Okay, Zoomer: Teaching techniques getting varied results


Amelia Havill

Virtual learners, or “zoomers” as they have been labeled by teachers, are experiencing a wide range of involvement in class due to teachers utilizing different techniques. One virtual learner, who has requested to remain anonymous, told me that they “feel like some teachers are trying harder than others, while some are hardly giving the online learners a chance.”

I personally find that many teachers are working very hard to include virtual kids, while others are not trying quite as much.

Some of the methods that I find to work well include asking questions for attendance, or generally having a quick discussion with all the students that is unrelated to school. In Mrs. Tolbert’s class, attendance is taken with a daily question. Not only is this engaging to me as a student, but Mrs. Tolbert has also said that it helps her remember to take attendance every day, because students will remind her to do the attendance question each day.

Zoomers view of Decker’s classroom Photo by Amelia Havill

Mr. Decker especially has found a great way to engage the virtual learners. Each day, Mr. Decker starts class with a bad joke, and then other students will share their own jokes. He asks a daily question, which can range from something class-related to “would you rather have your hair be made of pasta or fish scales?” Mr. Decker also has his computer set up so that the online students have a view of the whole room, as opposed to just Mr. Decker’s face. As a virtual student, I have found that this makes me feel more included in the classroom. As an added bonus, Mr. Decker can also walk around the front of the room instead of sitting at his desk all day.

I asked several other online students what they thought was going well and what could be fixed, and the most common answer was that they felt the teachers could call on online students more in class. One student gave Mr. Fisher as an example of someone who is very good at calling on the online students. “He waits for us to unmute and listens to our answers as if we were in school,” they said. This student will also remain anonymous.

Some other suggested changes were informing students before class if they would need to print something out, and also to try to do fewer required print-outs, as not all students have printers at home. Also, teachers leaving the chat open on their screen so they could see when the virtual learners were asking questions. Many teachers are telling students to unmute and ask the question out loud, but that can be uncomfortable for students who do not want to interrupt the teacher, or have a question they would rather that just the teacher see.

A less commonly requested change was for a way to have online students log in to class when the teacher is absent. This one more of an administration change than a change that should be made by individual teachers, so it may be harder to make happen, but I believe it would help provide a bit more consistency for the virtual learners.

With these minor edits, teachers can really make a big difference in how ‘zoomers’ are gaining this years education, and give us a bit more normalcy in this time of unprecedented uncertainty.