FLAG is currently offering a fabulous free webinar series for World Language Teachers. I recently watched Marcy Webb’s session on Virtual and F2F engagement. You can watch the recording here, and check out upcoming webinars here.
My notes on the webinar:
- Importance of vertical alignment, especially in this teaching environment – acknowledging that we can’t achieve the same results as in past years, meeting students where they are, and selecting curriculum and resources appropriate for the digital environment and skipping activities/topics that don’t translate well to virtual teaching
- There was some discussion on cameras on/cameras off – I enjoyed hearing the host and presenter’s perspective, which was that cameras on aren’t necessary for engagement, and cameras off for student safety/comfort was acceptable, and even preferable for them. A lot of it stemmed from Zoom bombing issues/student on-camera mischief that the host experienced at her school, and I am grateful once again that my district is using Teams and that our students do not have any blanket of anonymity as to their behavior in video meetings.
- Engagement in the digital environment is more than just interacting during synchronous meetings – it also includes submitting work, asynchronous communication (like Schoology messages), and students responding to our feedback.
- Engagement stems from a positive relationship and trust in the teacher. We will need to work harder to build relationships with our DLs (distance learners). One easy way to make DLs feel seen/included is by greeting each DL by name as they join the meeting. Some of the small talk that we normally do about sports/extra curriculars may be harder to achieve with the DLs, but perhaps conducting interest inventories could give us some insights on what to say to DLs to make them feel seen. I also heard of a roll taking strategy another teacher at my school uses – a quick preference question during attendance, like “Coke or Pepsi?” “Turkey or ham?” – something quick and simple to give our DLs a chance to show their personality
- Activities: switch things up with lots of different apps and websites or stick to a few oldies but goodies? I think we all have to find our own balance of novelty and familiarity that works for our us as teachers and for our students. I recently tried Whiteboard.fi (alternative for the individual whiteboard activities we do) and really liked it – I blogged about it here. I also checked out https://app.wizer.me/, which is a website for creating interactive worksheets. I decided Wizer wasn’t for me, at least not yet – my interactive worksheet needs are being met with Schoology quizzes and Kami for PDF annotation. The presenters also mentioned PearDeck, NearPod, GoFormative, Socrative, and JamBoard, which I may check out at some point in the future.
How do you know your distance learners are engaged? What are your best strategies for building relationships in the virtual classroom?