Zoom has been an invaluable part of our online classrooms in the past year. It has helped us to communicate, interact, and teach our students during the pandemic. Most people have found it quite easy to use. There are so many cool functions available on Zoom; however, not many people are aware of them. Here are some tips designed to help you utilize Zoom effectively to enhance the learning environment in your virtual classroom.
There are several features within Zoom that can be carefully manipulated to facilitate autonomy. Trying to create a learner-centered environment in a virtual environment can seem challenging. But it is pretty simple. You know your learners best. So ask yourself this, how can you get your students to feel more involved? Here are a few examples:
These breakout rooms are an amazing way to encourage group discussions, debates, and reviews amongst students. Also, it helps reduce Teacher Talk Time. It’s a win-win for everybody! Some important points to consider:
- When doing group activities, make sure you communicate all your expectations regarding instructions, roles, and feedback. For example, clearly outline how much time they are being given, what they are supposed to be doing, and who (they can pick 1-2 speakers) will be reporting back to you. Don’t forget Instruction Checking Questions (you can use the Polls feature here). This is important because, without ICQs, the entire activity could fall apart when students are not given instructions clearly.
- Monitor but don’t hover. You should be popping in back and forth periodically in all the breakout rooms to ensure that the students are interacting with each other. Moreover, if there are any questions or concerns, you can address them right away, and this way you can also ensure other rooms are not facing the same issues.
- Let the students know that you trust them to complete the activity on their own. But make yourself available to them by guiding them to click the “Ask for help” button when they need you!
- I also loved this tip from Sharon Speaks that helps build learner autonomy. If you’re a planner like me, you’re probably going to want to try it with your students. If you have a group activity coming up, pick a couple of representatives before class, and email them the instructions, and let them know how they will help you. Getting students to partake in facilitating the process of activity will help them develop confidence; moreover, it can help build rapport and establish trust.
- Use the “Broadcast Message” feature to instantly reach all students in case you need to tell them something related to the task at hand; remember, they don’t have access to the main screen while they are in breakout rooms. Also, beware – this message is time-sensitive and has a character limit too.
- Lastly, and this one will surely help with time management: pre-assign breakout rooms! This will save you time….and a headache later!
The best way to increase student engagement via zoom is to make the activities all about them. Give the students the floor (virtually, of course). Let them create an invigorating learning experience for themselves. But first, let's get them off the app and off to create, learn, and explore the worldwide web. Each student has a different learning style and it can be difficult to cater to all of them at the same time. So every once in a while, I like to mix things up. These are some of the apps I use to increase student engagement:
For more ideas, please see this link for interactive teaching methods on Zoom.
Teaching writing is pretty hard. And doing it online is even tougher. Well here’s a useful hack for you. When your students log into Zoom, send them a link via Chat to a shared Google Drive folder, ask them to make their own folders, and create a Google Document. Next, give them a writing task. When the students eventually start writing, you can open up their documents and follow along as you would have in real-time! You can also leave comments and suggestions right there on the document. You can also use the “Screen Share” function so that students may follow along when you are reading another student’s text (but please ask them if this is okay). Students can use this as a learning moment; this type of opportunity would’ve never had a chance in real-time writing classes! Back on Zoom, you can address common issues that you saw several students facing so you don’t have to repeat yourself 3,361,990 times. You can do this via the Chat or the Whiteboard feature.
I really hope this was helpful! Happy Zooming!
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