Zoom. Microsoft Teams. Skype. Google Meet. Facetime. Web- Ex. GoToMeeting. Terms we never heard of a year ago are now a part of our daily conversations – in-person and otherwise. Conferencing software and online platforms have allowed business, education and personal connections to continue through the challenges of the pandemic.
Most people have become fairly adept at attending meetings, setting up connections, communicating with others through microphones, built-in cameras and computer screens, and dressing for comfort and company. None of those adequately replace in-person meetings, one-on-one conversations and lessons to be learned, but most have struggled through and made it work. Education has been the most affected by this transition and has had the most to lose.
Teaching styles vary from school to school, curriculum to curriculum, even classroom to classroom. All teachers consider their roles in their students’ lives in a different manner, bringing their own philosophy, sharing it through an approach honed by years of experience. Every teacher has had to change how they teach in response to the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has created in education. And the online or hybrid versions of teaching most common now have generated some new tools and new uses for others.
Regardless of which online platform being used, there is likely either a feature within the program or an app that works with it to provide these types of enhancements. The ones mentioned here are primarily connected to Zoom, being the most popular program used for this purpose in education. A simple Google search will find the appropriate one for the others.
In the rush to get online last March, schools provided little or no training in how to use these types of enhancements to provide better educational opportunities for students through online platforms. And a year in as we continue to need this type of technological support, making those sessions more productive, more collaborative, more informative and more fun becomes essential.
Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet – they all either have these features or there is a third-party app that provides it. And there are many more, especially ones that connect the session to other resources (YouTube, Wikipedia, Google Drive, OneDrive) to expand the possibilities. Online learning will not end with the pandemic and the better we use the tools available, the better the learning.
Steffen Parker is in his fourth decade as a music educator, currently teaching high school band and jazz ensemble, as well as digital media and technology in northern Vermont. Serving as the festival director of the New England Music Festival and the Vermont All State Music Festival, Parker is also the associate editor of the NFHS Music Journal and the performing arts representative on the NFHS High School Today Publications Committee.