Our classroom in virulent times:Key tips for teachers and students.

The world a year ago.

I still remember when I learned about the first case of Covid-19 in Chile. I was working at the Academy with my colleagues, when we looked at the TV in the reception hall and heard the terrific news: Covid had arrived from Southeast Asia. Immediately we started discussing how to procced, and it wasn’t long before we implemented public health measures, like greeting with our shoes instead of shaking hands, putting up antibacterial gel, [more measures] always with a touch of hope. I thought that it would be over by Christmas, just like WWI soldiers. And like men in the trenches, everything became still once the pandemic, and the subsequent curfew arrived at Rancagua. No more presential classes.

But we weren’t going to allow a little pandemic to stop us from doing what we do best: to teach with love and fun. Before the storm, we started searching for a viable way to have online classes, we had a little practice from 2019 protests with Google Meet, but after some research and experimenting with every possibility, we settled on using Zoom. It was challenging at first, learning to use a different platform, to move the classroom from our Academy to the virtual world, and to give our students everything we got.

Don’t be afraid of facing the unknown.

No matter how dark things seem to be, there is an opportunity to seize.

Learn and Persevere.

In our virtual classroom, many things were different. Sharing a screen and showing slides just reading without interaction with our students doesn’t suit our way of teaching. Where is the fun in that? Where is the love in that?

We need interaction with our support material; to underline, to make emphasis, to ask questions! Zoom incorporates a way to annotate when someone is sharing screen, but it wasn’t the same as writing the whiteboard with a marker, so a huge improvement for me was to have the appropriate hardware, thus a really good investment was to buy a tablet with a pen, it’s more comfortable and it adds fluidity to the class.

We are teachers, and having the right tools is key to improve our work.

Probably one of the most deciding factors in learning is to keep focused in whatever you are assimilating into knowledge. At every moment your brain receives an astronomical number of stimuli, and it’s near to impossible to control all of them. Nevertheless, in a classroom you can control most of them, choosing appropriate decoration and limiting external sources of input (like your phone!), that way it’s easier to notice the teacher inviting you to have fun learning.

In an online reunion, sitting in front of a screen, with multiple tabs open (music, Instagram, Facebook, Google, etc.) and people going in and out of the room it’s hard to replicate the same conditions as the classroom, so here are some advices to reduce external interference.

· Use Fullscreen and keep open only what is needed for your class. (Close Discord, WhatsApp, Steam, and others!) It will be better if a surprise notification catches you after your class is over.

· Create a dedicated study place: Look for a place reliable internet access, remove distractions, and make it separate from the bed or the sofa. A clear distinction between study and relax will help you focus.