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Author: Dr. Cassie DeFillipo, Klamath Community College
In the post-COVID world, the use of technology to teach online or hybrid English classes to adults has become more common than ever. Serving a rural community with around 1,500 students in Southern Oregon, Klamath Community College (KCC) had a large advantage entering the pandemic—it was already using some technology to educate individuals in its region prior to 2020. My classroom was built with an instructor computer and a large screen, which allowed us to quickly transition classes during the pandemic.
When I started my position as an ESOL instructor at a community college in the middle of the pandemic, I first taught using Zoom on my office computer. One month later, however, we adopted Hybrid-Flexible classes, or HyFlex classes, which allow students the option of attending sessions in person, participating online, or doing both. I taught in the classroom, and my students had the choice to come in-person or via Zoom.
Figure 1 : The view of the classroom from the camera lens
Figure 2: The 3-camera setup facing the teacher in the classroom.
After teaching HyFlex classes for almost two years, I have five tips to share with other teachers of adult learners about using technology in the post-COVID classroom.
1) Update the technology in your classroom. It doesn’t need to be highly advanced, but a good camera or cameras can make class much more interesting and engaging for the students. It also creates a wide range of learning skills and techniques that teachers can employ in class. In my classroom, I have one camera connected to my large screen in the front of the classroom, and I can flip the camera around to show the classroom whenever students are talking. This allows my students at home to feel like they are in the classroom. I also added two extra cameras after I had a camera stop working mid-class. Having extra cameras means I am always ready for technological difficulties and can more quickly recover from them.
Figure 3: A student's view of the classroom.
2) Get comfortable using the online tools on Zoom or your chosen platform. Using Zoom, I can create breakout rooms, write on the screen, and connect information using arrows and other shapes. Employing these tools serves as a form of scaffolding for lower-level students and allows you to support your words with visuals. Be ready to troubleshoot when you have technological issues and find training when possible. Don’t be afraid to touch buttons to figure out how to use the technology.
3) Allow students to catch up when they miss classes by recording your classes. I record every session and add it to our class Canvas page. It is available for students to access for a few weeks. While not everyone likes being recorded, my students have overall been happy to have access to class recordings. I try to support the comfort of the students by telling those at home that it is perfectly fine not to use their camera during class. In addition, there are some areas in the classroom where students can sit where they will not be seen by the camera.
4) Teach students how to use the technology they will need to use in class. This is the hardest step and the step that we are still working on in my department. I have found some techniques that help. First, you can show students how to use their Zoom in a one-on-one or group orientation. If your institution has IT support, make sure students know how to access the support. Finally, you can use a video editing software, such as Screencast-o-matic, to make students a video where you give directions on how to use the technology. Screencast-o-matic is a paid program, but your institution may already have access to a similar program you can use to make videos.
Figure 4: With Screencast-o-Maticand similar programs, I can make students short and simple videos showing them how to use class resources like Zoom or Canvas.
5) Lastly, explore new pathways that incorporate technology into the classroom to support your students’ needs. By incorporating technology like Flip, Wordwall, and Kahoot into your classroom, you have an opportunity to teach the same information in a more engaging way. Getting students to use this new technology can be challenging, but my students have requested that I incorporate more of it into our class. While several students feel uncomfortable navigating technology, they also enjoy using it in class.
Figure 5: Kahoot is a great way to make reviewing grammar fun and exciting.
Two years after COVID changed the world of teaching, it has also changed the lived experience of teachers. In my rural area, these Hyflex classes are likely here to stay for many reasons. They allow stay-at-home parents to attend classes while home with their children. They allow individuals who live 30 minutes or more away from the school to save time and gas money by attending class online. They also allow students to get extra in-person support whenever they need it, either in person or via Zoom. COVID has caused disruption, but it has also served as an opportunity—both for students and teachers. The wide range of available technological resources can be used as tools to support focused and engaging learning in the post-COVID classroom.
Author: Dr. Cassie DeFillipo, an ORTESOL Member, is a full-time ESL Instructor at Klamath Community College. She earned her PhD in Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Melbourne.
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