How does it work in my Hi-Flex environment? ¨Hoot hoot¨ is the sound in the classroom.
Marianela Serrano, OFLA Professional Development Chair
Spanish Teacher, Hathaway Brown School
School is in session, and just last week all the students were welcomed on our campus. Under a number of social distancing restrictions and specific guidelines, we started classes both live and online for those who chose to stay remote.
Our school decided that the best way to safely and successfully operate was for the teachers, rather than the students, to travel between classrooms, minimizing student mobility and interactions. Each classroom has been equipped with a “Meeting OWL.” This is an incredible device that connects to your computer when connected to Zoom, and will produce a 360◦ view of the classroom for those students that are remote. It also follows the sounds produced in the classroom by the students and teacher, zooming onto the speaker to allow the remote students to see who is talking. The “Meeting OWL” is an amazing machine, but it takes some getting used to.
The “Meeting OWL” takes a few seconds to identify and follow the sound in the classroom. Hence, there is a small delay for it to turn in the direction of the sound it hears. Consequently, speaking, giving any instruction, or leading a discussion in class needs to be done slowly, and patience is required to give the machine time to identify where the oral input is coming from. Although this may appear to be an inconvenience, it has helped me slow down and repeat more clearly and slowly the information in the target language, creating a better and stronger comprehensible input opportunity for my students. Repetition and restating what is said in class in the target language happens with more frequency in this new environment with the “Meeting OWL” than it did before. Also, when you turn the “Meeting OWL” on, it does say: ¨Hoot hoot.¨
A large portion of my students are in-person in the classroom, and they expect a similar level of engagement in the class as they had before. This presents a little bit of a juggling situation, as some of the things that they were used to before cannot be used anymore, like storytelling prompts. Students cannot join in the fun of acting out the stories with the prompts I had had. I can show the prompts and act out the scenes that they tell me to do, but their direct involvement in the role-playing of the stories has been minimized. Also, traveling with one cart does not allow for all the materials to come along, so I am limited by what I can use and carry. I have to prepare my prompts ahead of time as I cannot easily return to my original classroom.
Another change has been the use of large whiteboards in the classroom, which is no longer effective. The remote students cannot see the writing on the whiteboards with ease, even with zooming the OWL’s camera onto the board. The lighting of the classroom often gets in the way and the letters seem too small for the remote students. I have now gotten a smaller and movable whiteboard that I have mounted on the cart. This has allowed me to get closer to the Meeting OWL’s device for the remote students to see, and I can angle the board better when a student in-class also needs to see the information. I am constantly moving the cart to make sure that everyone online and in-person can see the information. However, this also prompts me to repeat myself more and convey the information more slowly and deliberately. I have been able to share my stories’ structures, draw the stories’ characters, and create sentences as needed. I do have to write and erase more often than before, but I can share just as much with the students.
This year I have included more use of the Smartboard to project the information. With the use of Zoom and the smartboard simultaneously, I can share my screen with the remote students and project my screen to the in-class students. The Smartboard allows me to do group readings and activities such as watch videos, dance Zumba, and do picture talk in real-time. We also play games such as Kahoot, Gimkit, and Quizlet to spice up the class.
Another part of the puzzle has been leaving behind paper altogether. This past summer, I spent a good portion of my time creating a weekly calendar with the links and activities that would be used daily. I used Google Slides to create the weekly calendar and created Hyperdocs within the slides where the students can click on the links in the calendar and follow along with the class, find what the homework is, and where and what to study or review for evaluations. This has helped all students navigate the class and find the assignments for the class. It also seems to have given them a sense of independence and ownership of the class.
Hybrid teaching takes some practice, preparation, and most certainly patience. Mistakes will be made, and there will be some bumps in the road. However, this new way of teaching, although full of new technical skills, has allowed me to slow down and truly focus on what is important: my students and the target language input that they receive. I will encourage everyone to embrace this new form of teaching, it may help you grow in ways you did not know you could.