A little over a week ago when school shut down abruptly for a month, I felt a mix of fear and anxiety. In the mix of this I also felt pretty prepared to tackle school online. I’ve already been recording my classes and posting them daily. Just a month prior I had a student start to poke fun of teachers and their tech ability and he paused, “actually you are the most tech savvy teacher I’ve ever had.” This comment made me smile. I try really hard to integrate tech in a seamless way into the classroom and this 8th grader noticed.
What I’ve learned and tried
Our head of curriculum in our district asked us to designate daily office hours for our students. We are expected to be available for a minimum of an hour to answer questions via Google Hangout. Our team set the hours of 10:30 – 11:30 am for kids to pop into their core classes for questions. This hour has offered a lot of growth opportunities in just the 7 days I’ve offered them. Here is my summary:
- Day 1 A lot of students in class. Mostly chatting and connecting. 2 students ask questions about the review work and I help them verbally.
- Day 2 Still many students and very few math questions. More verbal help. I transition over to helping on the computer using Google Docs and the formula editor. This will be too slow. I must figure something else out.
- Day 3 When I first started playing with Hangouts I decided that the mobile version wasn’t going to work. It was buggy and I struggled to get connected. Now I realized I must have a whiteboard. I would make the mobile version work. Success! I can use Explain Everything but the compromise is that I can’t see who is in the meeting.
- Day 4 I have sorted out the screens. I’m now in the meeting twice – once as myself on my iPad and once as my son on my Chromebook. I can see the participants on the Chromebook and my screen on the iPad. Office hours have fewer participants but more math questions. I’m able to bounce around from Math 8 questions to Algebra questions. This is going well! We’re learning new material in Algebra. I want to host a live class. I do a pilot class at 3 pm for anyone available. It works. I tell the students that we’ll have a live class from Tuesday – Friday at 10 am. I tell them I expect them to come if they are able. I email their parents.
- Day 5 First LIVE class. We start to sort through how to ask questions in real time without shouting over each other. I tell them I’m going to try to record it. Students report that live class option is helpful. I feel really good about this. Office hours continue and I help both Math 8 and Algebra. I expand office hours to include an afternoon hour. Every recording path I try falls short. Hangouts doesn’t support recording from mobile. I need Explain Everything to operate my class. I feel stuck but I accept that I will just post a video and the live class. I understand that after these 4 days I can’t expect every student to make 10 am work in their schedule every day.
- Day 6 LIVE Algebra day 2. I’m still posting a video early in the morning and then doing the live class at 10. I really want to record class. My daughter is taking remote college classes. “Mom, you can record on mobile using Zoom.” I wonder if she is sure. Can she really know what her professors see. She shows me and explains and yes this is feasible. I reach out and ask my tech department so so hopeful that this will be the easy answer I need. I know Zoom has opened up for free for K-12 so I’m pretty confident I can do this. The IT team quickly responds and I learn that Zoom laws recently changed and they aren’t compliant with NYS Ed law. I don’t really know where/how they aren’t compliant, but that doesn’t matter. The answer is no. I have to figure out my system. They very nicely give me several choices. The most obvious route is to ditch the iPad and do this from one screen of my Chromebook. I do give this a go, but Explain Everything doesn’t work as well for me on the Chromebook and my iPad is faster. My daughter and I spend the evening working to make sidecar work on the mac. It will let my Chromebook function as a tablet, writing on the computer screen and connecting with the other version of me while still allowing recording since it is technically a laptop. I am again optimistic. She spends a long while with it and comes upstairs to show me. This is gonna work!! Until it doesn’t. The lag is too great. The delay is a dealbreaker at least in that moment. She isn’t willing to give up. She takes everything downstairs again and calls me a half hour later. “Mom it will work!” We try again and seriously the same lag. She explains that it was working beautifully just moments before. “Why does it always go slow when you come?” I thank and thank her and tell her I will try it out if it is the only thing we can do, but ultimately I don’t HAVE to record a live class. It feels like it has become a personal mission to just prove I can at this point. I don’t think the kids care as much as I do about this.
- Day 7 Algebra LIVE day 3. We’re doing the Quadratic formula in Algebra and I spent a bunch of time getting Quadratic formula songs lined up on my youTube channel. I’m excited to share with the kids. The only trouble … I can’t get them to play loud enough from the iPad and I’ve never used youTube on my iPad – just phone or computer. It is different and I can’t pull the playlist fast enough anyway. I promise the kids I’ll post them in Google classroom and we start our 15 minute lesson. It went well – we have sorted out that we get better audio when our video is off and that questions are best asked by typing over speaking most of the time. It is an efficient time of learning. I asked toward the end if there were any questions. Ben wrote, “I have a non math question.” I type, “What is your non math question Ben?” He types very politely, “I know you said you can’t record, but what if you record the secondary screen on the Chromebook?” I told him I’d try. I knew it wouldn’t work the way I have it set up because I’d already tried, but I thought I could try something else. Maybe it isn’t just me that cares about this after all. I had renewed reason to continue to work on it. I told him I’d try to record office hours. And I did. I HOSTED the meeting from the secondary display screen as myself and then I joined on my iPad as another version of myself (a different email address – when I join with the same email twice it gives microphone feedback no matter what I try). Because ANYONE can present (THANK YOU GOOGLE) my secondary iPad screen can present while the primary screen can record. Guess what? Recording office hours WORKED. And my next attempt to just make sure the audio aligned well with the video also worked.
- Day 8 We will host our last mandatory live class in just a few hours. I’m off to prepare for that now. I am SO excited that I’ll be able to post this class! Thanks for the final push Ben. It was so helpful to know that getting this to work is meaningful to a student … but I’m still going to expect you to make at least one or two classes a week in real time 🙂