Guest blog post by Pam Bradley

Like so many of us, my school is closed due to COVID19 quarantine, leaving teachers groping for effective distance learning strategies and how to get content to students.

In about 24 hours, I went from having never heard of Zoom.us to needing to be “an expert” in its features and implementation.

In It Together

Well, I’m still no expert, but thanks to “my people” (friends, colleagues, FaceBook teacher groups, Twitter, and even former students) we’ve made it over the first hurdles. 

I signed up on Wednesday morning (3/18), downloaded Zoom and launched a meeting, asking in all my online spaces if someone would help me test it out– Right now.  

Several former students, now in college and taking online classes using  Zoom, and a tech-challenged colleague joined my first meeting. They were able to guide me through the “cool” features (virtual backgrounds so my home or my kids were not on-screen, how to “raise hands” in the program, etc.).   

The program ran flawlessly and was intuitive to use and figure out the basics. Click Here to see my sample.

zoom sample call switching speaker

Learn by Trying

Unfortunately, we were less than “flawless” during our late-morning dry-run.  One participant inadvertently included her mother in her bathrobed-bedecked glory (she was not pleased to have been seen by strangers); another young man sat topless amidst his bedsheets; another participant, joined via his phone, walked into his bathroom and left his unmuted phone on the counter while we all heard him relieve himself; my colleague, who generously gave time to my project during his breakfast, chewed noisily during the meeting and treated us to that sight on his screen; an unknown participant sat shrouded in shadow.  Another participant was uncomfortable being onscreen and asked if audio-only participation could “count”. 

Reflect and Adapt

Ideas spawned by our missteps were cobbled together in a G-doc late Wednesday.  Thursday morning, I posted my rough draft on Twitter and a FaceBook teacher group, 2ndaryELA, asking for feedback.  Twitter quickly provided useful feedback from several people, including Alice Keeler, about shortening the phrases and keeping them focused on what to do (positive) over what not to do (negatives).  

Alice Keeler DM’d me

FaceBook’s 2ndaryELA had similar feedback and support. 

And there was some criticism. 

One responder said my list was “horrible” and even accused me of being “someone who doesn’t care about the job or the kids at all and is just there to collect a paycheck”.  

Moving to Final Draft

The “final” draft is concise, positive focused, and addresses each concern raised during the test run. The addition of the Bitmoji does, indeed, complete the look and give the doc a friendly feel vs an authoritarian mandate. 

Zoom Again

Practice runs this afternoon (3/19) with some of my actual students, whom I invited via G-Classroom, asking for volunteers, went smoothly, with several closing blinds to control light sources or using virtual backgrounds to mask the room.  We went over “gallery view” where they see everyone, and “participant view” which provides a sidebar for chats and controls for microphone and camera. We practiced “raising a hand” in participant view, setting a virtual background, screen sharing and CLOSING that view, and reminders for when to mute/unmute.  

 I foresee a positive experience when we officially go to e-learning.

Pam Bradley is a teacher of 27 years (MS/HS) and still loving it!

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