Lights, Cameras, Zoom! Engaging Students Online

Rock the Class

By now, most educators and students have experienced synchronous video conferences with tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Skype. To be honest, I am not sure how anyone involved in education could have dodged these necessary, and oftentimes mandatory, learning opportunities that commenced mid-March of this year. Even with the seemingly incessant opportunities to practice successful video conferencing strategies that promote teamwork, understanding, and efficiency, there is so much to be discovered and so many questions to be answered about online, interactive, and collaborative learning designs. Although it is trite, the following statement fits perfectly: We are putting the wings on the plane as we fly it.

Frankly speaking, I am loving the flight. What an amazing time to experiment with proven brick-and-mortar pedagogies and witness how they translate during synchronous video conferences!  Naturally, when my colleague, Kasey Nored, and I were asked about moving our “Rock the Class” professional learning opportunities from a face-to-face, in-house session to a two-day, live video conferencing workshop, we boldly said, “Absolutely.” The ensuing planning time had Kasey and I morphing our interactive learning structures, which have always been practiced in brick-and-mortar settings, into the Canvas LMS. Dropping in all necessary resources and instructions on a digital platform wasn’t the only concern. The real issue was facilitating all of the following interactive structures for seven hours a day for two straight days. To be honest, though, we didn’t sweat it. Simply put…we believe in these learning designs. They rock in the brick-and-mortar settings, and we felt confident that they would translate just as effectively in the virtual setting.

In fact, we have witnessed for many years students and teachers engage in these collaborative and competitive learning designs that foster inquiry, creativity, and, ultimately, learning. However, after witnessing the whole world turn upside down with Covid-19, Kasey and I were concerned that digital, online learning would turn into students sitting behind their laptops, disconnected, and bored out of their minds. Just like all the amazing teachers out there who are mesmerizing their students with authentic and relative learning designs, Kasey and I knew we had to introduce these interactive learning structures in a new setting. In our minds, all we needed were “Lights, cameras, and Zoom.”

This summer, we got our chance. Leading monthly 2-day professional learning sessions titled “Creative Structures for Student Engagement” that operated live for 14 hours was an absolute blast. Perhaps the biggest positive we heard from our participants was “Wow! These two days have flown by!” We are so proud of the following teachers, who undoubtedly kicked butt during these professional learning workshops. You be the judge, however. Simply take a look at the original posts that showcase how the interactive learning structures work in an actual school setting. Then, sit back and enjoy the recorded Zoom meetings of our participants’ creativity.

“The Wax Museum” (original post; second post)

Check out their Wax Museum presentations via Flipgrid, too.

“Slow Jam the ____________” (inspired by Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show; original post; second post)

Check out these slow jams from the July crew, too.

“The Blender” (original post)

Check out July’s “Blender” presentations.

“The Voting Chips” (original post)

How engaged was the June crew? Click here to see for yourself.

“The Front Porch” (original post)

The teachers from the June session got a little crazy on the front porch, too. Check them out here.

“The Trifecta” (original post)

Don’t forget to check out these teachers in the July session.

“The Greatest Hits” (inspired by Whose Line Is It Anyway?)

The June professional learning workshop produced a bunch of greatest hits, too.

For sure, schooling all across the world has adapted to challenges presented by COVID-19. Now, our “classrooms” can potentially be anywhere. A bedroom, a front porch, a McDonald’s parking lot to access wifi, a breakroom at work, or maybe even a poolside (if you’re lucky). Yep! So much has changed. One thing that doesn’t need to change, however, is students’ engagement during a synchronous, online class. “Lights, cameras, and Zoom” are all you need.

Well, and a little creativity, too.

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John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC).

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