After an intensive summer semester with UP, I feel like a Zoom expert. I now know what works well as a distance learning student which gives me the advantage in knowing what works well as a distance learning teacher. This year I will be an 11th grade economics cooperating teacher which will inevitably bring me some challenges but should be rewarding and I know I will learn a lot from the experience.
What works best as a distance learning teacher:
I think for retention of information, collaborative learning and social and emotion health, breakout rooms are great. Student’s are more willing to speak and contribute ideas in a smaller class setting. They then learn from each other as opposed to listening to the teacher go on and on in the main room. The teacher can then jump in and out of the respective breakout rooms and facilitate conversation and make sure students are on task. However, we also want students to have time in these breakout rooms to get to know each other and share their online learning experiences.
I think this goes without saying but the more synchronous time the better. I have little faith in 11th graders motivation to do asynchronous economics work. The real retention comes from engaged, synchronous instruction. That synchronous instruction intermixed with the use of new, online platforms that assess and illustrate understanding seems to be as good as you can get with distance learning. I do see remote teaching as an opportunity to get creative of course. Apps and software like Flipgrid, Socrative, Padlet and Class Dojo are all in my repertoire and will work to keep students engaged.
Qualms or concerns:
One large issue my co-teacher and I are currently navigating is that this past week the school district told teachers that students are not required to have their camera on while they’re on Zoom. My co-teacher and I agree this rule simply ludicrous and have decided that despite what other teachers tell them, in our class we will keep our cameras on unless working independently. If I learned anything from summer tutoring with Dr. Merk it’s that student engagement when online teaching is difficult and without the accountability of seeing their faces engagement will be abysmal.
I am not well versed in the study of economics. I took economics in high school and had two economics classes in college I took electively but my understanding of the introductory graphs, equations and figures is not where it should be as a teacher. I love the real-life application of economics and a more interdisciplinary study of economics and I hope I can work some of that passion into my teaching. I plan on getting the textbook this weekend and brushing up and possibly preemptively making some Kahoots for the first few chapters.
My mom – who is an elementary school special needs teacher – and I are trying to figure out how to convey our characters and personality over zoom and how teachers can have students do the same. I am a big friendly giant and my past students have responded well to that aspect of my character. I am still looking for concrete ways to mutually convey character past ice breakers and such.
At the end of the day, what I am most concerned about is students mental and emotional health. Ask Vygotsky or Piaget and they will tell you adolescence is a critical time in student’s identity formation. In high school one’s identity is essentially no longer formed by familial relations and is instead shaped by being with peers. Without a strong sense of identity and the socialization, student’s mental and emotional health will certainly take a hit. Not to mention, there are a lot of students who see school as their safe space from a tumultuous family life. While I am optimistic about distance teaching and the potential for creativity that comes with it, I think there are inherent issues with engagement and social development that hinder the experience.