Teaching to a Screenful of Students

It’s different, to say the least.

That’s me, teaching to a class of 25 students in real-time, using Zoom. Who knew that an old desk could be used as a teaching podium.

Today was Day 4. and I’ve made a tech mistake each of the first four days. Here’s a recap of those mistakes:

  • on the first day, I assigned all the students to five different break-out rooms, and things seemed to be working well. When it was time to have them come back to the main Zoom meeting room, I mistook the “Close all rooms” button with the “End Meeting” button. Suddenly the meeting was over, and all my students disappeared. Unfortunately for the students, I was able to quickly log back in, and all the students were still there. I think they were hoping class was over…
  • on day 2, I sent the students to their breakout rooms again. As part of doing so, the students get a pop-up message they need to click on to go to their specific breakout room. The students started to disappear into their rooms, except for a small handful. Naturally, I thought I must have done something wrong. So I started asking the remaining students if they were having a tech problem, but I was getting no response. It was then that I noticed that these students had all paused their live video feed and as a result, Zoom defaulted to their “away” picture. For most people, this is usually a stock photo of yourself. Well, these students had apparently taken a photo of themselves which made them appear as if they were at the meeting, but they were not. It’s a clever away photo, and I’ve learned now not to talk to static images…
  • on day 3, we came back from a short break and I picked up with the PowerPoint slide I had ended with before the break. I talked for a few minutes before a student finally yelled out that nobody could see my slides. I had forgotten to click on the Share Screen button…
  • today, I set up a simple online poll for the students to complete as soon as they logged into the meeting. Well, they all took the poll, but I must have done something because none of their responses were recorded. Fortunately, I was ablt to fix the problem and have it up and running for my late afternoon class.

Fortunately, none of the questions in the survey asked about how tech-savvy their instructor is…

All that being said, it’s a wonderful group of students, as always, and I’ve been looking forward to my Zoom meetings with them each day.


92 thoughts on “Teaching to a Screenful of Students

  1. πŸ™‚ Well, at least you learned from your mistakes, Jim.

    Just in case Zoom is too complicated for you, there is always the option of using Google Meet.

    Do enjoy the rest of your day, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, hopefully I will not make the same mistakes twice…

      and I think I’m getting ok with Zoom, and that is the platform our University has settled on. But I may check out Google Meet just so I get a sense of what it offers; thanks for the suggestion!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, my friend, you are learning the tech end of this quickly. There is always a steep learning curve with technology. And, albeit with a few hiccups, you are successfully completing your lectures. I like the impromptu lectern you have devised. Soon you will have mastered all the in and outs of Zoom and the lectures will go off without a hitch. Good to see you engaged with students and sharing your knowledge again!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My wife is a HS Bio teacher.
    They are recording classes, so she has learned how to be a video producer. Who knew a teacher would need to master such skills?
    Fortunately, teachers present every day and doing videos is not a long leap from class room presentations.
    My sister is an elementary teacher. I’m not sure exactly what they are doing but about half of her students have never logged into the system they are using for instruction.
    I think some of this is poverty and neglect and these are issues all school systems will need to address and/or work around to make remote learning work for everyone.
    If school systems do not find a way to get all children to participate in remote learning, we will be leaving many children behind. Far behind.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. great points, and we see that the disparity at our school, but perhaps not as much as exists in the k-12 public school system. access to technology is a key in this environment, and many students do not have such access and it is a significant disadvantage that needs to be addressed.


    1. My computer (a 2012 Macbook Air) can’t really do the virtual background, but surprisingly none of my 50 students have used a virtual background. My guess is that the novelty wore off pretty quickly this past semester, and now they are comfortable letting people see where they are zooming from…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess it has on my side as well. During our staff meetings on zoom, the team is very open in their homes. Some will do a quick tour of their office and kitchen. Makes for a nice, welcoming environment

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds to me like you are doing great. Did the university expect all profs to know how to use Zoom or did it give any assistance? I’d guess many of the older profs in particular might not handle this new method well.

