From my perspective as a student, I think that is really important to provide variety and choice with virtual instruction. While there should be consistency in communication and where information is located, students lose interest quickly when you are sitting on a Zoom for hours on end. In my opinion, the best practice is to provide multiple ways for students to interact with each other and you. Maybe they watch a pre-recorded video of you explaining a new topic, then get to discuss that with their peers in a forum before meeting for a debrief Zoom discussion. While synchronous instruction is important, I think we need to remember that students are going to be as burnt out as we are with constantly videoconferencing and staring at a screen.
I think that an opportunity that will come with online instruction is the chance for students to get creative. For me I can see this applying to assessment in particular. A lot of methods of testing that we are used to are not going to be possible this semester, so it is the perfect opportunity to lean into project style assessments where students have the flexibility to choose how they want to demonstrate their knowledge, whether that be a podcast, video, virtual design or book, etc.
A challenge that I am foreseeing with my placement is engagement. My district will be using Canvas which is typically used in college settings, and I think that the middle schoolers I will be working with will have to become more independent as they get used to navigating this type of LMS. Additionally, I am worried that both my students and I will be experiencing so much screen fatigue that it will make it difficult for us to engage with one another. Relationship building is such an important part of teaching and I am worried that building strong relationships with my students is going to be incredibly difficult when I can’t meet them face to face.
Despite these worries, I am optimistic that I will be able to make the most out of this virtual semester with my students. There are a lot of cool apps and platforms out there that create so many exciting possibilities for online learning and I am excited for my students to teach me about what is relevant to their lives so that we can set up an online learning model that works for us.