Contributors: Emilah DeToro, Magdalena Karlick, Seren Morris, Virginia Padilla-Vigil, and April Vogel
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our faculty at Southwestern College had to quickly mobilize to transition courses from face-to-face to online synchronous delivery. This, of course, created numerous challenges, the most significant being, how to maintain the spirit of transformational learning in the Zoom web-conferencing environment for students and faculty committed to “transforming consciousness through education.” As first steps, faculty were trained in the use of Zoom technology and coaching clusters were formed to provide faculty with the one-to-one support of Zoom coaches. The next step was to establish collaboration and resource sharing among faculty via Faculty Check-Ins and Creative Conversations.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was meeting the needs of students who are accustomed to and strongly prefer a face-to-face learning environment. This transition to the online synchronous environment was not what they signed up for and early in the quarter, students expressed feeling fatigued from the immense amount of “screen time” and felt a “lack of connection” with each other and their teachers. Adding additional stress to this transition was all of the other challenges our students were facing in the midst of the pandemic including unemployment, financial struggles, social isolation, and illness. Faculty at SWC recognized that students would need another level of support, resources, and connection and that preserving transformative learning in this new environment was crucial.
It is important to create a safe space, really like a safe container where students can feel comfortable and can really feel like they can be vulnerable and can voice their needs” (Seren Morris, Faculty, Southwestern College).
The following practices were identified as important to supporting the overall health and well-being of students and establishing a learning environment that consists of rich interaction, engagement, connection and community. The following ideas and strategies for synchronous online teaching were generated in our first Creative Conversation, which occurred on April 10th.
Numerous ideas were shared for doing Check-Ins as we felt that it is important to provide students with opportunities for sharing and processing of experiences, feelings, etc. While it is always important to attend to the social emotional needs of students, in times of crisis, it is even more critical.
Movement Check-In: Magdalena shared that she read a poem and then had students choose a phrase from the poem and then create a movement related to the phrase. The students then shared their movements with the class.
Word Cloud Check-In: Virginia had students check by building a word cloud using Mentimeter. The prompt was share one word that describes how you are feeling today. Students are able to see the word cloud on the screen as it develops, and it gives them the sense of how others are feeling. Word clouds can be a quick and fun “temperature check.”
Padlet Check-In: Emilah had students check in using Padlet and the theme was “share something magical that’s happening in your life.” Emilah shared that the students loved it and that they kept going back to it later on to read others posts and comment on them.
Zoom Polls: Magdalena has used the Zoom polls for check-ins and other activities. Another app to consider is Poll Everywhere.
Breaks: Allow for more frequent and short breaks (e.g. 10-minute breaks on the hour). Facilitate stretch breaks.
Off-Screen Activities: Incorporate “off screen” activities, when students can turn off their cameras and work on activities (e.g. drawing, reading an article, watching a video, listening to a podcast, brainstorming, reflecting…). Also consider playing relaxing and calming music during these off-screen activities.
Check-Ins: Do frequent check-ins throughout the class via chat or other apps as a temperature check.
Additional Zoom Sessions: Offer additional and optional Zoom sessions to connect with students. Also consider logging in early and staying late just to connect with students. We find that students are eager to have more connection with each other and their teachers.
Building Community and Fostering Connection & Collaboration
Breakout Rooms: Use breakout rooms often allowing students to connect authentically with each other.
Offline Discussions: Encourage students to stay connected via the discussion board in Populi in between classes – this allow students to collectively unpack course content and readings and to foster collaboration and build community.
Apps: Use interactive and fun apps to allow for different ways for students to share ideas and perspectives. Examples include Poll Everywhere, Mentimeter, Padlet, and Flipsnack.
Course Café: Create a “Course Café open discussion forum as a hub for your learning community in Populi. Students can use this forum to reach out with questions, thoughts and ideas that are emerging for them, sharing resources etc. A possible prompt to use is:
“This is a place where you can connect with your classmates and your instructor to ask and respond to questions; get support and support others; share your passions, experiences, stories, and resources; pose interesting topics of interest for discussion, AND so much more! Remember, we are all learners, teachers, and leaders! We stand to learn so much more from each other’s perspectives, experiences, questions, thoughts, and ideas! Hours of Operation: 24-7 throughout the duration of the course!”
Digital Collaboration: Provide opportunities for students to work collaboratively online utilizing digital collaboration tools. As an example, April is teaching the research course synchronously and she is seeking out ways for them to work offline collaboratively. She is considering Zoom or Google Hangouts for meetings. Another tool to consider for digital collaboration is Microsoft Teams for digital collaboration.
Magdalena shared that she has students share their artwork on Padlet. The Padlet app allows for commenting on each other’s images and text.
Virginia used a shared slideshow for a Silent Gallery Walk. Students added their cultural journey posters to the slide show (images) and during class, we had a “gallery walk” whereby students reviewed and added written comments on each other’s posters. Sentence starters were provided such as …made me think about; I wondered about…; I’m curious about…; …resonated with me because…; I could relate to…; I LOVED… Students enjoyed viewing each other’s’ posters and giving and receiving feedback.
Words of Encouragement:
Don’t be afraid to take risks and be creative to achieve what you want to achieve in this new environment and embrace the failures that go along with these as an opportunity to learn and grow as a teacher. There is so much to be learned when we are pushed outside of our comfort zones as we are in the current situation with the move to fully online synchronous classes.
Think about what you can learn from this situation and encourage students to do the same. As an example, Seren invited a guest speaker to talk about telehealth with students. This helped students to reframe online practicum to gaining a new skill that will be valuable for them moving forward.
Your classroom, whether face to face or online is your canvas. Be free, be creative, add your color in ways that are authentic to you, re-imagine, and embrace the journey and the unknown. Spread your spirited wings with faith and confidence and you will soar in ways that you never imagined possible (Virginia Padilla-Vigil, Dean, Southwestern College).
Creative Conversation Video Recording:
Topic: Faculty Zoom Check-In & Creative Conversation
Start Time : Apr 10, 2020 11:57 AM
Image Source: inspringchampions.com