In my last post, I wrote about active learning and engagement in a virtual environment. We know that active learning is how students make meaning with new material. It’s the act of trying to make sense of what they are learning–connecting it to what they already know, discussing it with classmates to broaden their understanding of new content, etc.–that actually leads to deeper learning. Of course, this can become challenging in a virtual environment without first building connections, trust, and relationships in the classroom (virtual or otherwise).
Many classes begin the first day with ice breakers. For years I despised these activities as I can be somewhat shy and reserved and many of the activities I have been asked to do as ice breakers seemed rather ridiculous. Why do I need to know that Bob is going on a camping trip and he is taking burgers or that Calvin is taking charcoal? Over the years, I’ve been able to identify elements from these activities that actually make them valuable to building community in the classroom… which is the purpose behind doing them in the first place. Building solid relationships with your students is probably the most important thing you can do to build trust in your classroom which in turn opens the door to remove barriers for engaged learning.
It’s been my experience that most educators value getting to know their students but few have a systematic approach to doing so. Here are my tips for gathering the information you need and getting to know your students in a way that removes barriers:
Online teaching and learning does not have to be impersonal…nor should it be. It’s 2020, our students have grown up in a digital world and they are accustomed to “living” online (Instagram, Snapchat, FaceBook, Tiktok, etc). It doesn’t have to be a daunting undertaking to facilitate meaningful virtual learning experiences. You’re brilliant. You have an advanced degree. You got this!