While transitioning to a virtual learning environment was unexpected and the timing of it a bit accelerated, the reality is that so many teachers and students around the world have long begun leveraging the benefits of technology to enhance the learning process. This modern integration of technological tools has created a whole new learning experience that has supported increased student autonomy and purpose in their learning. Realworld problems can now easily be infused into teachers’ lessons and opportunities to explore powerful questions to solve those problems at the learners’ fingertips are everywhere.
As with any transition, learning to be an autonomous and engaged learner in a new environment can be challenging. For so long, students have waited on their teachers to give them step-by-step instructions as they have progressed through the learning process. For students who have relied on this type of direction, moving into a virtual environment can feel a bit daunting and lead to a lack of engagement. Emelina Minero recently authored an article in Edutopia.org providing specific strategies to improve student participation in the virtual classroom. Let’s consider a few of these in both synchronous and asynchronous environments.
- Use the chat feature to check for understanding. During lessons, posing questions that students can immediately respond to using the chat tool can encourage realtime participation and give teachers a sense if their remote learners are following the lesson. It can be as simple as a thumbs up. You could even use Pear Deck to make the feedback timely and fun!
- Flip the classroom. Before the lesson, give students the opportunity to engage with the content through recorded videos and brief activities. Then, at the start of the lesson, begin with a discussion about what they learned. You can host a whole-class discussion or use breakout rooms to summarize concepts, solve problems together, clarify topics, or provide small group targeted instruction.
- Adapt Think-Pair-Share to Zoom or Teams. You can do this by simply giving students a prompt and then breaking them into small breakout groups where they each can discuss and record their answers on a google doc. This allows students to share their ideas while still being accountable for their participation.
- Create a virtual gallery walk for students to see and provide feedback on each others’ work. Students can create a short screencast sharing their work and then provide feedback to at least two of their peers. Teachers can structure this by posing specific questions to answer on a google doc such as, “What is something that surprised you?” “What is something that you thought was done well?” “What is one thing the student can consider to improve their work?”
- Give students the chance to virtually walk around the room and engage with content. Students can be divided into groups online and have access to a google slidedeck or document. Students can rotate through the slides and leave comments or insights about the content. They can then go back and comment on what their peers wrote, generating an online conversation.
- Leverage tools to create realtime collaboration among students. There are so many tools available to encourage real-time collaboration among students. Check out teachthought.com for an article listing of 30 of the best digital collaboration tools for students.
There are so many ways we can make learning fun and engaging online. The possibilities are endless. Just ask the students! When it’s all said and done, it simply comes down to this: The more we can increase student interaction with the content and each other, the better!
DR. STEVEN WURTZ
Chief Academic Officer