Last week, I shared with you the things I hate about online teaching. But, I’m a firm believer in balance and thus, here is my list of things I actually like – nay, love!
Zoom’s chat function has actually come in handy more than I thought it would. I encourage my students, especially my more reserved folks, to contribute to the discussion via the chat. This allows me to get a more accurate reading on what my students actually think, rather than just assuming that if they’re quiet, they have nothing to say. It’s also a great way to host a start-of-class temperature check. I usually ask them to share their answers to a prompt in the chat while we wait for everyone to log on (such as their highs and lows or how they’re feeling about that day’s lesson). I like to save the chat afterwards so that I can take a closer look at how everyone’s doing.
One thing I couldn’t stand from face-to-face classes was the wasted time spent on breaking students up into groups. I never felt like taking the time to assign groups ahead of time which meant I had to wait for students to do it themselves in the moment. Without fail, my instruction to break into groups was followed by an awkward silence with students just staring around the room at each other before actually getting up and getting into groups. With the breakout rooms, I can just have them automatically assigned to as many groups as I’d like. And for some reason, it’s oddly satisfying to see them all pop away one by one. While I don’t like that I can’t hear their discussions as easily as I would in a classroom, I don’t mind not having to deal with the awkwardness of hovering around their tables while they talk.
I can bring my pet to class
For each Zoom discussion, I purposefully sit in front of my couch and have my pup lay behind me so that the students can see her. I do this for 2 reasons: first, I find having her there reduces my public speaking jitters I get before each lesson. Second, studies show that cats and dogs can lower cortisol levels in humans and thus lower stress. There’s no doubt that these are trying times, what with the possibility of being sent home at any moment due to rising Covid cases, navigating college as a first year student and what not. So, I figured that perhaps seeing my “little” pittie snoozing contentedly behind me may have a similar effect.
I had a pretty efficient method of taking attendance previously. I would put up a QR code at the beginning of class that students would scan. It linked to a google form that asked them for their first and last name, their section and offered a space to leave any comments or questions. This worked for the most part except when the internet connection in one of my classrooms decided to be less than stable. I always had at least one student come up to me after class saying that the QR code didn’t work for them. With Zoom, I wasn’t sure if I’d keep the same method but instead just share my screen with the code. But what if students were using their phone for class? What would they scan the code with? I could post the link in the chat but it all became a bit cumbersome to think about. Then, I learned that Zoom allows you to run a report of your attendees for up to 30 days after the meeting. You can download the list of students who attended and the length of time they were present. Now I don’t have to take attendance at all which saves me more time.
I know their names
The one downside to my method of taking attendance was that I rarely, if ever, learned any of my students’ names or their pronouns. I’d often have to rely on pointing to call on students. Because the students’ names show up right below their video feed on Zoom, I can actually call on them by name without having to ask each time. I’m not saying I’m actually going to start remembering whose face belongs with which name but at least in the moment it looks like I did remember. (It’s not that I don’t care to learn them but I’m just really bad with names. It’s actually kind of embarrassing…)
What are some of your favorites of teaching online? Share them in the comments below!