A mandated quarantine has proven daunting to many parents, students, and teachers seeking to continue a useful education. Districts have implemented “E-Learning” nationwide, and schools with one-to-one policies are requiring their teachers to use inventive techniques to create rigorous and profitable learning experiences for students. Parents are drafted as IT managers, tutors, and middlemen—propping up kids on Chromebooks as we all attempt to weather the storm.
The issue is that teachers, parents, and students are largely unprepared for such a task, and so resort to a mish-mash of mediocre lessons, assignments, and videos that only imitate real learning. After my extensive training in both my M.A. Ed in Curriculum Development and Education Technology and my years of developing learning tools and environments, I have prepared an overview of three essential resources that cover the three needs of online education: Class Presence, Common Space, and Learning Management Hubs (LMS).
Every teacher needs a way to generate a class presence on a semi-regular basis, and it should be as easy as possible to access and manage. A common space creates an always-on environment in which students can converse about the classwork, collaborate, and cooperate under supervision. Finally, a LMS creates a home base for assignments, assessments, and other official materials and announcements. A set of tools for each of these three categories ensures that it is easier for teachers to instruct, easier for parents to understand & assist, and easier for students to access, work on, and be accountable.
Below are my best tools for each of these three and a short rationale:
Class Presence: Google Meet
After my 38th Zoom meeting, I’ve found it too clunky, the servers too overloaded, and too in need of external hardware. Google Meet, the successor to Google Hangouts, is Google’s answer to the meeting conundrum. This helpful tool is already integrated in most school systems.
It is accessible via browsers, desktop apps, Android & iOS apps, and even phone calls. When a teacher creates a meeting, they can share a link & phone number with the entire class, inviting them to join the call. Students and teachers can choose to share cameras, their screens, certain browser tabs, and videos to work on together. The teacher has easy access to muting students and showcasing their screen—making it an excellent instructional tool. If the teacher has a tool they already use to teach or work from, Google Meet integrates and showcases it excellently. For students that may be away from internet access, they may dial in via a given phone number.
Classroom Common Space: Slack
The best thing that I’ve found as an educator is the common discussion between students. More often than not, I find that before I even have to answer a technical or process question, my students have already helped each other to solve it. Slack is an application via Android & iOS apps, browsers, or desktop apps that creates monitored rooms for students to communicate with each other under close supervision.
By creating “channels”, the teacher can utilize separate rooms that are private or open to the students based on need and topic, such as “announcements, period one biology, question & answer.” Keywords and tags can be created by the teacher, and apps like Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Meet, translating apps, and hundreds of others integrate seemlessly to the Slack Channels, making it even easier to manage and work within the class.
LMS: Google Classroom
Google Classroom is my selection of choice after years of study for numerous reasons. It integrates fully with Google Suite, meaning all of your Docs, Slides, Forms, and other linked work can be assessed and integrated in the blink of an eye with more organization than you thought possible. You can separate assignments, materials, lessons, and all other classroom curricula with ease—making things easily navigable for parents and students. Assignment copies can be automatically created for each student—no more copying their own document then sharing it with you via your already cluttered email. It has a functional iOS and Android app that doesn’t make people lose their minds, and it has plugins for Kahoot! and Quizlet so students can review and send data back to the teacher.
For school systems requiring Canvas, linking directly to a Classroom page and generating some of your content to a home Canvas page provides the best way to direct students and parents to your new hub. I understand that this article is very Google-heavy, but with the ease of access through Drive, Docs, Sides, Gmail, and Forms, utilizing tools that incorporate those elements naturally will save you an eternity of headaches.
Learning from home can be a struggle for parents, students, and teachers who are unfamiliar with the nuances of online education. A sort of unity during this time generates a need for common tools that we can all utilize in order to make life easier. I believe that Google Meet, Slack, and Google Classroom function the best as primary class tools—making the classroom feel a little less far away.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.