Engaging students and managing a remote classroom can be daunting. Technology designed with education in mind brings collaboration and control to the classroom.
This past summer I had the opportunity to safely meet and mingle with friends and family – a welcome activity after a long lockdown and isolation. My wife is a primary/secondary school teacher and two of her colleagues – Don and Emma – were guests of ours one afternoon, and so I had the opportunity to spend an interesting few hours learning about their experiences as they chatted about teaching during this crisis. Needless to say, I learned a lot!
First of all, I didn’t realize that many school districts don’t have a district-wide plan for 100% remote teaching. As an example, my wife’s school district didn’t have a standardized platform or tools to conduct district-wide virtual professional development. Their high school was using a popular LMS with an embedded – but limited – collaboration platform that was inadequate for elementary and some middle school grades. This meant that teachers were on their own in terms of choosing their platform, which lead to a mishmash of platforms being deployed, including: Zoom, Microsoft Teams®, and Google Meet.
Next were the disruptions. The teachers found that every platform had great communication tools, but they were intended for business use (for adults) and lacked some key features that educators needed to ‘settle students down’ and focus on learning. I heard about a class where an uninvited guest logged on and caused 15 minutes of off-topic conversation, fortunately not newsworthy, but a frustrating waste of time. Emma said that she’d like to have the ability to control a five minute student ‘meet and greet’ to say ‘hi’ to their friends and then get down to teaching. Don wanted to be able to provide the same experience for the in-person (synchronous) or on-line (asynchronous or synchronous) learners that made up his hybrid classroom.
Both felt that they were teaching with tools made for corporate environments, not classrooms. This prevented them from using tried and true engagement strategies with their students such as grouping, whiteboarding, question and answer sessions, and private consultations. They lamented the lack of control and continuity for example, some platforms didn’t allow file sharing and considered each class as a unique meeting rather than a continuation of the previous session making all chat discussion and file shares from previous sessions unavailable.
In addition to how tough it was teaching 100% remotely for the first time, they also missed the ability to ‘compare notes’ with their peers or learn even more from industry experts. Professional development opportunities would have lowered their collective stress levels considerably.
Emma also had several students who just didn’t show up for class. Because the applications they used were designed for corporate meetings, attendance taking was not built into the program and had to be recorded manually by taking a screenshot of the attendee names every session. When a student missed too many sessions, Emma had to contact parents using her personal mobile or home land-line – numbers that she would have preferred to keep private.
Knowing what I do for a living, they asked me if their experiences were similar to what other educators around the United States were experiencing, and if there was a better way to teach and learn remotely.
My answer was a resounding — of course there is! My advice was to optimize technology designed for educational environments to effectively engage students while teaching remotely. Creating a successful virtual classroom must include:
• Classroom control
• Integration into existing Learning Management Systems
• Security tools native to conferencing applications
• Learning equality
• Professional development
To learn more about how Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is bringing collaboration to the classroom please visit us at our Rainbow Classroom page.