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Teaching Strategies

Quick transition into online format in the times of COVID-19

Disclaimers: I am an independent blogger. Reviews and recommendations are done based on my own opinions. I am not getting compensation from the link posted here.

So, last night I decided to sign up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge after getting inspired by my friend Akilah in her Blog The Englishist. I never finished the challenge because what it feel like Armageddon is happening all around us.

Anyways, I wanted to force myself to write about how I am walking through these strange times during #COVID19. I am glad that I have found some motivation to write about my process during this whole epidemic.

Day 20-Staying at Home

I have had strong feelings and frustrations about the many changes in my daily routine. Besides my personal life, one of the biggest challenges was to transition my classes to an online format. So many uncertainties and so many new things to learn to make my students transition better while I was still handling my own adaptation process.

Looking for a definition of what I am going through, I decided to write today’s A challenge about Adaptation. I am fond of looking for words in the dictionary because my first language is Spanish, and I have gotten used to the habit. From google search:

1. Make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

My messy but functional space.

After my university instructed the faculty that classes must be online, I decided to reorganize and prepare my home office to become more like a broadcasting studio. I reorganized my office space and bought video blog lights. I got a cheap green fabric and hang it so I can enjoy the magic of having #ZoomBackgrounds. I am very grateful that I have an office space outside my bedroom for this purpose. I am sharing the space with my husband, so that has been an interesting adaptation. We now have gotten into the habit of saying goodbye to each other in the morning, put our noise-canceling headphones on, and zone out.

I am trying to get adjusted to my kids interrupting me all the time because they need help with school work. I do not complain. It is different than working on campus, but at least it is a chance to be with them all the time. Of course, I have made my students aware that I am a mom, and this is part of the job too. This makes my students less stress when their dogs, roommates, or parents suddenly show up. We are in all of this together.

2. Become adjusted to new conditions.

I teach chemical engineering capstone design courses. The transition to online has been quite an adventure. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed trying to understand if I had the skills to overcome this challenge. I suffer from the impostor syndrome in everything I do. The way I have learned to cope with it is by over preparing for everything. With such a short notice to transfer everything online, I felt paralyzed and worthless.
Then my husband shared this quote to me:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Something clicked in my mind. I started to have some perspective. We are PRIVILEGED to have a job that allows staying at home while many people can’t have that luxury or have to be in the front lines treating patients at hospitals. I started to get in contact with other academic communities and professor. I asked for help, and I helped others. I focus my attention on my students and how I can guarantee that they still have a quality education within our new conditions. I adapted my syllabus and the way we communicate. My students and I became Zoom experts in a matter of days. We are deciding what we can do with the time that is given to us by trying to get through is the best we can.

3. Alter (a text) to make it suitable for filming, broadcasting, or the stage

Oh my! This what I have been doing every day. I have reorganized all my teaching materials by moving from the board to PowerPoint Slides. Sometimes I have the time do create nice slides, but most of the time is just cropping my handwriting notes from my IPad GoodNotes notebook and adding them to a PowerPoint. I also use animations to pace myself.

I also added the Pause Icon to indicate the students that we will start a discussion. We use the Zoom chat or microphones to discuss. When there is an awkward silence, I go ahead and use the Poll Feature in Zoom (your can prepare questions ahead of time). Sometimes I use the PowerPoint to do prerecording of the classes using ScreenFlow in my Mac, but my students prefer to meet with me synchronous sessions via Zoom. Every synchronous session is recorded and posted to later to accommodate students that are having any internet connection limitations. This is an example of how I am communicating with my students using the Canvas LMS home page using a table.

That is all for now. I will try my best to stick to the #AtoZChallange, but I am not sure if I will stick to the exact schedule.

You can follow me on twitter at @SindiaSrj.

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