reactions, and discussions from the class.
This dialogue won’t be able to happen as organically as it would in an ordinary classroom, so it might be useful to ask students to write their questions in the zoom chat during the presentation.
Another option is to have students break into smaller groups for a period of time during each class and discuss the day’s lesson amongst themselves using the breakout room feature.
Because it is difficult to manage an entire class effectively in this way, teachers may also find that they’ll have better luck keeping students engaged through research and presentation projects, either individually or in groups. That way, students can take turns presenting their research to the rest of the class on zoom as they would in a classroom.
Try to Have Fun using Zoom Conferencing
These are trying times for everyone. While students may have enjoyed the novelty of being out of school for a while, chances are they’re getting sick of being stuck at home and would rather return to their classrooms and see their friends.
Bearing that in mind, teachers can ease some of the stress and uncertainty that their students must be feeling by adding a little levity to their days. Though the class can’t physically be together, teachers can host “birthday parties” for students whose birthdays are coming up that week or month.
This could consist of the rest of the class singing “Happy Birthday” over zoom, a virtual gift exchange, or any other celebratory measure that teachers can think of.
Just as many teachers find ways to incentivize good behavior in their regular classrooms, they can do the same thing in zoom classes.
If a student is exceptionally well behaved and participates very well, perhaps they can be allowed to change their zoom background for the next class session, for example.
Small steps like these on the part of the teacher will go a long way toward making students feel like everything is going to be okay, and will restore a sense of normalcy in their lives. If teachers can infuse a little bit of fun and a sense of camaraderie into their zoom classes, students won’t have to miss their friends and classmates so much in the interim.
It’s not clear exactly when the COVID-19 pandemic will let up enough for life to return to normal, but it is clear that teachers must adjust to this new routine for the time being.
While the situation might not be ideal, these tricks for teachers using zoom will hopefully ease the burden slightly as they continue with their fundamentally important work.
Here are a few other Tips and Tricks for Teachers Educating on Zoom
Bio of Author
Larry Shoemaker has taught evening adult continuing education on plumbing and HVAC topics to local students at Lehigh Valley based colleges. Seeing how education has evolved over the past 2 weeks has allowed with children currently navigating online schooling, has broadened our outlook and approach to this new current reality.