Zoom To The Rescue!
How living in lock-down has changed the way I teach
By this time I’m sure you are all very much aware of the Corona Virus (COVID 19) situation that has hit the world over the last few weeks (or in some cases, months), so I’ll just give you a brief run-down of what has been happening in my neck of the woods.
I live in a small town in southern Spain. A little over two weeks ago, following the lock-down in Italy, we began to hear whispers in the staffroom that the government were planning to close all schools, colleges and universities in a bid to slow the rate of infection. On Wednesday the 11th March I was asked to lead an emergency training session for teachers at my school, as we expected to have to close the following week and, unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately, depending on how you look at it) this is exactly what happened.
and so it began…
On Friday the 13th of March we began frantically trying to contact parents to make a record of all students email addresses so that we could make the switch to online classes, via ‘Zoom’, starting on Monday.
On Sunday the 15th, the entire country went into full lock-down and a state of emergency was declared. This meant that all bars, restaurants, parks, government buildings and shops (apart from supermarkets and pharmacies) were forced to close. In the coming days this was also expanded to include strict limitations on public transport and a 1 person-per-vehicle rule. We were ordered to stay home and not to leave the house without legitimate reason (like to buy food). These measures have been strictly enforced, with minimum 600euro fines for those who break them. There is a high police presence and the Guardia Civil (military police) have set-up road blocks to monitor people’s movement in cars, and they’ve even got armed guards at the supermarket!
Aaaanyway… despite feeling slightly like the entire world was falling apart around us, myself and the other teachers at my school somehow managed to make the switch to giving all of our classes (with the exception of the 2-3 year olds) via the Zoom platform.
(Here’s a link to some introductory tutorials, in case anyone’s interested how it all works – Zoom Tutorial)
Getting to grips with it all
The initial set-up was probably the most difficult part of making the switch. After creating a database full of students’ email addresses, communicating what was going to be happening and how everything would work to them and their parents was the next big job. This required a lot of confused phonecalls, bounced-back emails and practise classes with the other teachers from their homes.
The first few days of class were pretty much just showing the students how to use the platform, but now that most of them have got the hang of it, I’ve found that there are actually a huge range of different strategies and resources available that help to make class more interactive for my students. Luckily, all of my classes have their own course books, which we have been continuing to work through. On Zoom we are able to use an ‘Paint’ style interactive whiteboard, which is great for making notes on or playing games like hangman or pictionary, and my young learners are also big fans of playing ‘Simon Says…’, which of course can be done via video chat. Also, for some series of class books there are online ‘Teacher’ versions, designed for use with an interactive whiteboard. It’s worth checking out if any of the ones you’re using are available to view in this way. Here’s a list of some of the websites I’ve been using through the ‘share my screen’ function on Zoom:
- Learnenglishkids (British Council)
- Children’s storybooks online
The Pros and Cons…
We are now well into our second week of online teaching and things have started to settle down. The teachers have been using the Googledrive to keep records of each class’s progress and we also have to ability to record classes to send to students who are unable to connect for whatever reason.
The biggest barrier I’ve experienced to teaching online in this way is that some students simply do not have the required technology or reliable enough wifi. So, this is something to bare in mind when planning your lessons. If a child is unable to access the class, could you video it, then send it to them, along with the relevant activities, in an email?
It’s all going to be ok!
At the moment, Spain is due to come out of full lock-down on the 12th of April (fingers crossed!), but it may well be some time before things go completely back to normal, not just here, but everywhere. In the meantime, don’t worry if you have tech problems, if a video doesn’t work or your lesson doesn’t go as planned and you end up playing hangman for 25 minutes (been there!). Let’s just try to keep positive and do the best we can for ourselves and for our students. Honestly, teaching is pretty much all that is keeping me sane at the moment!