    To the extent Zoom ed is successful do you think it will change education? If schools can eliminate a lot of bricks & mortar, it might lower the rate of increase in costs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think our school provided more than enough support to faculty to get ready to use Zoom. It is then up to the faculty to take advantage of such resources. I think most have, but some have not.

      I do think it will change things, but only for the better. I don’t see Zoom competely replacing the on-campus experience for students that want that, but I do see myself getting on a Zoom call with a student when they have questions. It’s an effective way to have office hours.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would certainly prefer an on-campus, in-person education. I don’t know how things will shake out if Zoom ed is a lot cheaper than the current in-person, on-campus experience. There ares so many possibilities.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Jonathan! From just listening to other faculty and students who have had more experience with this format than I have, it seems as if students like using breakout rooms while in Zoom, and they also note that an hour is about the most that students can keep their attention in one Zoom meeting. So we teach for 40 minutes, take a 10 minute break, and then teach for 40 more.

        I also wrote a post about testing in an online environment: https://jborden.com/2020/06/10/trust-in-god-but-tie-your-camel/

        How about you? Any tips that you have to share?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Given my experience with teaching online, it goes a long way to building/reinforcing the community you laid out at the beginning of the school year. I found that at first it was the students who would engage in class would usually engage online more often. Yet, by building a community that showed students failure is okay (usually with me embarrassing myself) it helped reinforce their ability to try.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes, building community is important in an online environment. I am hopeful that our Fall semester will include at least some face to face instruction for that very reason…

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh good….I mean…. I feel foe you! Haha!
        If its any consolation I am sure you are more tech savvy than me. My husband still loves to remind me about the time I first used a fax machine! πŸ˜„

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL! Good luck finding it! Its not exactly titled “Fax Machine” post! But you are welcome to look through my archives. πŸ™‚
        Oh, being that you shared your bloopers, I can tell you. After all, you did fall off a chair, didn’t you?
        Just remember, I was YOUNG and in Love, and you know how that combination messes up your mind! πŸ™‚
        We were still newlyweds and I was working at a pharmacy which had just got a Fax machine. I was telling my husband about it on my lunch break when I called him. I knew he had a fax machine at work, so in my “brilliance” I told him that he could send me a love note to brighten my day at work. He said “Well how would I know that you got it and not the pharmacist, wouldn’t want him to read it. ” I responded back, “that’s easy… just fold and staple it!”
        After having to hold the phone away from my ear due to his laughter my dear husband explained how the paper you send is not the same paper that comes out to the recipient!

        No comment needed! LOL! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      3. πŸ™‚ love it…

        But I can see how the staples would have a hard time traveling over the internet from Fax Machine A to Fax Machine B. Thanks for sharing a tech-based blooper, we’ve all made lots of those!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I knew you would enjoy it, my husband atill cracks up about it!
        Haha on the staples, can’t help that technology can’t keep up with my complex mind! πŸ˜‚
        You are welcome for the entertainment, there are certain other followers of mine that I am sure would enjoy this blooper! You should feel privileged! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Gee! I don’t know, …. maybe knowing that some certain clowns would enjoy it too much. I already can’t live down my “emerald blue” color, I can just imagine how many times I would hear, “just fold and staple it” somehow mixed into the comments!
        Don’t think about it! LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Honestly, I cannot imagine teaching this way. I enjoyed the ability to move around my classroom as I interacted with students and kept them motivated and on task. Teaching business and technology requires this type of presence of myself. Perhaps this dinosaur retired at the proper time. Best wishes to you Jim as well as others who are teaching in this new dynamic.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Online teaching, Zoom meetings and any other platforms to connect to our students during this pandemic was semi new for all of us. But, I think that the students appreciated our efforts to remain connected with them. I am sure the kids thought that you were amazing and that it got easier as you went along. Happy Summer!

    Liked by 1 person

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