As middle-years educators, we recognize how important the social aspect of a school is in the development of young people. When students leave our classrooms, it is the experiences and relationships that stand out to them – rather than the content they learned in class. Due to the physical nature and proximity in a classroom, many of the connections and relationships occur organically.
Furthermore, teachers strategically design lessons and activities to develop social skills and build relationships among the members of their classroom. However, when students transitioned to online learning, it became more challenging to naturally develop social relationships that are typically fostered in a physical classroom environment.
Through our experiences in the Master of Education program, we have come to know and understand the importance of interactions in the online world. Through experiences such as breakout rooms, Flipgrids, and blog posts, we have found these opportunities valuable in making our online classes more engaging and enjoyable.
Understanding the importance of building connections in an online environment, we have implemented the following experiences for our students:
In our course prototype, we plan to utilize Flipgrid for a variety of activities including the target game, movement sequences, and alternative first-aid supplies.
We chose this platform because:
- It allows for students to collaborate and share their work with others.
- Students can provide feedback and comment on each other’s work – allowing meaningful conversations about their learning to take place.
- Commenting can be accomplished in a variety of ways including text, audio, video, or stickers.
- Very flexible time length as videos can range between one second and 10 minutes.
- Student privacy is protected as videos can be posted to a private classroom grid that can only be accessed by members of the same classroom.
Microsoft Teams Breakout Rooms:
While OneNote is a large part of our LMS, we decided to place it within Microsoft Teams because this allowed us to easily utilize the breakout room feature within our lessons and activities. Specifically, we plan to use this feature to facilitate group discussions at the conclusion of our target game lesson, as well as a group work project in our First Aid section.
We chose this platform because:
- The breakout room function is already built within the LMS that students will be using – making the experience for users relatively simple.
- Working in a small group alleviates the stresses of large group discussion and provides students who normally may be hesitant to share, the means to do so.
- Students can easily share their screens with one another, which will be an asset when they are designing their safety presentation at the conclusion of our first aid lessons.
- Screen recording is available for students who may not have been able to make the synchronous learning sessions.
- Teachers can easily “pop” into each room and check-in with groups while they are working, while also having access to all breakout room chats.
Although many of the written assignments for our lessons take place in OneNote, we provided students with a few opportunities to share their thoughts with one another via blogging. While there are many blogging sites online, both Trevor and I found Kidblog to be the best option for student blogging because:
- Provides students with the means to create engaging and interactive literary pieces that integrate multiple pieces of digital media into their writing.
- Collaboration and connections can be made with fellow classmates or other students outside the walls of their classroom.
- The comment feature also encourages meaningful feedback from classmates and initiatives authentic discussions between students.
- The privacy settings along teachers to make blogs private so only students within the classroom can view or comment on the work that has been published on Kidblog.
- Students’ accounts can be connected to their Microsoft Office accounts – creating an easy login experience.
We plan on using this tool within our course for quick formative assessments as well as engaging our students in a live activity on safety practices.
We chose this Mentimeter because:
- Students can collaboratively participate in word clouds, open-ended questions and rating systems – giving them a voice in their learning.
- We can create a balance between interaction and information.
- Provides meaningful formative assessment, which will help to guide future lessons and activities.
- A variety of multimedia can be embedded into presentation slides and quick assessments.
- Menti works very well on mobile platforms.
As we progress through the development of our course, we have found that it is important to critically analyze when and where our students interact. With a plethora of options online, we’ve considered what’s easily accessible and user-friendly for our students. While it may be difficult to replace the face-to-face interactions that occur in a physical classroom, there are no shortages of tools and strategies to facilitate these experiences in an online environment.