As educators across the country continue adapting to the unpredictability that COVID-19 has brought to their profession, it’s become increasingly clear that distance and hybrid learning is here to stay for at least this academic year.
Making the Most of Zoom
Though video conferencing programs like Zoom, Google Meet and Skype have proved essential to enabling live instruction for students unable to attend class in person, for educators and students alike, hours of online instruction can lead to fatigue and exhaustion.
In an article published in Inside Higher Ed, Susan Blum, professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, explains that part of what makes the experience so exhausting is that “videoconferencing is nearly a replication of face-to-face interaction,” but actually produces a very different experience. Simply put, the body language cues and non-verbal communication techniques essential to human interaction are not possible in these environments.
Blum’s typical experience teaching on Zoom is likely shared by many educators right now:
“There is constant need to repair, to apologize. People are constantly talking at the same time and interrupting someone else’s signal. I am constantly switching views from one screen to another, to scan the faces (at least those who haven’t chosen to post a blank screen, permitting rest, multitasking or even absence). I am watching the eyes, listening for completion, listening for that intake of breath that indicates readiness to talk.”
Fortunately, there are ways that educators can improve the experience for both themselves and the students in their care. In an article published in We Are Teachers, Elizabeth Mulvahill suggests a few different strategies to defeat “Zoom Fatigue.” Below are a few of our favorites:
1. Take a Different View
While using “gallery view” is a nice way to see everyone’s (hopefully!) smiling and engaged faces, observing dozens of students at once can be overwhelming. Instead, try using “speaker view” – a mode that allows users to focus only on people who are talking. Additionally, Mulvahill suggests hiding the “self view” option from younger students especially, as children sometimes get distracted by the funny faces they can see themselves making on the screen.
2. Move Around
Sitting in front of a screen in a similar position for hours at a time can get uncomfortable. In order to maintain energy and engagement for both you and your students, schedule frequent breaks throughout the day so everyone can get up and move around. According to Mulvahill, even just a short physical break (dance party anyone?) is enough to increase your heart rate, get your blood flowing and refocus.
3. Eliminate Background Distractions
One of the keys to a successful Zoom or Google Meet session is to eliminate distractions wherever possible. While it’s natural, for elementary school teachers especially, to want to incorporate visual aids filled with colors and interactive graphics, Mulvahill recommends that teachers use a plain background and instruct their students to follow suit. With fewer busy backgrounds to contend with, children are better able to focus on the lesson.