Initial Thoughts on Synchronous Learning in High Schools

1. Force Mute

If teachers do not have a way to force mute students, then the learning environment will suffer in many classes. Yes, teachers can mute students and even entire classes, but students can unmute themselves in TEAMS. If individuals continue to hold that power, any one student can derail your class.

On Monday, in the space of a half minute, I muted the entire class 3 or 4 times, and each time one student had instantly unmuted himself and continued talking over me. The option exists to remove students from a meeting, but TEAMS does not make it easy to know who is speaking in a big class. Effectively, not knowing who is talking takes away the option to remove students. Microsoft is/was supposedly working on a force mute option, but when or if it appears is anyone’s guess.

2. Virtual Tardies

Tardies will be a bigger problem. As I was trying to give my classes simple instructions yesterday, I was repeatedly interrupted by notifications that late students wanted into the meeting. At the same time, my Outlook showed me new messages from students, and a quick look at Its Learning showed even more notifications. The notification sounds are distracting even in themselves.

I was effectively playing a game of notification Whack-A-Mole while trying to instruct my classes. As I would let students into the meeting, I’d tell them to follow the directions in the chat window, but students entering the class late can’t see any of the chat that occurred before they entered, so I’d have to post the instructions again.

I recognize that the two days of problems with Its Learning significantly contributed to the number of tardies, but does not explain the bleary-eyed kids in PJs, propped up with pillows, who logged in late.

3. Cameras Off

Not being able to see students makes monitoring classes largely impossible. If some of the heads are resting on pillows, we have to wonder what is happening with the students who won’t turn on their cameras. One guy who had his camera turned on had several friends show up during my class. When I told him his friends needed to go to another room, he responded by turning off his camera.

4. The 11:59 Disincentive

The state says that students can effectively skip the synchronous part of a class, submit an assignment by 11:59 PM that day and still get credit for attendance.I don’t see that being a big issue in my AP students, but what is the incentive to show up for a class if the students can sleep in the morning and then go shopping or play games all afternoon before going online and completing assignments? Once students realize this option is viable, then our live attendance is bound to suffer. Yes, teachers can make the live instruction vital to passing assignments, quizzes, and tests, but we all know how that will turn out if failure rates are too high.

Just a couple of days in, I believe teachers will have to rethink the way they construct their classes. I know districts wants more direct live instruction, but I don’t know how effective the synchronous model will be when the state is incentivizing asynchronous learning.

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