Tackling teaching on Teams: The limits and ironic new freedoms online school has to offer
As we head into December, we near the end of the semester and the five-month mark of virtual school. This has been a reality for most Florida students, along with the entire United States, filled with hurdles never seen before.
And Broward County Public Schools’ (BCPS) eLearning plan, in which some students have returned to in-person learning while the rest have stayed remote, has made educational connections more difficult.
As much as online school tries to mirror the learning environment there once was, the energy of packed classrooms is challenging to recreate. Having students share what they wrote with a partner is out of the equation, as is projecting items for the class to see when in-person and online students face a wide disconnect. Engaging both parties of students has become more difficult, and hand-on projects are practically extinct.
There is a lack of motivation in students where vigor and anticipation of testing once stood. All quizzes and tests are taken through Canvas, including those attending in-person, which prompts a less serious approach from many students.
There is a lack of motivation in students where vigor and anticipation of testing once stood.
Without a physical assignment or the familiar busy silence of a class working on a test at their desk, academic integrity is lost in many. In some cases, tests are even more flexible, with teachers “opening” the exam on Canvas for a period of time and allowing students to login and take it out of class. This happens when there isn’t enough time in class, and it is an odd scenario no one ever would have imagined could happen from the comfort of their own bed.
Homework and even exams may also seem less serious virtually, but the grades are still very real. In fact, Turnitin and other plagiarism checkers offer an opportunity for teachers to stay on the ball through online school. These tools allow teachers to check the submitted assignments for copying from the internet and ensure originality. This wasn’t as accessible before with physical assignments, thus promoting academic integrity.
Group projects mentioned previously are re-imagined through a popular feature known as hangout, or breakout rooms within class period Teams meetings.
Students are separated into different rooms of the same call to communicate with a smaller pool of people and are encouraged to turn on their cameras. It allows teachers to incorporate some group projects from the curriculum, even in these trying times.
Distributing work in a group project, a struggle felt by all students involved and teachers grading alike, is slightly easier online.
Distributing work in a group project, a struggle felt by all students involved and teachers grading alike, is slightly easier online. With applications like Google Drive, students can equally share space and work on the same document or presentation together, eliminating the struggle of tugging a poster across four joined desks.
If this strenuous school year is teaching Broward County students and staff anything, it is how to adapt and overcome. 2020 has shown Americans that scenarios we could have never possibly imagined are possible, from the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) tests being taken fully online in the spring, to a possible online prom and graduation for seniors.
With online school still being offered for the second semester, it seems as though we will need to be getting used to these circumstances, along with the limits and freedoms that come with it.
Photo courtesy of Illinois Learning Technology Purchase Program