Teaching in a student-driven, constructivist way was EXTREMELY, PAINFULLY challenging to do over Zoom during remote instruction. Students did not want to turn cameras on and often did not want to talk. Many of us, myself included, did not have home environments that allowed for concentration. Many of us were experiencing anxiety, depression and increased stress. Some of my students were still working their jobs as mechanics, in grocery stores, or doing delivery. My classes were both synchronous and asynchronous. There were successes, meaningful, important successes. But I am eager to do better this fall.
I spent much of our Zoom time just talking to the kids about what was going on, but then I began using technology like NowComment (easier sign-in process even though I’d prefer they use Hypothes.is) for collaborative annotation and Eduflow added a Discussion capability, which I used for writing shares. It felt a lot less like the “Ms. Mac” show, with me monologuing into the darkness. I used my Zoom time for conferences, which made it slightly more palatable to not be interacting with all the kids.
I was able to maintain an open genre approach by recording 3 different lessons (just 5- 10 minutes each) — 1 for writing poetry, 1 for dystopian narrative, and 1 just a diary reflection — for their quick writes. Students choose 1. Some students only did quick writes each day while some chose pieces to commit to revising, and worked on that instead.
That was teaching in a crisis. As of today, NYC and NYS still haven’t fully agreed on a plan, although schools were given options for how to have a hybrid schedule. The stress and anxiety remain even as some of the fog begins to lift. So, as we enter this new normal, I will be sharing some of the ways I am using technology to bring our student-led learning to the online realm.