Living in a Virtual World

Posted on: Tue, 11/17/2020 - 17:00

From virtual meetings to virtual classrooms, it has been fascinating to observe “evolution” in action!

Sometimes it is hard to remember how it felt in March when Maryland was put under “Stay at Home” orders and forced to adapt to a virtual world. The initial meetings felt awkward, and I was unfamiliar with many of the options available on Google Meet or Zoom. Eight months later, virtual meetings are my new normal, and I could list many of the benefits associated with them. In fact, I anticipate there will continue to be situations where virtual meetings are preferred in the future.

I believe the same is true of our virtual classrooms. In August, many teachers and students were uncertain about navigating teaching and learning in a virtual format. Fortunately, teachers and students became risk takers—experimenting with new tools and adapting to new classroom norms. The evolution in our virtual classrooms has been impressive. I have visited many virtual classrooms in different content areas and different grades; it has been fascinating, and I am so proud of the work I see teachers and students doing.

One of the “evolutions” I have observed in our virtual classrooms is the use of breakout rooms to increase collaboration. I watched 3rd grade students in Ms. Malone’s math class use Jamboard in their breakout rooms to complete math activities collaboratively. It was inspiring to see the leadership demonstrated by a 3rd grade student who immediately shared her screen and encouraged her classmates to complete various parts of the task assigned. She led the discussion, got her classmates involved and even guided them in making improvements to the document. It was natural and easy for all of them, a testament to the work the teacher has done to model and reinforce expectations for collaboration.

Another “evolution” is the way teachers are encouraging students to access and use virtual tools to support their learning. In Ms. Ambrose’s band class at Crestwood Middle, I was introduced to a variety of tools to guide these young performers as they prepared to submit solo performances. Applications that indicated if the correct notes were played and virtual metronomes to keep the tempo are just two examples. Students noted that practicing with the teacher giving immediate feedback was optimal, but these virtual tools got them off to a good start. And that feedback from Ms. Ambrose? Well, she offered students the option of coming to “office hours” for some one-on-one guidance or setting up individual appointments. A virtual music lesson … powerful.

As students and teachers continue to participate in virtual classrooms, I anticipate we will continue to see more “evolution.” The need to adapt and find creative solutions to problems is exercising our brains and helping all of us to grow. It is enabling us to continuously improve the virtual classroom experience as a teacher and a learner. And I expect it will provide us with strategies that we want to carry forward into the future when we return to “normal” school settings.

Living in a virtual world -- how has it “evolved” you?