If you’re teaching in a hybrid learning environment, where some students are present in class while others are simultaneously connected from home, you’re already well aware that many of our most effective strategies don’t translate very well.
The most common sentiment seems to be, “How do I clone myself?” But, when it comes down to it, if the strategy we’re implementing is making us feel like we need to be in two places at once, the strategy that’s at fault.
So what works well in the hybrid learning environment?
#1. Direct instruction.
Direct instruction works, because it’s easy enough to speak to a group of students — whether they’re sitting right in front of you, or viewing your broadcast from home. The problem, of course, is that lecturing isn’t going to be very effective for more than a few minutes. If the lecture isn’t interactive, student attention will drop off precipitously about five minutes into the lesson. We also know that learning is most effective when it’s student centered, when students have the chance to collaborate and discuss, when students work in small groups — all things that aren’t afforded by direct instruction.
#2. The workshop model.
The workshop model works, and it’s a HUGE step up from traditional direct instruction. For those of you not already familiar with reader’s or writer’s workshop, the format is relatively straightforward: open with a mini-lesson (several minutes of direct instruction), engage the students in independent or small-group work (breakout rooms work well for this), and hold conferences with individual students, or small groups of students, throughout the course of the period. This format is tried and true in the traditional classroom environment, and, fortunately for us, it translates seamlessly in the hybrid and virtual environment, too. If you’re using video conferencing software (like Zoom) to hold your hybrid or remote lessons, you can even place students into their own breakout rooms while they do independent work — freeing them from the distractions of the larger Zoom meeting, while simultaneously enabling you to join them for a 1-on-1 check-in or conference!
#3. Virtual stations!
Marry the best parts of options #1 and #2, and you’ll be able to offer your students an even more engaging and interactive hybrid learning experience. First, as would be the case with an in-person lesson, determine what your stations will be. These stations will have to “live” on virtual platforms, so you may be best served by drawing from this list of popular (and FREE) digital tools:
- Google Docs (collaborative document editing)
- Google Slides (collaborative presentation development)
- Google Meet (small group work or one-on-one conferences)
- Google Chat (a chat-style discussion space)
- Google Groups (a discussion forum)
- Google Jamboard (a collaborative whiteboard)
- FlipGrid (asynchronous video based discussion)
- EdPuzzle (YouTube videos with your questions embedded throughout)
Then, share the activities with students along with an approximate amount of time to be spent in each. You might also include a checklist, or some other manner for quickly reporting the work they’ve completed.
The two “pro tips” that will REALLY make your virtual stations a success:
MAKE YOURSELF ONE OF THE VIRTUAL STATIONS!
This simple practice ensures that all students will have the opportunity to get synchronous face-time with you, while ensuring that you will have the chance to touch base with and formatively assess all students in realtime. Including a virtual station link to your Google Meet, or your Zoom meeting, is the quick and easy way to make this part of your lesson!
CREATE A VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE STATIONS FOR YOUR STUDENTS.
This is the glue that will hold your virtual stations together, and the element that will set your lesson apart! Use Google Slides to create a visual representation of the stations that your students will be cycling through, rather than just pelting them in hyperlinks.
We used Google Slides to create a virtual representation of an iPad, and included each of the virtual stations as an icon, embedded below. (Go ahead and try clicking on the icons — they work!!)
You can view our Google Slides template by clicking right here — and make your own editable copy by clicking on “File” >> “Make a Copy.” From there, you can do some pretty cool stuff:
- You can change the hyperlinks, alter the text, and bring in new buttons of your own so that they’re tailored to YOUR virtual stations!
- You can even embed a recording of your voice in which you detail the class’s directions by clicking on “Insert” >> “Audio.”
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