Hello Everybody! Today I'd like to tackle what I'm sure is a hot topic in education right now... the digital classroom!
So first of all a lot of teachers are scrambling because of how quickly this all happened. Most kids left school on Friday only to learn they all of a sudden have an extended holiday until April or May. We're not sure right now, but it's looking like the rest of the school year might just sort of be paused or cancelled right now.
Teachers are probably in a similar boat. I'm sure they've all had to react tremendously fast to put infrastructure in place ASAP. Those that bother to do so, anyway. A lot of our students are reporting back with mixed results. A lot of people are trying to figure out the best way to do it. We had our first online day this past Sunday and it went okay.
To support our classes, we decided to go with three platforms: Google Classroom, Discord, and Twitch. Below I'll get into a little bit of why for each one.
Google Classroom we've already been using to manage our classes for a couple of years and it's ability to index and log assignments is fantastic. We use it primarily as a means to organize the class including attendance, assignments, and readings.
An important thing to remember is that a certain amount of your students just will not bother checking things. It doesn't matter how many emails or notices you send on the various platforms, they'll just have their heads in the skies and somehow miss the notifications you send out. To notify students digitally, it's best to send them pings throughout all of the digital outlets you use + email if possible. Even then you know the drill...
Discord is a chat platform similar to the work platform Slack. It features a centralized server with many sub channels and voice channels along with robust link and image sharing. It's a younger skewing platform that a lot of kids use to play games with each other and build communities. I think in a lot of ways the functionality of Discord is streets ahead of Slack... and it's free.
Each team of students has their own voice and text chat which only they can and the Coaches can see. We do this so teams have their own private space in which to work. I think this is a very important concept when it comes to virtual work - privacy is key! Nobody likes it having someone look over their shoulder 24/7. Give the students room to do their assignments by themselves and each other instead of having them on the line the entire time. Crucially, too, the kids are on it and know how to troubleshoot if need be.
Twitch is a streaming platform for gamers and gaming culture. I use Twitch because outside of pornographic webcam platforms it's the most widely used and adapted stream platform in the world. The kids are familiar with twitch because again games and we stream our lectures at the beginning and end of class to the audience,
Personally, I don't think it's important to see students when you're teaching them virtually. More important is communicating with them when you need to (which can be accomplished by voicechat or text) BUT - I do think it's important for them to see you. A teacher's job is to lead and guide and I believe seeing someone communicate directly is necessary for that. Speeches have always been an important part of leadership :D.
Next time I'll tackle some lessons I've learned after another week! Design, test, and iterate!