School Closures: Best Practices for Online Teaching Using Interactive Video Conferencing

Online Contingency Plan for Educators

This guide is a crash course for how to transfer learning magic from your classroom to an online environment.

  • You’ve probably never done this before. That’s ok. We’re here to help.

BGL’s TITAC training method has effectively transitioned classroom teachers to online environments for over a decade.

  • We recently presented this method at the NCCE conference in Seattle. Here are the slides from that presentation which can support overview training.

This training video is an overview of BGL’s TITAC method for how to teach over interactive video.

  • Due to our decade-long experience in the field we find ourselves in a unique position to support educators so that learning can continue during school closures.

(Updated 3.19.20)

Other Tips for Teachers Quickly Transitioning Online

  1. Even though you know your students already, treat it like the first day of school. Spend time first building community and your routines for this new virtual classroom.
  2. If possible split your class into small groups. Large groups will be harder to manage especially at first. If large groups are inevitable, Zoom’s breakout rooms are a good way make things more manageable.
  3. Make sure your students or an adult in the room are prepped on how to use the technology you plan to use. Especially important will be the ability to mute people; they will be in their homes and random noises can disrupt the lesson. In Zoom, you yourself as the host of the meeting can mute participants.
  4. Many teachers will not connect with their students daily over video conferencing. To stay connected to your students record a short video greeting every day. This is an uncertain time for your students and you are a grounding force in your students’ lives. Little efforts toward human connection can go a long way toward keeping them feeling safe and engaged.

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Here’s a Summary of TITAC (Also Covered in the Video Above):

This resource is intended to help quickly transition teachers to an online teaching environment using interactive video conferencing (IVC).

Overview

Distance learning and teaching vary widely in methodology, with some online classrooms having equivalent (Bernard, Abrami, Lou, Borokhovski, Wade, Wozney, Wallet, Fiset, & Huang, 2004; Cavanaugh,  Gillan, Kromrey, Hess, & Blomeyer, 2004; Bertsch, Callas, Rubin, Caputo, & Ricci, 2007) or even greater success than traditional classrooms (Harris-Packer, J. D., & Ségol, G. , 2015) . Given that online teaching and IVC are not monolithic, constant forces with consistent elements, BGL has developed the TITAC method to create a powerful education environment.

TITAC Method Overview:

  1. Teacher – The IVC teacher is effective and highly engaging.
  2. Interaction – Meaningful interaction is central to lesson design.
  3. Technology – The technology used is driven by learning goals and enhances the learning experience.
  4. Aesthetics – The aesthetics of the lesson engage the learners.
  5. Collaboration – Open communication facilitates collaboration between all stakeholders.

TITAC Best Practices for Online Teaching Using IVC:

  1. Teacher: The teacher is effective and extra engaging.
    1. The lesson design, pedagogy, teaching methods and tools are founded in best practices, meticulously planned and optimized for the student population and delivered effectively.
    2. The IVC teacher brings excitement and passion that extend beyond the 2-dimensionality of the medium.
    3. The IVC teacher’s word choice, pace of speech and intonation are appropriate for the medium and audience.
  2. Interaction – Meaningful interaction is central to the experience.
    1. The students have frequent opportunities to lead and to share their ideas.
    2. A sense of global citizenship – including cultural respect and empathy – is developed while connecting with otherwise unattainable people and places.
    3. The interaction introduces students to and/or reinforces 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
  3. Technology – The technology used enhances and is driven by the learning experience.
    1. Operation of supplementary technology is internalized and back-up plans are on the ready.
    2. All stakeholders are invested in the capacity of technology to redefine education and prepare students for the future.
    3. In 1:1 environments, blended learning tools redefine student work and teacher assessment.
  4. Aesthetics – The presentation looks and sounds good.
    1. The IVC setting and all people in it are camera-ready and professional.
    2. The IVC feed is well-framed, well-lit, has good acoustics and good use of color.
    3. The IVC visual and aural experience is multi-dimensional and dynamic.
    4. Any digital resources are pithy, visible and well-designed.
  5. Collaboration – The relationship of stakeholders to each other is communicative and collaborative.
    1. Teacher roles – both on-site and IVC – are well-defined beforehand including classroom management and assessment.
    2. The teachers have an open back channel with which to communicate during class.
    3. All teachers know the lesson plan, design and contingency plans and discuss these beforehand.
    4. The classroom teacher handles individual behavior management.
    5. The IVC teacher has an accurate class roster.

