Creating an English virtual classroom and an English virtual library: a successful example of scaling up teaching and learning in response to COVID-19

Schools and Universities in Greece have been closed since March 11 due to the coronavirus pandemic as part of the government’s measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The Ministry of Education promptly responded to this emergency developing and gradually implementing distance learning, offering students the opportunity to keep in touch with the educational process. Without intending to replace face to face learning the Ministry has activating digital platforms and tools offered for free by ICT providers, addressed to the secondary and primary school students, as well as to Greek Universities.

Concerning the asynchronous learning, students and teachers can use the existing digital tools and platforms already offered by the Ministry of Education such as the Interactive School Books, the Digital Educational Material (“Fotodentro”) and the Advanced Electronic Scenarios (“Aesop”) organized by educational level, course etc.

To me, the school community in Greece has embraced this effort showing remarkable engagement to the demanding project of e-learning under these exceptional circumstances.

What is more, the synchronous, real-time teaching suggested by the Ministry is supported:

  • through Webex services; to address inequalities, the Ministry has ensured access through landlines and through mobile phones free of charge following a deal with the three mobile phone providers
  • through the School Network’s sch.gr platform, which uses Big Blue Button open software and can operate on smartphones and tablets.

My main thought,when schools closed due to the pandemic and after having attened innumerable webinars during the lockdown, was to create an English virtual classroom, for all my students! Why?

A virtual classroom enables students to access their teacher and their homework resources ,anywhere and anytime, so long as they both have a reliable internet connection.

I also did my very best to create an English virtual library.

You see, I am not allowed to lend my students any of the 500 English readers and magazines in our school library, under the circumstances! Therefore, I had to think quick and come up with a solution!

Whether or not we are planning for a physical or a virtual school experience in September, it is clear that we need to translate our practice. We need strategies for personalizing and enriching the remote learning experience. And it is clear that the library must be the center of that experience.

Currently, one very popular strategy is the creation of classroom scenes using Google Slides populated with their flexible Bitmojis.

I started playing around with this fairly easy and recently very popular strategy of building a library scene in Slides. With success!

I strongly believe that,at this moment in time, having a rich digital presence is no longer optional, for us teachers . It is essential to translate practice in order to communicate with our students and to support and inspire learning. It is also tangible evidence of our practice, especially in unstable times.

I thought quite a bit about how important this virtual presence was to me over the course of 25 years. 

Generally speaking, in many ways, an online classroom simply mirrors the physical classroom.

To me, a virtual classroom should include the following features, important for teachers.

-Interactive online whiteboard

-Library of learning materials

-Teacher tools and controls

In a physical classroom, you can look around and find textbooks, games, exercises, templates, worksheets, multimedia resources (print, video, audio).

A professional teacher needs these in their virtual classroom too. The teacher needs to be able to upload their digital learning materials to the cloud and save them for future classes.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Steps

STEP 1: OPEN A BLANK GOOGLE SLIDE OR POWERPOINT

STEP 2: COLLECT YOUR IMAGES

STEP 3: CREATE YOUR SCENΕ

The steps, in detail

1.I read all about the procedure, in detail, here.

Think… what makes a room a classroom? The whiteboard.

2.The tutorials, I watched.

3. The final product!

My first virtual classroom

( Disabled link ,for security reasons)

My first virtual library

(Click on the link)

Note: To create the book review worksheet, I used the liveworksheets app.

I really wish I knew who started this trend so I could thank that person profusely since this is one of the most brilliant ideas I have come across in a very long time. 

Highly recommended to you all!

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