Getting Back to the Classroom - Fall 2021
by Squarecap Staff, on May 21, 2021 2:22:26 PM
2020 transformed how teachers across all subjects teach and engage with students. But which of these changes are here to stay? We surveyed educators across the nation to find out how technologies have benefitted students this year and what challenges are still being faced.
The Majority of Classes will be In-Person this Fall
The majority (54%) of the 1000+ who participated in our survey indicated that they plan to return to in-person classes this fall. While certain areas will still need to offer online courses, vaccinated students and teachers alike will undoubtedly be thankful to return to a physical space for learning. In reality, many courses will still be a hybrid mix of online and in-person instruction, and another COVID outbreak could always send us back to virtual classrooms at any point.
If you find yourself making the switch from online learning to in-person, think about how the technologies you have adapted have enriched your teaching style and how they can continue to complement your in-person instruction. For example, many teachers found the need to record every lecture this year so that students could access that content asynchronously and still participate in class. This undertaking was a tremendous amount of work on behalf of the teachers, and these videos should be put to good use in the future! Now that these resources exist, consider adding elements of a flipped classroom to your semester so that students have more time in class to practice the most complicated aspects of your subject matter.
The Benefits of Technology
For obvious reasons, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Canvas, and Blackboard were the most reported technology being utilized this year for classroom instruction. Teachers also utilized video lectures with YouTube and Panapto, collaborative sites like Padlet and Jamboard, and polling software sites like Squarecap, iClicker, and Top Hat. Adding a few strategic EdTech tools can simplify your life, add a level of engagement to your classroom, and greatly increase student learning. However, choosing which ones can be a daunting task and can greatly depend on the subject matter as well as the format of your class. Read here for six fundamental questions every teacher should ask before implementing any new technology.
The majority of teachers responding to our survey indicated that these technologies were instrumental in running their classes this semester. Not just for allowing students to learn from the safety of their own home, but for enabling them to interact with learning materials and demonstrate their understanding. In some cases, students are showing up in greater numbers than F2F courses and are less intimidated to ask questions when they can use the 'chat' box or discussion board like the Ask and Vote in Squarecap. Many teachers reported that the use of technology increased participation and made it easier to keep students engaged. Teachers had less paperwork to deal with, and technology streamlined communication and simplified data collection.
"Technology has enabled us to communicate, collect data, and evaluate. I think that the students actually learn more, they just miss face to face interactions."
While no easy task, being forced to adapt to an online environment encouraged many educators to find innovative ways to engage students beyond the traditional lecture. Many teachers reported favorable student evaluations regarding these changes and an increased sense of involvement and community. We should continue to build on the lessons learned here even as we head back to the physical classroom.
Current Challenges in Education
While technology certainly made it possible to continue teaching during the pandemic, there are still challenges to overcome. The balance of juggling multiple responsibilities, limited bandwidth, and Zoom fatigue are all weighing on teachers and students alike. Students are exhausted and distracted, so engagement can wane even in the best of circumstances. One of the most significant complaints from teachers who are not using a type of polling software is the inability to require students to turn on their camera, making it difficult to know if they are participating in the lesson, much less actually learning.
“With large classes, it is difficult to know if students are really following along, if they are really listening, or if they are even in the classroom if their video is not turned on.”
The struggle to get students actively involved in lessons existed long before online meetings became the norm, but now educators face the added challenge of engaging their students while teaching through the void of an impersonal Zoom connection. It's sometimes impossible to know if students are listening, and even more importantly, if they're understanding. Read here for 3 active learning techniques for re-engaging your Zoom or hybrid class.
Planning for Next Semester
The importance of being in the same room as your students is more apparent now than ever before. As schools head back to in-person instruction next semester, both teachers and students will need to adjust to being in face-to-face courses once again.
In our survey, only about 5% of teachers indicated that they would drop all technology when heading back to in-person classes. This may make sense for certain types of courses that are inherently hands-on, such as clinicals and labs. Still, it seems like the majority of classrooms will be continuing to incorporate learning technologies. This is likely a wise decision, not just for pedagogical reasons, but for the convenience of being able to move back to an online format should the need arise again. Also, the time investment that teachers put into learning a new tool will make them less likely to drop that tool if it continues to add an element of engagement to the classroom.
We've learned many valuable lessons, including how to incorporate technology in a way that has never been done before this year. While Edtech can undoubtedly enhance our teaching, streamline communication, and increase student comprehension, it can never take the place of the real connection that develops between teachers and students when they meet in person. Cheers to all of the teachers who helped complete this survey, and good luck as you navigate next semester!
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