If you are intrigued by the title of this article, you are among many English language teachers who are struggling to figure out how to teach online in a very uncertain time. Most of us are just hoping this rather large challenge will resolve itself sometime soon. But for now, we are all swimming and trying to keep our heads above water.
One of the problems with this is there are just too many options and too many things available. You have to sift through it all and make decisions rather quickly. Here is South Korea, my own decision making was to use Zoom, Blackboard, PowerPoint, Email (old-fashioned but it works well), and text-messaging.
This was our first week teaching online. What did I do?
I had two online classes yesterday and I used Zoom. It was so much simpler than using the Blackboard program the university recommended for live teaching. I have colleagues at Hongik University who spent their weekend trying to figure out their university’s live teaching system (something like nine hours!). I fear this was the case for many English teachers all over the country. I hope you are not in the same situation!
First, I did what I could to take attendance once everyone was in zoom. I asked students to say hello or to write hello in the chat. It worked quite well. After that, I used PowerPoint to explain how classes would work. Zoom easily switches between the camera on you to your screen. There were no glitches. Third, I used PowerPoint to introduce some conversation question sets. I then had the students post their answers to the questions in the chat. The last thing I did was to introduce a self-introduction activity on Blackboard. They were to write a self introduction that included the some of the information asked in the conversation sets. At this point, Zoom decided it was finished (meetings on the unpaid version last for 40 minutes). I invited them back 20 minutes later. This worked quite well.
First, the only caveat was the 40 minutes time limit. What I used to do in 50 minutes I will now do in 40 minutes. It looks like things online are going to be a little condensed. More things for them to do and a little less time to do it. I think I’ll be able to deal with that! Hopefully you can too!
Second, Blackboard is not as bad as some students and teachers think! Students just need to be shown where things are on Blackboard and that is possible with Zoom. I used the discussion boards and posted some class materials for this first day. The share screen option allows them to see anything you have open on your computer.
Third, I am keeping the ‘teacher talk’ to a minimum. I explained the question sets briefly and then had them answer the questions. I explained the self introduction activity and then gave them lots of time to actually post it on blackboard. (Most of them did not need the extra time!)
Fourth, I am having students say hello and goodbye. At the beginning of class, I asked the students to say hello on video or in the chat and at the end of the class I asked for the same thing. That begins and ends things nicely.
Now we are going to talk briefly about the Corona Virus and the isolation many of us are feeling. Social distancing and isolation are buzz words people are using. They make it sounds like you should never go outside.
First, I do believe you should get out of the house. At least once a day, put on the mask and a pair of gloves and take a short walk outside. 20 Minutes of regular exercise will do you a world of good.
Second, have a routine in place. My husband and three children who are all at home and we have a bit of a routine. I get up, have a shower, do laundry, and have breakfast before most of the house wakes up. The boys wake up a little later, eat breakfast, get dressed, and do workbooks in the mornings. In the afternoons, the boys are allowed to play games and spend some time on screens. I have also added exercise (in my living room) to my regular routine because I am spending quite a bit of time looking at a computer and my lower back hurts a bit. I’m also baking on days when I am not teaching. (Yes, I am as stress-baker!)
Third, take heart in the fact that this won’t last forever. We will get past the Corona Virus. God has this like He has everything else. I do believe that some time in April we will be back in our classrooms and for that we should all be thankful!
Fourth, if you are feeling the isolated and you are reading this, I strongly suggest you join a support group on Facebook or some other social media platform. We can support each other online.
Fifth, I just want to say ‘Well done!’ to all out there. It’s not easy to transition from ‘in the classroom’ to online. Feel good about what you accomplished this week and keep going!
Virginia Hanslien (BA Development studies, MA Intercultural Studies) teaches at the Sejong Institute of Foreign Languages at Korea University’s Sejong Campus. She is the editor for this blog and for the newsletter Chronicles of Hope: Christian English Language Educators in Korea and Abroad. She is a co-facilitator for the Christian Teachers Special Interest Group. She lives near Sejong City with her husband, Hansung Kim, and three sons, Justin, Aidan, and Jordan.