If you had not heard of Zoom a couple of months ago, you probably have by now. It has become increasingly popular and necessary as a result of social distancing protocols. We all love a break now and then, but this is not the kind of break we had in mind. This break has us constantly wondering and worrying about our students. While nothing can replace the kind of interaction and learning experiences that we have when we are face-to-face, Zoom can help fill in some gaps during this difficult time.

What is Zoom?

Zoom is an incredibly user-friendly online platform for meetings. While it may have been used mostly for business in the past, now more and more teachers are realizing the usefulness of Zoom for distance learning. You can easily create an account by going to Zoom.com and following the steps to sign up. It is very easy to go from there and start inviting others to a meeting by sharing a link and a code. However, there are so many more features that can make your online learning instruction more effective.

Whiteboard –  Just like a whiteboard in your classroom, this can be used to demonstrate learning objectives for the entire class. You can also use the annotation feature to write on shared documents.

Breakout Room – This feature allows you to put students in small groups for a designated amount of time for group discussion or problem solving.

Audio Settings – Students can be muted when you need them to listen with minimal distractions. There is even a feature that allows students to virtually raise their hand in order to ask questions as needed. You can also pre-set your meeting to automatically mute students as they enter to minimize disruptions.

Sharing – You can easily share slides, files, or videos with students as you teach.

Poling – You can also poll students while in meetings. You can use single answer or multiple-choice answer format. You can do this during a meeting and see responses from your students. This is a great way to get a quick snapshot of student understanding.

Transcripts – An audio or text transcript can be given to students after the meeting so they can revisit information as needed.

How to Create Virtual Lessons

When creating your virtual lessons, remember that in many ways it is very similar to how you would teach and talk to your students in your own classroom. First of all, students do not have to sign up for an account in order to participate in meetings. After you have sent students the link they need to join the meeting and have set a date and time, you are ready. It is a good idea for you to join the meeting a few minutes early in order to ensure that the connection is good.

When you are beginning with your first virtual lesson, allow some time to speak to the students about the features of Zoom that they can utilize. Be sure to look at the camera to give eye contact to your students. Also, discuss appropriate behavior and procedures for eLearning.

Then, go ahead and give students an agenda or timeline of the events of the lesson. This tends to help students stay focused. Then, you can use screen share to provide direct instruction for your lesson topic. Throughout the lesson, you can allow time to promote questions, comments, and reactions. There may even be some small-group time to work problems together or discuss given issues.

Another great way to encourage student participation is to have students prepare a project, like some slides or a video, to share what they have learned with the whole class. You can use some of your time to check in with students individually to see how they are doing. Perhaps most importantly, allow some time at the end of the lesson for comments, questions, and closure. This is also a great time for engagement with the teacher as well as one another. Remember, relationships are just as important, if not more so, during this time of remote learning. This Tips and Tricks document is very helpful for learning your way around Zoom and all its features.

Other Ways to Use Zoom

Of course, there are many other ways to use Zoom. For example, teachers in our district are currently using Zoom to have meetings to discuss and share ideas for online learning. You can also use Zoom to meet with parents to help them with instructional issues that they are dealing with now as a result of this online learning situation.

Also, don’t forget how important it is that our students still get to have some social interaction with their friends. They miss each other as well and need to have some time to interact. Allow some time after a lesson or set up a meeting just for them to chat with one another. They need that communication and reassurance during this time most of all. Remember, you can always turn the volume down if they get a little loud. What a perk!