The moment the World Health Organization announced that covid-19 was officially a pandemic, school staff all around the world sprang into action. They spent days setting up the transition to remote learning—configuring Zoom, developing lesson plans. By the first week into an online school, there was no shortage of frantic emails from parents across grades. 

Zoom and other online meeting forums are wonderful tools that replicate many aspects of face-to-face gatherings. All across the world, students and parents are involved in a vast cyber-education experiment. At first, it was extremely difficult to get students to unmute themselves and speak but now I can’t get them to stop. How do you ask? Here’s a couple of anecdotes that have proven successful for me. 

Online, the various Zoom functions—screen sharing, screen names, chatting, breakout rooms, annotating, the mute button—seemed to be a locus for negotiating student-teacher power dynamics, which might otherwise have never come up if not for online learning. 

While screen sharing might be a simple feature you’ll be surprised to learn that students have a tendency of making any online feature a fun activity, it is not as much the tool as it is the method of using it. Screen sharing allows students to share their computer audio without sharing their whole screen, which means if used as a reward, students can share their favourite songs or playlist they are currently listening/ dancing to with the whole class, as a brain break. 

Similarly, annotating, it’s just a simple tool unless the teacher can make it a form of healthy competition for students to find a place in the Mughal Empire map and scribble over it or underline a place where the most amount of steel is found in India. Zoom’s updated version comes with the feature of always showing the name of the annotator. The student’s name that is able to find the place first is easily visible to the entire class. 

You’d think the changing name option isn’t exactly a tool, think again! I have used this tool to make breakout rooms even more exciting, by allowing students to change their names to a predominant historic personality or any geographic feature so when the teacher drops in, they get to narrate a specific characteristic or interesting fact of that personality or feature as a form of revision. It can also be used as a tool to imposter a classmate and spy on the other teams’ strategies during an online quiz, which hurls up spirited conversations in class. 

Online tools are just tools until the teacher finds a way to make them a fun activity or a form of reward, the most infamous of them all, “Can you enable private chat so we can chat with our friends?” No doubt online schools can not compare to being physically present in a classroom, students have come to enjoy the online platform so much so that there is constant debate over the preference of the former over the latter. Being heard does not necessarily mean speaking, thanks to zoom there are so many options for students to be present in class without actually speaking.

Posted by cmradmin

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