As our transition to online learning has gone on, the platform my district has been utilizing is Google Meet for live synchronous class sessions. Google Meet is a platform offered through Googles G-Suite, which allows for live video conferencing of up to 200 people. After a number of class sessions using this platform teaching K-12 students along with my experience teaching university students online, I am going to provide a number of additional extensions to use Google Meet to its full potential as well as outline several strategies to heighten student engagement and participation in live online synchronous class sessions (that can be used on any online video conferencing software).
Integration of Google Meet with Classroom and Needed Extensions
Recently, Google Meet has been integrated into Google Classroom. This is a great development as it makes it a very quick and efficient process of launching a live Google Meet link from the Google Classroom interface. The settings to do this can be found in the settings toolbox once you have entered your designated classroom. Once this has been activated, a link appears in the Google Classroom’s heading with the Meet link students can click, which brings them directly to the online class session.
Beyond Google Classroom, there are two extensions teachers and students need to download to fully maximize Google Meet’s potential for live class sessions. First, teachers and students need to add the extension of “Google Meet Grid View,” which allows both teachers and students to see everyone’s video image in the live class session. Each student is shown within a grid when it’s been added as an extension. Without this extension, a grid view of an entire class is not possible so teachers cannot see everyone’s video image at once while class is being conducted. Second, teachers and students need to add the extension “Nod – Reactions for Google Meet,” which allows both teachers and students to raise a virtual hand as well as display various emojis such as a thumbs up or thumbs down to the entire live class session. This provides the teacher as well as their students with silent feedback and allows for active participation covertly by students in the lesson.
Ultimately, with the new development of integrating Google Meet to Google Classroom as well as adding the Grid View and Nod Reactions to Google Meet, it is an effective platform to conduct online meetings. With these two extensions in place, teachers can see their students as well as see non-verbal feedback while they are presenting content to their students during screen sharing mode. Be sure to remind your students to download the “Nod” during one of your first online sessions. This will ensure they can participate using the Nod Reactions for the non-verbal feedback you will want to receive from them while presenting content.
Online Strategies to Maximize Your Time on Google Meet Live Synchronous Sessions
When conducting live online class sessions through Google Meet (or Microsoft Team or Zoom), there are a number of strategies to maximize your class time and student learning. Below, I have provided a list to breakdown 10 successful strategies to help bolster your students learning and make your time with them during live sessions worth every minute!
- Microphones: Ask students to mute their microphones once the meeting begins. Having background noise can be distracting to the teacher as well as students. By ensuring this is a clear expectation from the beginning will help mitigate unnecessary background noises.
- Agenda/Goals: Provide an agenda and learning goals on the first slide you are sharing to the class. Then, review it with your students before jumping into the full lesson. This provides structure and allows your students to know what you will be covering during this live class session and learning throughout the week.
- Etiquette Online: Review online class etiquette. For example, what are the procedures for raising your virtual hand or providing insight either in the chatbox or by explaining their thoughts using their voice. Lastly, be sure to note that the chatbox is being logged so students need to be appropriate in their use of language and interactions with students.
- Check-in with your Students: When checking in with your students, you can either ask them to write a number out of ten representing how they feel. Teachers can also ask them to use an emoji to illustrate how they are doing. Then, teachers can call on two to three students virtually after they have initially checked in with the entire class to give these students an opportunity to share their thoughts with their voice to the rest of the class. Be sure to have your students raise their virtual hand to volunteer while in your online class.
- Early in the Week Live Class Sessions: For sessions at the beginning of the week, go over the content you have posted online and review the instructions. Frontload as much as possible. Lastly, ask students multiple times if they have any questions and remind them about signing up for office hours throughout the week.
- Later in the Week Live Class Sessions: For sessions at the end of the week, review content and re-teach as needed. During these sessions, it’s best to review what has been covered as well as see how your students are doing. If an assessment has occurred, go over the problems that students had the most trouble on and answer any questions regarding their confusion to bridge their understanding.
- Online Lectures/Direct Instruction: For sessions that may involve a lecture, use interactive slides like Pear Deck or Polleverywhere extensions to your Google Slideshows to actively engage your students. By providing live opinion polls, formative assessment questions, and interactive visuals, it helps maintain student engagement during a live online lecture as similar tools and strategies would be used during a face to face session.
- Office Hours: Always remind your students about virtual office hours and how to sign up for them. This is huge as many students may want one on one support or may not want to ask questions in a whole group setting regarding the content they are learning in your class. Also, office hours provide a medium to build relationships with students online as it gives you and the student time to work together and collaborate on their learning.
- Take Virtual Attendance: Have a Google Form or Doc to track your student’s attendance. On the Form or Doc have the date, class period, number of students missing, and the names of the students missing. This will allow you to contact students who have missed one or more live class sessions to check-in and see how they are doing.
- Be Engaging and Have Fun: While presenting to your students, have some energy in your voice. By having excitement and zest in your voice will allow your students to become more engaged in the live lesson. With anything in life, the energy that you are expressing through your voice and actions will help create more energy for the class session.
Online synchronous classes are much different than face to face. But, teachers can make these live class sessions effective by using the strategies I have provided above to create engaging experiences for their students. Be aware that throughout this process, it will take practice. We are all improving in conducting online lessons; I am sure they will get better as we continue practicing them more and more over time. Also, know that some lessons will go better than others. That’s the nature of teaching. As we continue with more online lessons this next month, I will post my reflections and more strategies we can utilize to make them more engaging for our students so they can get the most out of the time they spend with us synchronously online.
Note: Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @mattrhoads1990 or by email if you would like to share your experiences with teaching online during this time. I’d enjoy hearing from you.