Slice of Life: The Camera Follows You Everywhere

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

As many have and are, we’ve grappled with the effects on the Pandemic in our school by mostly using a hybrid/cohort model, and moving to remote when the virus numbers deem it (we are just back to hybrid this week after a few weeks of remote). Next week, we shift to a third model — synchronous learning.

Thanks to a hefty technology investment by our school district, our classrooms now have Zoom Stations — huge screen televisions, mini mac computers, video cameras run by teacher control, and a powerful microphone/speaker — which will allow students in the home cohort to join in to the classroom via video feed. In a dystopian sense, if you tilt that way, it’s like we just installed Big Brother into the classroom, with an ever-watchful eye on us.

ZoomStation SetUp

This shift comes as worries about the independent learning days are not engaging enough students, and with new hours-on-learning by the state Department of Education come into effect (an average of 35 hours of teacher-student direct interaction over a two week span).

Some of my colleagues are wary of the new technology but I think it will work fine, from a technology standpoint. (There’s also been real tension about how this was rolled out by the School Committee with very little input from teachers or administration).

What I am still working on is how to best leverage the new technology for better teaching — how best to pull the Zoom kids into the classroom activities and how to use the time together to meet the needs of all my sixth grade students. An online webinar the other night with AJ Juliani and Catlin Tucker on Synchonous Learning was helpful (and with 1,600 other people in the webinar, I am guessing many people are in my same shoes). I have some ideas on synchronous learning like this but if you have resources, send them my way, please.

I can already see some challenges of where to put my attention, how to make sure I am engaging the Zoom kids in class discussions and sharing and collaborations, and the need for us to feel “whole” even as we still exist into cohort parts.

We did a test run yesterday of the set-up during snack time, and the kids at home got a chance to see the room from their perspective and the kids in the classroom got to see the kids on the screen. We just played around with the camera and chatted. And it went fine.

Peace (settling in),

  1. I appreciate your calm foray into what would have been a minefield in my building and district. I am curious to see how it plays out over time…we’ve been synchronous in a hybrid model for some time now (I have one fully-remote section, one synchronous and one simply with in-person students) and I see potential…but I am lacking your calm optimism!

  2. It seems like you have a pretty amazing setup and are figuring out ways to use it really well. I’m sure your colleagues are learning a lot from watching you! And yep, a sense of optimism, and a good sense of humor are going to take you far!

  3. Kevin, you will be my go-to person for an updated synchronous learning classroom. I am amazed at what you have in your room and how you are striving to make it work for the children. I was taken aback by the number of hours over 2 weeks for active learning but this is our world now. It is the dreamers and the strivers who will champion the rise of education during COVID. You are one of them. Keep bringing the information to us.

  4. One thing for sure, your eyes can’t be everywhere like the camera. My tip: tell each cohort where your focus is. Having eye/ camera contact is important for remote and easier on your head space if you preface this with ‘now I’m talking to the kids at home. You can outsource that to other children as well…. have some kids focusing with the kids at home.

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