In addition to the free resources that will be available soon on our YouTube channel and our website. Follow up training sessions are available by writing to info@banyangloballearning.com or by clicking here.

Background

Teaching with IVC removes limitations of physical location and therefore dramatically expands possibilities for human connection. Mastering these connections is critical in a world where unanticipated school closures can restrict access to education and where demand for flexible school environments is increasing. IVC prepares students for a future where essential human skills are prioritized and technological advances create unprecedented opportunity for widespread collaboration. Therefore, more than ever, a model for delivering high-quality educational experiences over IVC is essential.

This model is based on 10+ years experience teaching over IVC trans-nationally to whole groups of students in Asia. The benefits of this type of IVC education also include 1) the steep reduction of cost and carbon footprints 2) the ability to drastically expand the audience for any given educational content and 3) the real-life human impact of communicating directly with people from different backgrounds. The added challenges of IVC include logistical complications and the need to develop cultural understanding.

As more providers use IVC to teach, this paper provides a guide map for factors to consider. It is a supplement to established resources such as Ben Newsome’s account of successful STEM experiences over IVC and Cole, Ray and Zanetis’s trailblazing book Videoconferencing for K12 Classrooms. Critically important aspects of the IVC experience – including curricular goals, classroom setup and definition of stakeholders – are described in those resources.

Building a Remote Culture: Using VC for an All-Staff Meeting

A challenge facing an increasingly dispersed, literally global, workforce is how to create a workplace culture when the work “place” is virtual. How does one foster water cooler talk when there’s no water cooler?

One way is to use video conferencing, an ever-improving alternative to meeting in person. Here at BGL we don’t put air quotes around the word “meet” when we say it was nice to meet you over VC. We’re firm believers that as video conferencing services improve, they approach real life interaction.

Into this culture stepped Marty Perlmutter, a new hire for BGL, who arrived just in time to attend our all-staff meeting over VC. Below is his reflection on the experience.

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“Normal”

From Marty:

If there’s one technology (besides VR) that resolutely remains disappointing surely it’s video conferencing. Harnessed to education, video conferences are often frustrating, customarily begin with dead air as hosts struggle to make the kludge work, almost never convey a sense of intimacy among participants, choke when more than a dozen folks are involved… The causes of dismay are as numerous as there are vendors – Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx. Their names legion, their costs impressive, nearly all raise the question of their own existence, to quote one wag.

So it was with surprise and not a little delight that I shared a video conference with 28 distant participants on three continents in the annual all-team meeting of Banyan Global Learning. The system didn’t sputter. The breakout rooms worked. The darn thing operated without a single oops for an hour. Most importantly, I came away feeling I’d actually met these strangers, had begun to have a feel for them, laughed and spoke with them, and felt intrigued by the mission we shared. The presiding person paired us swiftly for breakouts. All sessions worked as planned. There was real conversation and sharing. Wonder of wonders!

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“Goofy”

Zoom was the platform. Unlike large Skype calls, we didn’t have to default to audio-only as the works choked. Videos of speakers were spotlighted. Thumbnail video of all participants persisted, and these were useful. We didn’t do tricks with graphic roll-ins but had video clips that were relevant for discussion. 

I came away convinced this system would be useful in a teaching application, as is the practice of BGL. For classroom purposes, BGL provides links to text, video, podcasts, graphics. After just 55 years of patient (and frustrated) waiting – since the premiere of “video telephone” service at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 – we may be ready to roll.

Now, the challenge becomes the instructor’s: Can you keep this experience engaging and informative? Can you catalyze interaction among participants? Can you track the progress of participants? Perhaps most important, can you forge learning circles, subgroups of students, who’ll be motivated to work together to investigate topics and collaboratively construct their understanding? 

Recent evidence is encouraging.