I really don’t feel like writing right now. But I have a lot of thoughts that I want to jot down. So step 1 (my biggest hurdle in keeping up this blog): being okay with the post being a bit rough around the edges.
My school is on trimesters, so my students just took their first trimester exams. Math was up last. Which means that last week when we were doing in-class review, most of the class was a bit distracted by nervous energy surrounding their more pressing exams. I decided to offer an online review session the night before the exam (Monday evening) at 7pm. We had never tried this before, but I told the students that I would post instructions on the class webpage for how to participate. So I posted the following:
Review session: Monday 11/19 at 7pm
- Go to YouTube channel to join live discussion
- Open Google Doc in a separate tab
- Type questions into google doc that you want me to answer
- Use chat in google doc to discuss with classmates
I was nervous about doing this for two reasons: 1. I was scared things wouldn’t work out according to my plan and that students might find the instructions too confusing and 2. I was afraid that students would think it was silly and nobody would show up. My plan was to use YouTube’s live video streaming via Hangouts on Air and then use the Screen Share option to ink while talking out solutions to the questions students were submitting through Google Docs. I got all that set up and then at 7pm opened up the Google Doc. To my amazement, 19 students were signed on!! They started entering in a couple questions and some students were asking questions in the chat regarding getting set up. I let students answer their classmates questions for getting set up while I got the live stream going. I started explaining the first question and everybody started chatting that they could hear me but couldn’t see anything I was writing. So of course, my fear had come true and things were not going according to plan. I started talking out some steps, but they responded that it was too hard to follow. So I asked them to open up the solutions that I had posted so we could talk through some of that. That was the fastest thing I could think of to ensure that we were all looking at the same thing. So we all opened up the document and I talked through the questions that were coming in through the chat. After explaining the first problem, I said something like: I’m sorry that you can’t see me write, how frustrating. To which a student responded: who cares, we’re learning! And that one statement was all I needed.
We ended up chatting for an hour and a half and most of the students stayed on for the full time (some of them would have gladly stayed on for 2 hours, but I was tired!). We talked through the solutions and then we got to more general questions. For that, we did a lot of typing out solutions in the google doc, together. There were really good questions and answers going back and forth in the side chat. I did some of the problem solving and students took control of other things. I was the only one “talking” but I certainly was not the only one contributing. They were amazing engaged (super evident when the couple of typos I made were corrected for me almost immediately). I also let them be a little goofy in the side chat, which I think kept them having fun.
So most of what I planned didn’t actually happen. But the review session ended up being as successful as I could have asked for and a lot more fun than I was anticipating. I’m pretty happy that things did not work according to my plans, in fact. It was a good reminder that things do not have to be perfect to be effective and to never forget that it’s worth taking the risk… After all, only showing students your “perfect” side really isn’t modeling what it means to be a good learner.
Question: have you held an online review session with up to 20 students on at once using a free platform? Please leave thoughts below. Thanks!