A Zoom account is not enough to say that your school is ready to “go virtual”. While it is certainly a good start and all teachers should have access to a platform (like Zoom or WebEx or Google Hangouts) that allows them to conduct synchronous learning events, a user account is only the start. If a teacher hasn’t learned how to best use the platform to effectively engage students, they are destined to fail. It’s the equivalent of saying to them, “hey, you’ve been driving a car for many years so just jump in that NASCAR and race the Daytona 500”. Well, maybe not but you get the point…
Here’s what I really want to point out—managing a live class on a virtual delivery tool is quite a bit different than a live classroom. Imagine that in your classroom of 2019 (pre-pandemic) a spontaneous chat broke out. But you didn’t invite it and it was disruptive even though the students were talking about the subject matter you were teaching. What would you do? You would either stop the class and “go with it” or you would put an end to the disruption. In a virtual class, a spontaneous chat session is a measure of attentiveness and you want to encourage it, not discourage it. It’s a very different mindset that you have to bring to a virtual class than a traditional classroom.
Online platforms are full of functionality. Chats, polls, breakout room, and screensharing are just a few. When to use them and how to use them is not something that you need to invent. There are best practices that you can learn from. Here’s an example: In a traditional classroom you can measure attentiveness by looking at the students and assess whether or not they are “in class” or off in a distant land. How do you do that when you are in a virtual classroom? It’s not about the chat or the poll, it’s how and when you use it that makes the difference. More importantly, it’s why you use it that makes it effective.
What we’ve done with Certified Virtual Educator is to pull together the best practices that will deliver high engagement in a virtual classroom. It not about teaching you how to execute a poll—that can be pretty intuitive for a tech-savvy teacher, it’s about how to USE the poll to enhance engagement. Certified Virtual Educator provides essential skills teachers need to be as effective in the virtual classroom as they are in traditional classrooms. The teachers and districts who have already taken this course range from tech newbies to experienced digital educators who just “figured it out” on their own. The feedback from both groups, as well as those in between, has been phenomenal—with everyone learning new skills and collecting valuable takeaways.
For school administrators across the country, fear of the 2020-2021 school year is mounting. While there is no way to satisfy everyone, ensuring that your teachers have the proper training to take on virtual learning can be a critical tool in responding to unhappy parents and teachers alike. We wish all of the teachers and administrators out there the best of luck as this school year begins