As the 2020-2021 school year begins, educators have the difficult task of keeping children engaged during these unpredictable times. Instead of returning to the traditional classroom environments they have known throughout their careers, many teachers are continuing to adapt to virtual and hybrid forms of instruction.
In speaking with many of the wonderful educators with whom we have the privilege of partnering each year to deliver our education programs, we’ve learned one of the greatest challenges they face is maintaining a collaborative and supportive learning environment in remote settings.
Below are some helpful tips educators can use immediately to both overcome this obstacle and, in some cases, provide positive experiences unique to virtual and hybrid learning environments.
1. Keep Collaborating
When students are at home, collaboration does not need to stop. Thanks to the capabilities of conferencing platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, teachers can create “breakout rooms” where students can work together in small groups and brainstorm solutions to complex problems. Roles and responsibilities can also be assigned to each student as a way to enhance their engagement and sense of ownership over the task at hand. During these brainstorming sessions, be sure to remind your class that there are no bad ideas. This reassurance will also help students feel more comfortable in an online learning environment and find the confidence to express themselves in this format.
2. Consider Customizing a Bitmoji Classroom
Inspired by the cherished tradition of decorating and personalizing their classrooms, some educators have taken this activity online by creating their very own Bitmoji classrooms. By creating a look-alike avatar using the Bitmoji app, and then using free tools like Google Classroom and Canvas to set up a virtual classroom, teachers have created interactive spaces to act as virtual hubs for their classes. Because each image or graphic (chalkboard, bookshelf, computer, etc.) is interactive, teachers can hyperlink these items to class assignments and additional resources. Especially for students who are learning from home, this virtual classroom can act as a grounding space where they can go when they need clarification on their assignments.
3. Host Virtual Field Trips
Due to the spread of COVID-19, field trips, which typically provide valuable informal learning opportunities, will likely be limited. To counteract this, free virtual field trips to museums, zoos, landmarks and even other planets have been made available for students and teachers to use throughout the school year. When considering where to take your class, we invite you to check out a virtual tour of the National Inventors Hall of Fame® Museum, located inside the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia. Here students can learn all about our world-changing Inductees and how their innovations have helped shape our society.
To learn more about trends in STEM education, and for more tips on adapting to hybrid learning environments, we invite you to visit our blog!