This is one of our classrooms right now.
It probably looks quite familiar, with its social distancing and its capture by Big Sticker (note all the notices on the wall, over to the left).
We’ve been given lots of guidance about working in such environments, including this video.
You’ll note that the video is entitled ‘Teaching in a Covid-secure environment’, but that there’s no actual teaching.
So perhaps we can think here about what the teaching element of all of this might look like.
[For those in a rush, the furniture can’t move and the instructor should be staying within their box at the front]
Option 1: lecture. The rooms are set up in a lecture format and this is the obvious route to take. Except we’re not supposed to lecture in person anymore (that all goes into asynchronous chunks on our VLE).
In practice, it’s hard not to revert to doing this. Partly that’s because of the layout, and partly because everyone’s wearing a mask. As a teacher I might have a mic to amplify my voice, but the students don’t get that, so standard voice interaction across the whole room becomes much harder.
So, option 2: small-group work. Students can be encouraged to talk with those nearby and then to feedback to the whole. Either that might involve talking on behalf of the group, or putting materials on a shared resource (e.g. Teams or Google Doc): all those whiteboards are out of action, remember.
This is the obvious way to get around the spacing, but then you’ll need to think about whether you need to mix up people between sessions, so it’s not always talking to the same mate each week. There’s also more difficulty in moving around the room to support groups that need help
Option 3 would be online, in-class. This is a bit like the Twitter game I’ve run in the past: everyone interacts online only, despite being in the same room. I’ll only note that I created that game to show how much harder it was to interact online.
But a softer version of this, with co-creation of online materials, supplemented by in-person conversation, could work, basically shifted the emphasis of option 2 to the online side. It’s certainly something I’ll be used a fair bit in this semester.
The main issue is that is does raise a question of why bother with the class bit if we’re all working online, but that’s something else.
Option 4 is student-led spaces. Here I mean asking students to come up with ways to organise themselves. In effect it’s a bit like a student presentation session, but with the bonus of them shaping the room’s interactions. That draws on their understanding of what’s working, and also helps them to see the limitations we’re operating under.
Presentations themselves are a bit tricky, unless your institution’s alright with individuals coming up to the front of the room to speak.
And beyond that I’ll confess I’m a bit at a loss.
Fish-bowling would be a struggle; any activity that involves physical materials (paper, lego, blindfolds, etc.) is out; Moving around the room is also a no-no.
So you have options, but less than you used to.
Suggestions would be very welcome.