For our third online meeting, we did another interactive science exploration. The Two Balloons hands-on activity comes from Module 3 Session 2. We wanted to offer another opportunity to model that teaching online can be interactive. It is possible that our learners (all of you) are more intrinsically motivated to stay with us than perhaps your learners in your teaching situation. Living with two elementary-aged children, I will say that young learners are willing to participate when the experience is interactive and engaging.
Here is the slide deck we used in this meeting.
Reducing Cognitive Load
Similar to Meeting 2, we pushed out the Google slide deck to all participants at the start so everyone could be control and follow along. And, similar to previous meetings,
- I had my full slide deck labeled STAGING and the one I pushed out, which left out slides we were not ready for participants to access.
- All the links were embedded into the slides, so people can click to get what they need when it’s time.
- We had two occasions for break out rooms with collaborative documents to record their conversation, which we used to monitor the groups from a distance.
- We shared our screen to gather observations from a simulation.
- During whole-group conversations, we invited people to express their thoughts verbally out loud and in writing in the chat box.
All this to say, we kept the routines consistent across the meetings to reduce the cognitive load. When we met for the first time, the interactive way we taught online was brand new. Everything we did was new and different. There were links to follow, many browser windows to open, listening and reading, and break out rooms. There was a lot going on.
- How people learn in Module 2 Session 1. There are limitations to our working memory when we’re learning new things. Like driving for the first time, you are attending to a million things at once. But over time, driving becomes automated. You don’t even have to think about it, and you get from point A to B.
After a couple of meetings, participants get the hang of the experience. They know what to expect, how to behave. We noticed the groups got to expressing their thoughts in the collaborative documents much faster than in the first meeting. They likely got to talking with each other quicker than the first meeting. There were still a couple of groups unsure of what to do, but a quick check in got them going. Catherine and I were able to read their entries and plan how to support them when we reconvened, or decide which group needed help and how to help them before popping in unannounced.
Meeting 3 was the first online meeting for about one third of the participants, which meant we had two thirds of the participants available to help us keep the experience flowing and supporting the newbies.
BONUS. As instructors, we didn’t need a long list of strategies. We had a few. We did them regularly and got better at them.
One new thing at a time
With our familiar routines in place, we could experiment with one new thing. For us, it was only one thing to practice. For participants, it was only one thing that was different.
This time we used a second camera to feature a live demonstration. In Meeting 1, we used pre-recorded videos for the Ice Cubes investigation. For Two Balloons, we had balloons to pop. It was way more fun to do that live than pre-recorded. We wanted to use a different camera angle so that Catherine could be away from her computer when she popped the balloons.
- A second camera.
- Share screen (Basic) from a mobile device linked via a cable to your computer. Keep in mind that you are sharing screen from your linked device, so have the app open on the device. Have it open to camera if you want to use show something using your camera, or have it open to your notebook app if you want to show drawing. For iPhone/iPad users, Zoom has a preset button (it’s also possible to link to your computer via AirPlay). For Samsung (and perhaps other Android) devices, you have to select your device among the various windows that are open and available for sharing. I have a Samsung phone and MacBook Pro, so I need to install an application (Samsung DeX) to connect my phone to my computer for file sharing. The video feed isn’t as clean as if I used an Apple device. For the Samsung, I’m sharing the Samsung DeX desktop with view from my camera within it, meaning I’m showing people more clutter than I want.
- Share screen (Advance) from a document camera. If anyone sheltered in place with one of these lovely devices, you are also all set up to show your learners your drawings, demos, what ever you want featured in the second camera. Instructions for these Share Screen options from Zoom.
- If you can’t get your devices to link with your computer, you can always join the meeting from a second device (smartphone, tablet) and use the camera that way. That’s what we did in Meeting 3. We just needed the app installed on the other device and the room number for the meeting. I join from multiple devices when I’m testing new strategies late at night and need “participants.” In this case, that second device is used during a live lesson to focus the second camera on our demonstration set up. You can get fancy camera stands, but Catherine just propped her phone on her piano. There are likely so many other things you can do with that second login. Share with us!!
- Make the video bigger. If you’re using the “join from a second device option,” then that second camera is going to be as small as everyone else in Gallery View because, to the platform, it’s just another login. So, two more options.
- The host can “Spotlight the video” of that second camera, which means Speaker View is set to that second camera making that video feed bigger. Participants can toggle back to Gallery View if they want, but Speaker View is fixed to the spotlighted video.
- Tell participants to “Pin video” of the second camera by clicking the three dots in the upper right corner of the video for that camera. Pinning will place the second camera in Speaker View for them. But, each person has to do this themselves. We did this for game night a few weekends ago. One household had all the game pieces and their phone camera fixed on the game board; everyone else just pinned that video. If you have a lot of people with a range of tech abilities, then option 1 might be better.
Team Teaching Online
Even without the stay-at-home order, Catherine and I are rarely in the same room when we teach together online. Here are a couple of things we do.
- Text each other. Yes, there is the ability to private chat people, including your co-facilitator. But when you’re running things like a three-ring circus from your computer, it is very, very easy to accidentally send to everyone instead of the one person when you’re in a rush. So, Catherine & I always have our phones next to us when we teach online. We text each other nudges like, move along, call on so-and-so to talk, or return to the main room.
- Coordinate break out rooms. Only the host can move freely in and out of rooms. If you have a co-facilitator, and if you choose to make the groups automatically, your co-facilitator will be assigned to and pushed into join a room. They need to know to return to the main room after you open the breakout rooms. From the main room, you can decide which one of you will go into which room that needs help. When the host is in a room, you get notified if someone is back in the main room. So, if you both go into two separate rooms to help, you’ll know when your co-facilitator is done and returns to the main room.