Having taught the majority of the school year in a hybrid environment, it took time to adjust to teaching online and deciding which methods or tools to use. Beyond the adjustments related to instruction, it was challenging to get into a workflow and figure out how to best provide for students at home and in the classroom space.
My recommendation for anyone who has not experienced hybrid learning is to develop a routine that helps you minimize the loss of instructional time that happens due to balancing the technology, making sure all students are in class, and completing other clerical tasks.
With teaching in any environment, there are always many things that we have to balance, and we must be flexible for when roadblocks pop up, especially when it comes to technology.
What advice can I offer for hybrid learning and balancing the teaching live and online simultaneously?
Think about the space you want to create for students to communicate and feel part of the learning community. They should be able to ask questions and find class resources whenever they need them.
As teachers, we need to be able to check in with students to see how they are doing, first and foremost, and to assess their progress in our class. Doing this when we have students in multiple locations can be challenging, which is why it is important to have a few versatile tools in our toolkit and to always expect the unexpected by having a backup plan or two.
Getting started with hybrid teaching
Here are a few of the questions that I asked myself:
- Should I create a video of myself teaching a lesson and have the students at home watch it while I actually teach the students that are in my classroom?
- How do I assess students? Should all students take a digital assessment, or should I provide a paper assessment for students in the classroom?
- How can I promote collaboration between students at home and students in my classroom?
- How can I help students to feel more connected to one another and build essential SEL skills?
To create more of a classroom community and connect students, I added some extra materials to my classroom. I used my HUE HD document camera so that students could see their classmates and me in our classroom. I connected an external microphone to my second computer so that my students could speak to each other and I could move around my classroom but still respond to questions they had at home. Students being able to talk to one another was essential.
Choosing the right tools for your toolkit
I chose tools that would enable me to create different types of learning experiences that work for in-person, hybrid, or fully virtual learning and that would also promote student engagement. I think it is essential to have multimedia and multipurpose digital tools that we can use to create interactive lessons so that all students can participate, regardless of where they are learning from.
What I found to be the most frequent uses of technology for me this year were creating interactive lessons, doing a quick check-in, making a screen recording or instructional video, and promoting SEL, and helping students get to know their classmates.
Here are five of the tools that I relied on throughout the year that helped me answer my initial questions and enhance my students’ learning experiences.
Nearpod is a multimedia platform that provides more than 8,000 interactive videos and more than 20 different types of activities and content to include in each lesson. You can launch a quick game of “Time to Climb'' as an assessment or for an exit slip or add in some virtual reality trips to create more immersive learning experiences. Lesson creation does not take much time, and lessons can include audio, video, drawings, matching pairs, polls, quizzes, and more. Nearpod also has an Immersive Reader, which is great for accessibility.
Gimkit has been a favorite for a few years, especially because it promotes increased content retention by the repetitive questions and through the different modes of playing in or out of the classroom. A recent feature is Gimkit Draw. Using the Draw mode, students have a choice of three words to draw, as their drawing appears on each student’s device, they type in their guess, and the word appears once it has been correctly guessed. There are many other modes for playing Gimkit.
Edpuzzle was so beneficial this year for adding questions to the videos I had created or choosing from the lessons already available. I would use Screencastify to make my own videos to teach a concept, do a demo, explain something for students, and then could easily upload my video to Edpuzzle to make it interactive. You can add multiple choice questions, notes, or open-ended responses for students to complete as they watch the video.
Formative is an excellent tool for creating digital formative assessments and has proven to be quite beneficial during virtual and hybrid learning this year. I struggled with options for assessing students that would either fully deter or limit their tendency to use language translators or other resources for my class. With the functionality of Formative, you can scramble the question order, turn off the ability for response edits, set a timer, and lock the test after a certain period of time. You can assign student-paced or a live Formative, see results in real-time and give feedback through the teacher dashboard.
Buncee has been a favorite in all of my classes for years. It is a tool that I use to create presentations, welcome messages, social media graphics, interactive lessons, and more. Buncee offers more than 38,000 items in their media library and thousands of ready-made templates to choose from to get started for all grade levels and content areas. Buncee integrates with Microsoft Teams and Immersive Reader. It is also a fun option for creating augmented reality! I recommend using Buncee for promoting SEL, helping students get to know one another, or creating a virtual classroom space with links to resources and a welcome video from the teacher!
These are just a few of the tools that we used throughout the year that provided many possibilities. There is no perfect solution, but when we have a few tools to leverage, it helps us create more engaging and meaningful lessons that all students can participate in.