Like many of my colleagues, I was teaching online this summer using Zoom. My adult ESL class (CLB 4) had about 14 regular students. By the end, we had become quite close and it was sad to see them go. Along the way we had a few adventures related to online learning that I’d like to share with you.
Test-time Technical Difficulties
Our last day was a riot. I chose to do a writing assessment which, in hindsight, I should have done earlier in the week. As we had practiced a lot I expected everything to run smoothly.
The task was to fill out a job application form. I emailed it to my students and posted it in the chat box as a Word document. Students had to fill it out and email it back to me. Most of the students got it, but one had problems writing in the Word document. I made an alternate in Google Docs and sent her the link. Problem solved.
This was nothing compared to another student who could not find the save button. I did not expect that.
I tried to take him through it step-by-step, suggested he try a keyboard shortcut, or try right clicking his mouse, in addition to searching his taskbar. Other students offered suggestions too and in the end we all broke out in laughter. I finally sent him the Google Docs link and he filled out the form. He did pretty well, as did all the students.
Lessons learned: be ready for the unexpected; don’t take anything for granted; never underestimate barriers students may encounter; practice using the technology beforehand; give options; never schedule an assessment on a Friday; and finally, let go—not everything can run according to plan.
Student as Host
Earlier that week, I ran into a different problem. Instead of renaming a student, I accidently made her the host.
Getting back my host status was a challenge. I would give instructions to reverse the damage, and although the student would repeat the instructions after me, there was no action. We went step by step, I provided screen shots, while other students also made suggestions – to no avail.
After about 15 minutes of going back and forth, I decided to shut down the session and schedule another one. The students and I left one-by-one. I sent them the link to another session. After we regrouped, the lesson continued as planned.
Lessons learned: be careful about what you click; try not to unintentionally make a student the host; never underestimate the language barrier.
Finally, last semester one of my meetings was Zoom bombed. During summer school, we had mystery students pop up.
My regulars would sometimes show up with new names such as Galaxy 213 and then I would rename them. At other times, one or two Androids would show up. I would ask them to identify themselves, but no response. If they were still there after a couple of minutes and did not respond—no camera or audio—I would remove them.
It was a bit creepy having these mystery students show up, now and again. I am not sure why anybody would want to crash an ESL class or spy on it.
So, it was a summer of teaching fun online. Meeting these challenges helped me learn and gave students an opportunity to help their classmates, problem solve, use online technology, and practice their English.
Did you teach online this summer? What did you learn? Any interesting stories to tell?
Post Written by: Svjetlana Vrbanic @lanavrb