Creating classroom community in a digital space

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One of my favorite parts of being an educator is the sense of community that is created with each new class of students. Fostering that feeling in person has its challenges of course, but is a bit easier to administer and coach when you’re face to face. When asked to build that same sense of community with my students through a computer screen as we went into a distance learning mode, my brain started to misfire. How am I going to do that? Are the students going to be engaged in their learning? Will they be able to feel that sense of belonging in a virtual classroom setting? So, after a few days of crying and worrying, I accepted this new challenge.

My teaching and tech skills were going to be put to the ultimate test.

As I’m reflecting on this past school year, I think it’s the strongest bond I’ve ever built with a group of students, thanks in part to technology and the community building that had to initially happen in our virtual classroom. My goal for this article is to share strategies and tips that worked well and helped me nurture and grow that strong teacher to student relationship through a screen, despite the collective challenges we faced.

Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give for having a successful online teaching session is to show up prepared. Have all of your tabs that you will be sharing or using throughout your virtual lesson preloaded and ready to present. Test your video and audio before you begin your video chat with your class. The more you can be proactive and troubleshoot before you go live, the more efficient and fun your online session will be. Dualless is a great tech tool I used to help me navigate a live teaching session. You can configure different formats of viewing your virtual meeting, but on the same screen, also view what you are presenting. This works so well for educators who are virtually teaching on a laptop or only have one monitor.

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