A Teacher’s Perspective on Virtual Learning

A Teacher’s Perspective on Virtual Learning

Kim Graefe – High School English

Engaging students face-to-face is challenging, but teachers have many tricks up their pedagogical sleeves to combat academic apathy. Some alternate between presentation and discussion; some create instructional activities; some, like me, resort to witty repartee and hilarious character voices (if I do say so myself — and I do say so myself.) But all of this changes radically when you remove the “face-to-face” part.

Today is another day of our week of online classes, and I’m realizing that my usual “tricks” don’t work nearly as well in a purely virtual environment.

Why?

For starters, when sharing a screen with upwards of 20 students, body language, facial expressions, and funny voices are, sadly, less effective. Presentations online are a breeze. Discussions? Not so much. The community a physical classroom creates is more difficult to replicate via ones and zeros. Fortunately, my students and I have built relationships over the past few months, and those work just as well in digital as they do in analog!

My strategy for this week is a combination of the tried and true coupled with a little bit of the experimental. Traditional discussions are being supplemented with online experiences: virtual tours of Ingolstadt, Germany and Geneva, Switzerland (the settings for much of the novel, Frankenstein), a collaborative slide presentation where each student is responsible for a certain number of slides (to reinforce the background information and first section of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), and a “texting couplets” activity (part of an introduction to poetry).

To be sure, I am still really looking forward to having my students back in the classroom, but if this week has taught me anything, it’s that we can do virtually anything virtually!