This is another post in a series that highlights the successes of being in a full remote setting.
I love being in class, weaving between tables as students work. I hear their conversations and see their writing as I pass by each group. Despite being in a pandemic and not being able to walk around, I replicated my sweeping movements around the classroom by going in and out of breakout rooms. At first, I felt I was doing my job and enjoyed how much I was involved in the students’ processes. Then I realized what I was really doing was controlling their thinking and ultimately their learning.
Beliefs on Learning
Students need time to process and to think in order to learn for themselves. This is especially true with the writing process. As a teacher who loves to move around the classroom, and as of late move in and out of breakout rooms, I realized my mere presence can be too much. My hovering stops some students from writing because of my critical eye and my help makes other students overly rely on my input. At the moment, it feels good for both the teacher and the student; in the end, the student isn’t learning on their own. I stated in several posts–and still believe–that people learn best when they can monitor their own progress and advocate for their needs. When I am always present, I strip them of that.
Over Zoom, this problem has been somewhat alleviated. While in a full remote setting, I place students into breakout rooms and allow them time to write. They are given the opportunity to talk about the topic through and write because I cannot be in two rooms at the same time. With six to eight breakout rooms and three to five students in a room, it takes time to go through each room. On top of this, there is the issue of the first room I go into hasn’t had any time to process. A student the other day told me, “Go away! We haven’t even had time to start!“
See without watching
I need to be able to see what they are doing without my presence being overbearing. To do this over the past year while in remote learning, I have used google slides for students to work on. Most of the time, I have every student do their writing on a whole-class google slides presentation. Sometimes they have their own slide, and sometimes they are in a group writing on the same slide together.
In the google slide presentation each student has their own space and I can thumb through the presentation and read their work even if I am not in their breakout room. The problem is that students can see when you are on their slide. Even if I am not in their breakout room, they know I am still watching and the same issue of me being overbearing happens.
To alleviate this problem, I click on the grid view in the bottom left corner of the presentation.
Once I click on the grid view, I see all the slides at once. If I zoom in on the screen without clicking on any particular slide I can what the students are working on without being an interruption.
Instead of hopping into every room, I can take a moment to just see what everyone is doing. I can see who is struggling or who is just flying through their writing. The students know they can raise their hands and advocate for anything they need. I am always available and still make it known that I am there to help, but I am no longer right in their face. My watching also allows those students who need a starting point or more clarity on the assignment. I am not going into a room right away. I allow students who need that moment to realize they don’t know how to start an actual moment to come to that realization themselves.
Return to in person
Once we return to full in person learning, I need to remember this same realization: I am sometimes too much. Using the google slides process can and should be replicated in class. I don’t have to be hovering over each student all the time to be present and available.
Additionally, the use of google slides in this way allows students who are not physically in school to work with students who are in person. There are always students who cannot make it to school but still can be a part of the class. I can still easily read their work if they want me to or they can easily read the work of their classmates.
Finally, the google slides allows students to build a portfolio of work to come back to see how they have grown over a semester. They can copy from the google slides to another document to curate their learning as we move forward.
A huge thank you to Kim Miklusak for editing this post and her constant willingness to debate educational ideas and edit this post.