Parents may feel overwhelmed by the plethora of different virtual learning platforms. You want to help your student when they come up against technology obstacles and when they need help getting the most out of their learning. But you may feel unsure about virtual classroom tools, as well as the features of each one. If educators feel disconnected from our students when we can only see them on a screen, imagine how the learners must feel! There are however tools educators can use to promote engagement and connection with students learning from home.
Virtual and hybrid classroom tools: Zoom and Google Meet
Zoom or Google Meet are great virtual classroom tools that make learning a little easier for everyone. These tools are beneficial for parents to learn about so that they can assist learners during virtual schooling.
This is a critical tool to allow students and teachers to view the same content, whether that is an online copy of a novel or a slide deck on Nearpod or Google Slides. Having a common visual aid can help students stay focused and on task, much like in an in-person classroom. This is especially helpful for students that are visual learners or English Language Learners or have trouble processing instructions or content while only listening.
Whiteboard and Annotation
Whiteboard and Annotation are another great set of virtual classroom tools that teachers can use via Zoom to create or mark up content while screen-sharing (a whiteboard tool is also available in Google Meet). These can be used to walk students through the steps of a math problem, close-read a challenging poem, or allow students to present their work to their peers. Students can even annotate a shared screen if given the option by the teacher. If your school doesn’t use Zoom, working simultaneously on one Google Doc or Slide is a great alternative!
Break-Out Rooms are a great tool for small group work. This tool allows the teacher to assign students to a virtual “room” with other students for a certain amount of time. You can randomly assign the students or select which students go where, just like you would do for a physical seating chart or in-person group work. The teacher can move in and out of the different Break-Out Rooms to supervise and support the learners, just like a Think-Pair-Share activity in the classroom.
Polling and Non-Verbal Feedback
The Polling and Non-Verbal Feedback options in Zoom are a great way to conduct formative assessments and check students’ understanding virtually. With Polling, educators can add a question to which students can respond during the session. Non-Verbal Feedback allows the participants in the meeting to use emojis to respond to the teacher. Students can raise and lower a virtual hand (also available in Google Meet), give a thumbs up or down, say yes or no, ask the teacher to speed up or slow down, and even applaud!
In both Zoom and Google Meet, the chat area is a great tool to allow students to ask or respond to questions during a class session. Teachers can share links and other resources. If you have some sort of teacher’s aide assisting in your virtual classroom, they could help confused or late students via chat without interrupting the teacher.
Zoom has a Virtual Background option that allows participants to choose a background of their choice. Conduct your class from “Paris” or “The Golden Gate Bridge” or “The Moon!” Students could even do a Social Studies presentation on a certain geographic location while seeming to be there! This option is also a great way to protect students’ privacy. Google Meet also has options to blur or customize your background!