- While not all students feel the need for it, there’s no substitute for synchronous contact. If you have limited time together in the classroom, this can be expanded by utilizing web meeting tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts, and the plain old phone for conversations by audio or video, as well as texting.
- The same goes for interpersonal contact, which can be asynchronous. Blogs, discussion boards, chat rooms, voice and video messages, comment tools in word processing programs, polls, and a class website to pull your selected tools together can add up to students feeling supported and part of a community.
- Students also need to receive support so that their needs are met and they can succeed in class and so that at a minimum, they feel a sense of community with their teacher.
I can offer some examples from a workplace preparation class I taught. We met at school once every other week for three hours. I tried to make the most of this time by having lots of pair and small group work, and experiences such as a mock ‘first day at work’ tour of the program offices and an end-of-semester potluck. I do not believe that this alone would have been enough to address the needs discussed above.
This being an ESOL class, students needed more time to work on pronunciation, and to practice implementing cultural and conversation skills we covered in class along with situations they had questions about. We held weekly small-group Skype meetings, so the students developed a feeling of community by getting to know each other as they learned alongside one another and supported each other’s progress. Some of the skills and topics we covered were sentence and word stress, nonverbal communication, and responding to the interview question that perplexes many: tell me about yourself.
In program evaluations, students suggested adding more in-class time, perhaps once every week, and more synchronous support such as video meetings.
Many assignments were submitted individually using Schoology’s assignment tool, which allows me to insert highlighting and comments within the document. I also posted comments alongside the document into which I could insert links to supplementary lessons and screencasts I made to explain a correction when someone was stuck or when it was more easily explained by showing. Each student had his or her own Individual Student Materials page which contained these lesson links and accompanying exercises. This way, each student had an organized compilation of supplemental resources according to his or her individual needs.
Hopefully this article sparks some ideas that would fit your teaching situation. I look forward to your replies with your own ideas and experiences.
- Using Discussion Boards in the Classroom
- Using Word's Comment Feature to Improve Writing (Also available in GoogleDocs)
- Using Google Voice
- Using Google Voice with English Language Learners/Creating a Class Website
- A Reminder about Remind101
- Making Instructional Videos with Screencasts
- Creating a Class Website