Allison DeYoung, Nadirshah Eford, Alexandra Zocco
When teaching virtually, it is important to create and maintain the same safe, inclusive, and emotionally supportive school culture you’ve worked hard to establish in your brick-and-mortar school and classroom. As facilitators, we can be responsive to students’ social and emotional well being and build a healthy and safe virtual culture.
To begin with, set some agreements for yourself and/or your team that can guide your virtual instruction. Some that we suggest include:
- Give yourself grace: plan for about 35-40% of what you would “teach” in a face-to-face setting.
- Be transparent about what you’re trying and what you’re learning.
- Simplify tasks so students can complete them independently - don’t oversimplify by removing complexity. (example: Create a video about changes, due to Spring, that you observe and measure over a week. Click here for more information or this project that supports the community in times of crisis from The Community School)
- Provide detailed, step-by-step instructions that leave no room for confusion or misinterpretation.
- Remember and plan for students with varying learning needs - how will this virtual learning meet the needs of ALL learners?
- Acknowledge that authentic learning can happen in a virtual space
In a live virtual session (Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc.) consider some logistical agreements for the virtual space that will help things run more smoothly. Some examples are:
- Mute when you’re not speaking on video calls
- Use the chat function to ask questions (in case others have the same question)
- Set up a distraction-free (or lower distraction) learning space
- Communicate virtually with peers (social distancing, not social isolation)
Here is an example of virtual learning session agreements, shared by Talia Godinez:
Then, identify some rituals and routines that can happen in a virtual space.
Consider what’s been successful in your classroom, and what types of rituals and routines might create that same environment virtually. Ask yourself, “How can I maintain a lighter version of what we would typically do?”
Some rituals and routines from the NTN Culture Practices card set that may work well to establish and maintain culture in a virtual space are:
Finally, use some virtual tools to keep a sense of community among your learners. This can happen outside of synchronous video sessions!
Some ideas include:
- Use the Discussion Board or Blog features on Echo for students to share responses to daily journal questions. With the Discussion Board, students can respond to each other.
- Send out a regular Google Form survey to check in on each student, and respond individually.
- Share with students what you are reading, and ask them to share back. You can create a video to embed in an Echo agenda, and create an assignment that allows students to respond with their own video submission.
- Create a virtual photo scavenger hunt for students and have them share what they’ve found on a Padlet.