This week is a practical week. There are so many considerations when it comes to building and sustaining community online: everything from what platforms to use (should I do everything in Google Docs? Canvas? FlipGrid? What even is Discord?) to the best way to shoot a video lecture for the best possible engagement (should I be concerned about lighting? What Zoom background should I use? Can I just do voice over Powerpoint, or do I really need to show my face?), from considerations of equity (is it true introverts speak more online? How do I make sure everyone has a chance to participate? What do I do when students post racist, ableist, homo/transphobic comments? How do I engage productive discussions of equity?) to thinking about teaching through the screen and acknowledging the hardships students are facing today.
In other words, it's more than just posting a good discussion prompt or creating a rubric for participation.
This week's readings run the gamut of practical issues when it comes to building community in a digital (or analog) classroom. Rather than running on here with my advice, I will let these authors speak their volumes of guidance themselves. This week is an important week for reading, so try to make that your priority. If you are using Hypothesis, go crazy with annotations (it's a good way to form community!); if you're hanging out in Canvas, feel free to open a new discussion and share your thoughts there.
Whatever your preferred method, dig in and enjoy.
Week Six Activity: Your Stickiest Problems; Your Best Advice
In the spirit of practice, this week's activity invites you to share your stickiest problems—those problems with building community that you seem constantly to wrestle with and that, even when you have marginal success, always seem to boggle you. How do I get students talking to one another in discussion forums or on Zoom? How do I create group assignments? What if students are being silent in class / in the LMS? How do I create an equitable environment for community when not everyone has the same broadband access?
But this week is not just about sticky problems, and that's because you have a lot of advice to share with each other. Everyone participating in this summer academy is an expert at teaching what they teach. You are an expert. Even though we've moved online, and now we must interact with all or most of our students through a digital interface, that doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing! So, as part of this week's exercise, share back what you know, offer advice, give guidance, volunteer support. In other words: begin to form a community across all this distance that might help sustain you throughout the coming Fall.
There are two ways to participate in this week's activity. You can jump into this Google Doc, or you can open Hypothesis on this page and annotate your responses.
- Teaching without Walls Online Teaching Tips (YouTube channel)
- Rachel Toor, "Turns Out You Can Build Community in a Zoom Classroom"
- Becky Supiano, "What Does It Mean to Support Vulnerable Students during the Pandemic?"
- Flower Darby, "5 Ways to Connect with Online Students"
- Chitra Aiyar, “How to build community when you feel isolated“ (TED talk)
- Edutopia, “Morning Meetings: Building Community in the Classroom“ (video)
- Sean Michael Morris, "Love Letters and Pen Pals: Community through Correspondence"
- Beyond Zoom U: The Online Learning Experience Students Want