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Online Interactions & Connections

Getting students excited about learning is challenging at the best of times. I often find myself introducing new topics to my students by telling them first-hand stories of my personal experiences, jumping around the front of the room to make them laugh, or just being downright loud and silly to remind them that learning can still be fun. In the world of online teaching, engagement is even more challenging. Oftentimes it is the audio that is more important, and the way you deliver your lesson audibly is very powerful.

Online collaboration with middle years students can be tough. They have seen online collaboration already in the form of tagging, commenting and sharing through social media. Unfortunately, a lot of these interactions can sometimes be negative, hurtful or even downright ugly. As teachers, we are trying our hardest to show students what positive online collaboration can look like because they will eventually be required to use it if they plan on engaging in online learning in high school and post-secondary institutions.

Bate’s discusses how online discussion forums are not a new concept, but have grown exponentially since Web 2.0 and 3.0 developments. They are designed to have a thread of communication that can be contributed to at any time, are text-based and allows for dynamic sub-topics to develop over time. Essential elements of a community of inquiry require a social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000). These are needed for meaningful online discussions to occur. For successful online collaboration to occur in an educational setting, required principles are needed such as:

  • appropriate technology 
  • clear guidelines on student online behaviour
  • student orientation and preparation
  • clear goals for the discussions
  • choice of appropriate topics
  • setting an appropriate ‘tone’ or requirements for discussion 
  • defining clear learner roles and expectations
  • monitoring the participation of individual learners, and responding accordingly
  • regular, ongoing instructor ‘presence’
  • ensuring strong articulation between discussion topics and assessment.

In my course module, I am trying to engage my students by having a variety of different tasks and activities throughout the lesson instead of having the same process each and every time. I know that some students prefer videos over reading, others prefer speaking instead of writing, and some are just more excited to complete assignments on the computer versus pencil and paper. Because my students are completing this module in the classroom, most of my “hook”, directions and checking in are me in person, verbally talking with the class. However, I am learning that I can do this digitally as well even though they are physically in the classroom.

I am very thankful that Katia included Michael Wesch’s video because it had the most impact on me out of all of the other articles posted. It goes to show that videos can be much more engaging than research articles (but I think we already knew that haha). In the video “What Teachers Can learn from Youtubers about engaging students online“, the very first line resonated with me that states “Wondering if I should go on being a teacher, or just get out of the way to make room for somebody else”. This is a regular thought of mine when dealing with the mental and emotional exhaustion of working with a diverse group of students post-pandemic. Each day can sometimes feel like its own hurdle, and making it to the end of the week is an accomplishment in itself.

Nothing is more disconcerting than teaching to an entire group of students through Zoom or Microsoft teams who have their microphones and cameras off for the entire time and it is just you, wondering if anyone is still out there listening or paying any attention to the lesson you have prepared. I felt this during my time teaching online during the pandemic, where students didn’t have much choice in the online delivery method, and also in university classes where we are choosing to be there.

Michael Wesch describes the idea of teaching without walls. He shares how his previous recorded lecture videos were boring, and not exciting and his participation in the class dropped significantly during those times. He realized that his face did not always have to be on the screen for effective teaching. I feel as though this can be true for in-person teaching as well. He set out to discover how he can make content that students enjoy, want to watch, want to continue watching and will engage with.

  1. Point Of View – This allows the viewers a different perspective of what they are engaging with and can allow for more video creativity and recording opportunities.
  2. Stock Video & Audio – Layering your own audio over pre-made video and images allows for much quicker development of content and keeps the viewers engaged with graphics and images that are simply nice to look at. Adding background music as well can set the mood and tone of the delivery of the content as well. I do this using Canva Video all the time!
  3. Graphic Design – Using simple shapes and graphics you can create your own customized images that are specific to the ideas and thoughts you want to deliver. Powerpoint is a very underrated tool in my opinion and there are so many unknown hacks and features that the basic user is not aware of.
  4. Animation – Using simple tools you can put graphics into motion and create your own real animation without the hassle of complex and expensive animation software programs. Using the morph transition in PowerPoint is an easy and effective way to have it look like all of your elements are moving just like they would in a true animation.
  5. Screen Recording – This is one of the most effective tools for sharing your knowledge of how to do almost anything on a computer with someone else who is not present in the room with you. Most Youtube tutorial videos involving anything actually on the computer are done through screen recording so you can see the step-by-step process instead of blindly following written steps. Putting these different recordings together can sometimes require a video editor. There are a lot of different options available, and when first starting out always opt for a free version that is beginner-friendly and work from there.

Your lecture is about X – The Y is about why it will be interesting to the person watching. We are quick to tell our students about X, but forget to tell them Y it is interesting, intriguing, or important.

Invite your students to explore the journey of how you came to learn or understand the material that you have prepared for them. We often forget that our students connect with us the most when they can relate to us. Knowing that we also go through the learning process when teaching this material can help bridge the gap between student and teacher. It is not “I am the teacher and I know everything and you must learn it”. This is not inviting or engaging to the student. Learning together is so powerful and showing them your journey using point of view, and other tools listed above will change how you teach your students and engage them in different ways that you never knew possible.

Knowing what I now know about what I can learn from Youtubers, is potentially recording myself with a different point of view or even screen recording to give my students the excitement to start off their lesson on Onenote. They would probably love seeing or hearing from me through their headphones instead of just reading what I wrote down for the instructions. Maybe I can do a screen recording of myself giving the directions and then put that at the top of the OneNote to start off the lesson. It may seem like more work behind the scenes, but I have a feeling that if every student watched/listened to that video once or twice they would be able to figure out the directions and answer some of their own questions instead of coming to me every single minute asking what do I do next? Let me know your thoughts or if you have done something similar to this in the past.


One thought on “Online Interactions & Connections

  1. Hi Katherine, I totally believe in the value of collaborative learning since it makes the process simple and exciting overall. It also enhances learning whenever you apply concepts to real-world situations or use examples from your own experience. In order to make the process more engaging for the learners, it is essential to explain to them why you chose this particular subject. Activities keep the classroom environment alive.


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