Helping Teachers Combat Interruptions in the Digital Classroom

August 16, 2020

While most teachers have methods for dealing with students acting up in a physical classroom, they are having to quickly learn to address interruptions in a virtual classroom. Not only are students finding ways to use technology to act up in class, but strangers can also undermine online classes (e.g. the trend of Zoombombing). 

These new digital class interruptions are challenging for teachers who have varying levels of digital literacy; especially compared to their students who have likely grown up as digital natives.

As a school network admin, you may be dealing with a flood of help requests from teachers trying to keep control of their digital classroom.

Here are some tips for enabling your teachers to master their digital tools and combat disruptions in the virtual classroom.

Tell teachers where to share

In cases such as Zoombombing, where strangers join online classes uninvited, the perpetrator often finds the link to the video session on a public digital channel, such as Facebook or an open forum. 

While it’s important for teachers to know not to post links on social media and public web pages, be sure to let them know where they can share class information.

Provide teachers with a list of school-managed, approved channels they can use to share links to their virtual classes and information on class schedules — such as your school’s learning management system (LMS) or a private webpage. 

This decreases the risk of strangers hacking into a digital classroom, and also enables IT staff to address it if it does happen.

Seek tools to help you manage permissions 

IT teams can use single sign-on provisioning tools to help control privileges for staff accounts. This will give you more control in setting and disabling features for certain tools. 

For example, network admins may want to control the default settings on video-conferencing tools so that participants cannot enter a call unless the teacher is already present, or to automatically mute the microphone of anyone joining a call.

Many software tools are enabling integrations for Zoom and other video-conferencing platforms, to help empower schools to use these platforms safely. 

Carefully consider strategies to deter student cheating

With some educators worried that it’s easier for students to cheat in an online setting, your schools may be considering using technology to monitor students. Numerous higher education institutions have adopted online proctoring software or third-party companies to watch students take exams online.

Talk to your district leaders about the balance between student security and privacy, and see if you can come up with strategies to encourage academic integrity in a productive way. 

For example, teachers may switch to alternative test formats to better fit a virtual setting. IT may also be able to help teachers set up online tests through their learning management system, with features to vary the question order, show only one question at a time, or disable backtracking during a test. 

Give teachers “cheat sheets” for frequently-used tools

Remember that your teachers are being asked to get familiar with a host of new digital tools very quickly. To help them out — and potentially decrease admin time spent answering repeat questions — you can create and send out “cheat sheets” for the remote education tools and platforms that your teachers are using frequently. 

A “cheat sheet” should be a very simple list of helpful features and controls, and where to find them within the user interface. For a video-conferencing platform, your sheet may include things like:

  • Audio: How to mute and un-mute students individually and all at once.
  • Video: How to disable a student’s video, or all participant videos.
  • Locking: How to lock a meeting so no one can enter without the teacher’s approval.
  • Nonverbal feedback: How to allow students to use symbols (such as clicking a button for thumbs-up or thumbs-down), so they can give simple feedback even if the teacher is keeping microphones muted.
  • Recording: How to begin and stop recording, or ensure that you’re recording only yourself.
  • Chat: How to send an individual chat message to a student, and disable private chat messages between students.
  • Screen sharing: How to share the presenter’s screen, stop sharing screen, and disable permissions for students to share their screens

Topics: Instructional Technologist, Distance Learning

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