How to combine these face-to-face classes and distance classes at the same time?
Faced with a hybrid teaching scenario for 9 months now (with simultaneous face-to-face classes with half the students and the other half following them from home through Meet / Zoom 7 Teams…), it occurs to me: there may be a lot of teachers facing the same problem and wondering how to combine these face-to-face classes and distance classes at the same time. Is there any way that we can continue to “move” relatively around the classroom, or at least not depend on cables to project, and that the students who are at home can continue to see what we present / explain?
Essentially, you need the classroom computer to have a camera
The first option, the most basic, but the simplest: you need the classroom computer to have a camera, or, if it does not have one, to add an external webcam. With that, a video call is started with Teams (my scenario), Meet, Zoom, Jitsi, … for the students who are at home and the option “share screen” or “present” is activated, depending on the platform to be used. This way, the students present in class can see the presentation or documents shown by the teacher through the projector, and those at home will see them whenever the screen is shared. You can share the entire screen, a specific browser tab, or a program. You name it! This option has the advantage of being the most feasible in terms of technical means. As a disadvantage, it makes the teacher’s movements have to be restricted to the computer table. (On the other hand, in the current circumstances of “social distance”, teachers have to stay away from students, whether we use technology or not).
The pedagogical implications
Regardless of the technological tools, if this scenario of having to combine face-to-face and distance teaching at the same time arises, the pedagogical implications are obviously be much greater, for example:
• Regarding the design of synchronous or asynchronous activities, it is necessary to rethink which activities should be done at the same time, monitored by the teacher, and which can be done independently.
• Criteria for organizing the work groups. Shall we put the students in the classroom in groups, on the one hand, and breakout rooms with the students at home? Or even make mixed groups, if the students who are in the classroom have Chromebooks / computers / tablets …, or are they allowed to use their mobiles?
Personal experiences and recommendations
In addition to this, we can have two teenagers at home taking online classes following their synchronous sessions while watching a video, eating and/or checking messages on their cell phone. This scene must be a common sight in many homes. I have worked on online education programmes for over a decade and I am well aware that students can face numerous temptations. The aim of this article is to offer personal experiences and recommendations for overcoming these obstacles and minimising potential risks.
I have observed kids at home not paying attention, not engaging, not discussing, being interrupted, or simply not contributing to the session in any manner. Other factors that contribute to successful and effective online teaching include the course design, activities, materials, the teacher’s “teaching presence,” student-teacher interaction, student autonomy, and even time management. I learned all of this through observation, research, trial and error, and, most importantly, student feedback. To improve this, I ask students to evaluate, comment, and provide their opinion on all areas of the course at the end of each evaluation period, and then I study the comments, as well as the results of the surveys, to “see” my course through their eyes.
There are also technological complications and other discomforts that can occur in a synchronous online session for the class. Sometimes if bandwidth is low, teachers or students can lose connection, video can be blurry, audio can be delayed, and other frustrating technical or logistical complications can arise. And there are students in class waiting for these problems to be solved.
In spite of all the difficulties, I have tried to keep things as similar as possible to what I used to do in my face-to-face lessons and I have both groups (the ones at home and the ones in class) do the same things at the same time. I don’t use paper any more. I use https://www.liveworksheets.com/ so that everybody can work online at the same time. I must confess that I’m very lucky that all students have a computer available in class. If they didn’t have one, I would give them the same worksheet in paper. I also use the “tasks” option in Teams, so that all students have immediate access to the materials I want to work
We also use our phones. A lot. We use tools such as https://wordwall.net/, https://www.mentimeter.com/ to interact, but we also use WhatsApp. It has become a very important tool to communicate with my students. We also use various apps to enjoy and learn at the same time, such as https://kahoot.com/, https://quizizz.com/, https://www.wooclap.com/, https://classtools.net/, among others.
My experience is positive but exhausting. Everything takes longer. No matter what it is. It always takes longer than usual: the planning, the activities, just about everything. Given the circumstances, I’d say that hybrid lessons are an acceptable settlement, but nothing can replace the warmth of spending the same time in the same place with my students.